Kvennafundur Alþjóðaþingmannasambandsins í Katar

Mr/Mrs Chair,
Dear colleagues,
It is a great pleasure for me to be here with you today. My name is Áslaug Arna Sigurbjörnsdóttir and I´ve been a member of Parliament for 2 ½ years. I´m 28 years old, the youngest Member of Parliament, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee in Iceland and in the leadership of the Independence Party in Iceland as a secretary.

I want to share with you some of the good practices as well as challenges on our path towards achieving gender equality in Iceland – in order to ensure gender equality at work, including equal pay, women’s access to leadership and management positions, to name a few.
Coming from Iceland – which has for 10 years in a row topped the Global Gender Gap Index, causing some to call it a Global Champion of Gender Equality – I realize that we are in a good place, but we still can do better. That means that all the countries that follow us on that list, all of your countries – can also do much better.

The proportion of women in the workforce in Iceland has for many years been high in international comparison. Women contribution to our economy has been invaluable, with close to 80% of women active in the labor market.

In the past – instrumental steps have been taken in Iceland – to advance gender equality.

A key condition for gender equality in the labour market in Iceland was a universal and affordable childcare – offering kindergarten for children aged 2-5. We are currently working on ways to bridge the gap between parental leave and kindergarten – both by prolonging the parental leave – and offering childcare earlier.

Another significant milestone – to advance gender equality – was the individual and non-transferable paid paternity leave – introduced almost 20 years ago – to encourage fathers – as well as the mothers – to take care of their new-borns and household.

Three months of parental leave is granted for the father only – and three months for the mother only – based on the principle “use it or lose it”. That means that if either the father or the mother – do not use their three months – the family simply loses it. Then the parents have three extra months they can divide between themselves, giving nine months in total.

The result is that 75 up to 90% of fathers have taken their entitled three months leave – from the implementation- resulting in more equal sharing of caretaking and household responsibilities – in the long run – according to a long-term research.

However – we do face the challenge of too few fathers using the part of the parental leave they can share with the mothers – due to the gender pay gap which is unfavourable of women.

What are we still working on and have reached in latest years.

The Government is now preparing prolonging the parental leave to 12 months in total – instead of 9 months.

The latest gender equality legislation in Iceland is on Equal Pay Certification.

The legislation – entering into force in January 2018 – introduced the Equal Pay Standard – as a management tool – designed to eliminate the gender pay gap – with mandatory implementation for companies with 25 employees or more.

The requirements of the Equal Pay Standard include introducing and activating an equal pay policy – and conducting a job classification based on common criteria.

The responsibility of ensuring that gender is an irrelevant factor upon deciding wages – is the responsibility of the employer – but not the employee.

We are now in the midst of the #metoo revolution and hopefully in the midst of social change.

So Iceland can reach full gender equality we need the men to participate even more than they are doing now, I’m extremely thankful for all the women that have fought in Iceland to get to the place where we are now, but it will be vital that men fight with us to reach hopefully the final goal. That this discussion will be unnecessary.

We have made a lot of progress, but the fight for gender equality is far from over in Iceland.
Thank you for listening, I´m looking forward to our continued discussion.