“A gender-equal society would be one where the word ‘gender’ does not exist: where everyone can be themselves.”
The dream that Gloria Steinem’s words above reflect ain’t a reality as yet. However, progress is certainly being made on this front. There are a few countries that have fared exceptionally well to make gender equality a reality. The country that tops the chart is the Nordic island nation of Iceland. According to the Gender Gap Index published by the World Economic Forum in December 2018, the country leads among a list of 149 countries. It’s the tenth time that this nation made it to the top.
What’s Iceland’s Recipe of Success?
The country has successfully closed 86% of its gender gap. This is due to several proactive measures taken by the Icelandic government to change the status quo:
- Parental Leave: It is difficult to imagine an equal world where the responsibilities shared by the two sexes are the same. One of the biggest reasons that keep women out of the workforce is the responsibility of raising kids. While most countries are bringing in measures to provide adequate maternity leave to its working women, Iceland has taken a step ahead by providing paid leaves of at least 3 months to both fathers and mothers. Parenthood is a shared responsibility. It’s about time that our organizations recognize that!
- Equal Pay for Equal Work: Fight for equal pay has taken several industries across the world by storm whether it’s the glamorous film industries, the corporate world or the sporting arena. Icelandic companies are mandated to prove to the government that they implement the “equal wage for equal pay” policy to the T.
- More Women as Legislators: For gender equality to persist, we need lawmakers who know women the best – the women. According to the World Bank, the representation of women in the Icelandic national parliament increased from 5% in 1980 to 38% in 2018. Vigdís Finnbogadóttir was the first female elected head of state in the world when she ran for the presidential elections in 1980. Putting it mathematically, there is a positive correlation between better gender-based political representation and gender equality.
Closing the Gap Totally!
There are “miles to go” before the country stops. Some of the areas that still remain a challenge for the country are:
- Safer Workspaces: Sexual harassment in workplaces still persists in the island nation. However, there are ongoing efforts to reduce this.
- Discrimination against Immigrant Women: Women who enter the country from across the border still face taboo in some parts of the country. The country requires checking this unfortunate fact to truly be a global leader.
Who’s Giving Iceland Company?
The other countries where women enjoy equal status include the Scandinavian nations of Norway, Sweden, and Finland. Nations like Nicaragua, Rwanda, and Namibia feature in the top 10, surpassing their economically developed counterparts by a huge margin. This truly depicts that the level of economic growth doesn’t equal gender equality. The focus of the world must shift from merely churning growth numbers to ensuring overall human development.
Unfortunately, the progress to plug the gender gap is pretty sluggish. According to the World Economic Forum, it’d take 108 years to have a truly equal world in terms of gender. Hopefully, Iceland will prove to be an inspiration for other countries to take charge to accelerate the wheel of progress.
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