Gender equality: lessons we need to learn from Iceland

Iceland became the first country in the world to prohibit paying men more than women. Can your policies be applied to Latin America?

Gender equality: lessons we need to learn from Iceland

During the last few years, Iceland has occupied the first place in the Gender Equality Index of the World Economic Forum. Measures to close that gap in the labor field including a law that went into effect to prohibit men from earning more than women from jobs in the same category. Therefore, all public and private companies that have more than 25 workers must present a certificate that ensures equal pay for all employees.

Leer en español: Igualdad de género: lecciones que debemos aprender de Islandia

The way that Iceland has traveled to position itself as the country with the most gender equality includes a change of mentality of the Icelanders, who believe that equal participation between men and women bring great advantages to advance socially and economically.

Thórarinn Ævarsson, the executive director of the Icelandic branch of IKEA, applied this law five years ago, which does not only include equal pay between genders but also addresses other labor problems related to inequality such as participation in positions of the same category.

Birnea Magnea, the sales manager says: "They have given me all kinds of opportunities here, there is no difference between being a man or a woman, we have the same salary and we receive the same treatment." According to Thórarinn Ævarsson, the success lies precisely in Equal opportunities, because if there is equality, employees are happier, and therefore, companies are more profitable.

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How is gender equality in Latin America?

Gender inequality in the workplace is a worldwide problem. In Latin America, according to a study made by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), between 1990 and 2014 the wage differential between men and women decreased by 12.1%, but although there have been advances to improve working conditions in this aspect, the gap persists. In Central America and Mexico, the gap is 10%, while in South America it reaches 23.4%. The International Labor Organization (ILO) states that in general, the difference between the salary of men and women in Latin America is 15% compared to 23% of the world average.

"Latin America is not yet at that point"

According to José Manuel Salazar, director for Latin America and the Caribbean of the ILO, Latin America is on the same path as Iceland to achieve gender equality. However, laws such as the one imposed in the Nordic country cannot yet be implemented in Latin American countries: "Latin America is not yet at that point because it is a very strong and advanced measure, but the need to end the wage gap Gender is a topic that is entering the agenda of Latin American countries." In addition, he said that although political commitment and the implementation of laws is necessary, gender inequality in the labor field is also a battle that must be won from the workplace, in each company and organization.

Follow the footsteps of Iceland

An equal pay law, as recently implemented in Iceland, would help women aspire to better economic stability and better professional development. And although the gender gap at work does not end there, it would be a big step for companies to begin to know the advantages of labor equality in terms of employee profitability and well-being. For now, countries such as Chile, Colombia, and Panama have made important progress in this area. Especially the last, which at the beginning of this year became the first country in Latin America to join the International Coalition on Equal Pay (EPIC, for its acronym in English).

LatinAmerican Post | María Fernanda Barinas Ortiz

Translated from: 'Las lecciones de Islandia para la igualdad de género en el trabajo'

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