Women in Iceland walked out of their jobs on October 24th 2018 at 2:55 p.m. to protest income inequality, sexual harassment and violence in the workplace.

Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, the first woman to serve as prime minister in Iceland and the first openly lesbian elected head of government in the world, addressed women in Reykjavík.

Our demand is: Don’t Change Women, Change the World!

…Links to photographs, raw video footage,
summaries of speeches and declaration of women in Iceland below…

#MeToo Women’s Strike

In recent months, stories of harassment, violence and injustice women suffer in the workplace have been shared on social media under the hashtag #MeToo. These stories have made it clear that our fight for gender equality in the workplace cannot only be about equal pay. It must also be about safety in the workplace.

We will no longer tolerate harassment, violence and injustice! Women should be safe at work and safe at home. The focus now is to put pressure on companies and the government to change how they react to misogyny, harassment and violence in the workplace and to make sure all employers have regulations and protocol to prevent and to deal with incidents.

Women’s solidarity and women‘s protests in Iceland have driven social change. This is the sixth time that women in Iceland have gone on a strike for gender equality under the banner of Kvennafrí (Women’s Day Off). We walked out in 1975, 1985, 2005, 2010 and 2016. However, even though we have made great gains in the past four decades towards gender equality, we still have not reached full equality.

Women in Iceland were encouraged to leave work at 2:55 p.m. on 24 October 2018, the minute they stopped being paid for their work.

According to the figures from Iceland Statistics in 2018, the average income of women in Iceland was only 74% of the average income of men. This means that in an average of workday of eight hours, women in 2018 had earned their pay after only 5 hours and 55 minutes. In a workday that begins at 9 a.m. and ends at 5 p.m., women in Iceland stopped being paid for their work at 2:55 p.m.

Meetings All Over Iceland on October 24th 2018

Women organized demonstrations in 16 towns and cities in Iceland, the largest protests being held in Reykjavík, women musicians and poets performed, actresses performed monologues channeling working women’s conditions since the nineteenth century, and a 230 strong women’s choir led women in singing feminist protest songs.

Four speakers addressed the meeting in Reykjavík: Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, former prime minister of Iceland, Sólveig Anna Jónsdóttir, the president of Efling Labor Union, Claudie Wilson, a lawyer and an immigrant, and Áslaug Thelma Einarsdóttir, who has been vocal in her fight against sexual harassment in the workplace.

Summaries of these speeches are to available online, here: http://kvennafri.is/en/summaries-kvennafri-2018/.

The Demands of Women in Iceland

The declaration of Icelandic Women on Women’s Day Off 2018 was read in meetings across Iceland today, demanding that the human rights of everyone be respected in Iceland; a shorter workweek; that maternity and paternity leave be increased to 12 months and daycare guaranteed; actions to increase the number of women in positions of authority and influence; that women’s work be valued fairly both in pay and respect; that the government prioritize achieving gender equality and eradicating violence against women and take bold actions to achieve the equal status of the genders, encouraging and celebrating diversity in our society; that equality and gender studies be made mandatory at all school levels.

Women 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.

The complete declaration of women in Iceland on Women‘s Day Off, October 24th, 2018, can be read online, here: http://kvennafri.is/en/declaration-of-women-in-iceland-on-the-womens-day-off-october-24-2018.

Photographs and Further Information

The protests on Kvennafrí 2018 were organized by the women’s movement and the labor movement in Iceland.

Photographs and video footage were taken during the meeting in Reykjavík, which can be found here: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/0bsp5klcperj8lb/AACQWrx_mPkaCjurUabpgAbOa?dl=0.

The use of these images are free of charge to any media outlets, so long as they appear with attribution. The photographs should be attributed to the photographers Rut Sigurðardóttir or Arnór Birkisson respectively, and the videos should be attributed to “Kvennafrí 2018”.

For more information, please contact us at kvennafridagur@gmail.com.

You can also find more information about the Icelandic women’s strikes on our website: http://kvennafri.is/en, and on our social media. Our Facebook page is http://facebook.com/kvennafri, our Instagram page https://www.instagram.com/kvennafri and our Twitter page: https://twitter.com/kvennafri.

Calculating the Time of the Strike

The time of departure for women is calculated as the percentage of “income from work” that women get compared to men, the “gender overall earnings gap”. Important: This is not the unexplained “gender pay gap”.

The reason we do not use the unexplained pay gap is that we feel that it does not represent inequality in society. There are many variables which explain parts of the pay gap, for example women’s labor participation, women who work part-time work due to family and household responsibilities, gender segregation in the labor market (“women’s jobs” that get lower pay), power and influence (board members and managerial positions), longer absences from work due to childbirth, gender stereotyping, etc. Although these factors explain the pay gap, they do not justify women’s lower pay!

The numbers we use in Iceland are the “gender overall earnings gap”, tax statistics from Statistcs Iceland. They show that working women get 26% lower income from work than men. According to Icelandic law the working week is 40 hours.

To keep it simple we assume that the working day is 8 hours (8*60=480 minutes). Transferring that into the time women can leave is: (1-0,26)*480=355 which gives 5 hours and 55 minutes. In a working day from 9 am to 5 pm, that means that women leave at 2:55 pm.

The time of the Icelandic strike is calculated from this table, with the variables “Income from work” and “Mean conditional” chosen.

Emblems of Kvennafrí

Valerie Pettis, pettisdesign.com, designed the logo used by the United Nations Decade for Women 1975-1985, a stylised dove intersected by the symbols for equality and for women. This symbol remains the official symbol of UN Women and is often used in celebrations for International Women’s Day.

In Iceland, this image is emblematic of Kvennafrí, since it was used to promote the original women’s strike of 1975. Valerie has graciously given the women of Iceland permission to use her logo to promote Kvennafrí, now and in the future, for use as long as we reproduce it without altering the drawing of it and we credit her close to the logo in every instance of the its use. Thanks, Valerie!

Helga Guðrún Magnúsdóttir incorporated Valerie’s image in the official logo of Kvennafrí 2018, as well as designing the image with the official slogan of this year’s strike: Don’t Change Women, Change the World!

Videos from Kvennafrí 2016

The organizers of Kvennafrí 2016 recorded the protests in Reykjavík on the Women’s Day Off in 2016. Here is a dropbox link to raw video footage : http://bit.ly/2mGovDF.

The video is free to use with attribution: “Kvennafrí 2016”.