Why It's Awesome To Be a Woman in Iceland

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We’ve talked about why it sucks to be a woman in Saudi Arabia and Somalia (do us a favor and click the links before you freak out), but we’d like to shift gears a little bit to something more uplifting.


Let’s talk about why it’s awesome to be a woman in Iceland.

Yes, Iceland. Which is actually more green than Greenland and less icy, but we’re getting sidetracked.

Skógafoss Waterfall

The World Economic Forum’s recently released annual Global Gender Gap report named the Nordic island the most gender equal country in the world for the fifth straight year.

The report looked at variations within countries between men and women across four topics: health, education, economics and politics.

Now granted, we're talking about the least populous country in Europe (only about 320,000 people live in Iceland) and a largely homogenous population. Poverty and crime rates are low. So are immigration levels, and there is very limited ethnic, language and religious diversity. We're not saying the lack of diversity is a good thing, but the homogeneity, along with the low population and relative prosperity, may remove some of the clash points that other countries navigate.


But still, Icelandic women are doing pretty well.

Women now make up the majority of Icelanders enrolled in tertiary education and, not unrelatedly, there are more women than men in the high-skilled workforce.


Families in Iceland have an easier time than in many other countries dividing work and home duties because companies are required to offer both men and women leave when children are born. Both moms and dads receive “use it or lose it” time, plus additional “off” time to divide as they wish, and as Slate pointed out recently, dads are taking advantage.


Gratuitous baby GIF

Having dads at home more has let moms (surprise, surprise) spend more time at the office, which has given women in Iceland more opportunities to grow their careers. (Although it's worth noting that there’s still a wage gap and men are more likely to have management positions.)


And unlike in the United States, where women make up less than 20 percent of Congress and there’s never been a female president or vice president, Iceland was the first European country to elect a woman president in 1980. The small nation has also had female heads of Parliament and the court system, and women have had the right to vote since 1915. Well over a third of seats in Parliament are held by women and some reports have suggested that the country favored women in leadership roles after the banking crisis in 2008, which was largely blamed on men.


Former Prime Minister Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir does a happy dance

Women also have access to healthcare during pregnancy and childbirth, and maternal death rates and infant mortality rates are relatively low.


All in all, Iceland is a pretty awesome place to be a woman.

Stay tuned for next week's installment. There's always somewhere in the world where it either sucks (or rocks) to be a woman.


Emily DeRuy is a Washington, D.C.-based associate editor, covering education, reproductive rights, and inequality. A San Francisco native, she enjoys Giants baseball and misses Philz terribly.