Don’t Change Women, Change the World

Declaration of Women in Iceland on the Women’s Day Off, October 24, 2018.

Women’s stories of harassment, violence and discrimination in the workplace that have been shared through social media under the hashtag #MeToo highlight the fact that income inequality is not the only injustice women face in the workplace. We stand here today, together, to declare loud and clear that sexual harassment and violence is unacceptable!

We must guarantee the security of women and marginalized women in the workplace. We must create a world where women’s and men’s work is valued equally! A world where we have income equality!

According to the most recent figures from Statistics Iceland, the average pay of women is 26% less than the average pay of men. However, women typically work more than men when we factor in labor at work and at home. Women take, on average, four times more leave from work than men because of childcare, and one-third of women work part-time because of family and household responsibilities. There are fewer women than men in positions of authority and influence and traditionally female jobs are undervalued, which is reflected in lower pay and poorer working conditions. This devaluation of women’s contributions means lower life-time pay and pensions plus increased rates of burnout.

This needs to stop! Income equality now!

On Women’s day off women in Iceland will leave their work at 2:55 p.m., the minute that we stop getting paid for our work. This is the sixth time since 1975 that we walk out to protest gender income inequality, and we still have a long way to go to reach equality. If progress continues at the this pace, we will need to wait another 29 years before women have the same average pay average as men.

We will not wait any longer!

Enough is enough! The time has passed! Women should be valued fairly, enjoy equality and be safe at home and safe at work!

  • We demand that the human rights of everyone be respected in Iceland – that no one is discriminated against because of gender, origin, race, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, sex characteristics, disability, age, place of residence, religion, social or economic status.
  • We demand a shorter work week to encourage equal working hours for women and men in paid and unpaid labor.
  • We demand that maternity and paternity leave be increased to 12 months, that maternity/paternity wages be at least equal to the minimum wage, and that daycare be guaranteed immediately following parental leave.
  • We demand action regarding gender quotas to increase the number of women in positions of authority and influence, and that women’s work be valued fairly both in pay and respect.
  • We demand that the government prioritize achieving gender equality and eradicating violence against women; and that the government take bold actions to achieve the equal status of the genders, encouraging and celebrating diversity in our society.
  • We demand that equality and gender studies be made mandatory at all school levels. We realize that in our schools we teach the next generation about diversity in society, eradicate gender stereotypes and stop the pornification of society.
  • We demand to be able to do our jobs without harassment, violence or discrimination. We also demand that the government, employers and labor unions take action to prevent and to deal with sexual violence and harassment in the workplace.
  • We demand that survivors’ stories are not only listened to, but believed. Women who experience violence, harassment, humiliation and shaming are not a small group but the majority of all women, from all areas of society. We need to be mindful of women who belong to different minority groups and experience unique expressions of violence and harassment.

We hereby return the shame back to whom it belongs: to the perpetrators, to the employers, to the government, to the justice system, to the society that has tolerated violence and injustice through the ages. We declare our support for the thousands of women who have stepped forward and shared their stories of harassment, violence and injustice in the workplace and in society. We also declare our support for the women who have not stepped forward. We are here for you, for us all!

Let’s all take responsibility for changing the culture in the workplace, at home, in schools, with our friends, in sports, in social work, and everywhere. We are all responsible in some way for keeping this issue alive. We can all show respect and empathy in human relations and increase awareness and understanding of the unequal and gendered system in which we live.

Equal rights concern us all, not only women! Let’s change the culture and attitudes together! Let‘s stand together and be loud!

Don‘t change women, change the world!

Income equality NOW!