Iceland started the year with a solid step towards closing the gender wage gap by making it illegal for companies to pay men more than women for the same work. The country has become the first in the world to legalize equal pay.
The new law which came into effect on January 1 states that companies and government agencies that employ at least 25 people will have to obtain government certification of their equal-pay policies. Those who fail to prove that they can pay men and women of same positions in the company equal salaries will have to pay fines.
“The legislation is basically a mechanism that companies and organisations … evaluate every job that’s being done, and then they get a certification after they confirm the process if they are paying men and women equally,” said Dagny Osk Aradottir Pind, a board member of the Icelandic Women’s Rights Association.
The news was received favorably by people online, with personalities like tennis icon Billie Jean King and US Senator Bernie Sanders expressing praise for the initiative:
Iceland again leading in the equality movement. A new female Prime Minister, and a Parliament where nearly half of its members are women. Equal representation benefits everyone! #EqualPay #equality #WednesdayWisdom https://t.co/bpi1P7zVr9
— Billie Jean King (@BillieJeanKing) January 3, 2018
Iceland just became the first country in the world to make it illegal to pay men more than women. In the United States in 2016, black women made 62.5 cents on the dollar compared to white men and hispanic women made 54.4 cents. That is a disgrace. pic.twitter.com/y2sxSWYVrm
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) January 3, 2018
— Jen Siebel Newsom (@JenSiebelNewsom) January 3, 2018
Gender wage gap around the world
Women around the world are still paid less for the same work compared to their male counterparts. According to the 2017 Global Gender Gap Report of the World Economic Forum, Iceland is the closest to closing the gap, with more than 87% of its overall gender wage disparity resolved. It has been in the top spot for nine consecutive years, followed by Norway (2nd), Finland (3rd), Rwanda (4th), and Sweden (5th). The Philippines is top ten on the list, having slipped three spots from its ranking in 2016.
On the other hand, Syria (142nd), Pakistan (143rd), and Yemen (144th) remain on the bottom of the list.
Progress in closing the gap is being made, but at a slow pace. And the changes in the global average aren’t always a step forward. According to the Global Gender Gap Report, it’s going to take approximately 217 years for the world to achieve equal pay—17 years longer than 2016’s estimate. That’s right, ladies—they’re saying we have to wait two centuries.
Based on the study that included 144 countries, the “average progress on closing the global gender gap stands at 68.0%— meaning an average gap of 32.0% remains to be closed worldwide.”
Let’s put a little meat on those numbers:
Just last December, Catt Sadler, an anchor for “E! News”, resigned from her post after finding out that her male co-host was being paid nearly double of her salary despite them having the same job. In her personal blog, she wrote:
“I have two decades experience in broadcasting and started at the network the very same year as my close friend and colleague that I adore. I so lovingly refer to him as my “tv husband” and I mean it. But how can I operate with integrity and stay on at E if they’re not willing to pay me the same as him? Or at least come close? How can I accept an offer that shows they do not value my contributions and paralleled dedication all these years? How can I not echo the actions of my heroes and stand for what is right no matter what the cost? How can I remain silent when my rights under the law have been violated?”
Last October 2017, Lisa Wilkinson quit her decade-long career as a host of the widely popular breakfast TV show “Today” in Australia after receiving a pay offer that was reportedly $200,000 less than that of her male co-anchor.
And if influential women from the media are at the receiving end of this kind of treatment, we can imagine how much worse it is for those who hold less prominent positions in other industries.
Oil company Shell, for example, reported that their male workers earn 22% more than their female counterparts. The company published the report in compliance with a new policy in the UK that requires companies to report their gender pay gap figures.
Congrats to Iceland for taking a step in the right direction! Here’s to hoping more countries follow suit and follow quickly, because 217 years is too long a time to wait for equal pay.