Closing the Gender gap in Iceland

According to the Global Gender Gap Report of 2013, Iceland came in first place in the gender gap index, meaning that Iceland is the country with the smallest gap between men and women. Pandeia’s Svanlaug Arnadottir speaks to an Icelandic student about being a woman in the world’s most gender-equal country.

Recent research has shown that Iceland is a role-model in terms of gender equality. In research for the Global Gender Gap Report of 2013, 136 nations were investigated, and measured on gender equality in economics, education, health and politics.

Despite the financial crisis with heavy cut-backs in Iceland’s healthcare and educational system, the results show that Iceland is doing well on gender issues. It is the fifth year in a row that Iceland has come in first place. But how is it to live in a country ranked with the highest equality in the world?  How does it affect students?

Pandeia had a talk with Hrefna Jónsdóttir, a second year student in Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Iceland, with a Bachelor in Physical Geography.

Do you experience inequality in your education?

No, not at all, I didn’t in my geography education and neither in engineering. Right now we are the first year in a long time in Environmental Engineering with more girls than boys, it’s great!

Do you think you have the same opportunities as your fellow male students after graduation?

Yes, if not even better because many engineering firms want as much gender equality as possible and at this point, there are more men working in engineering firms than women.

Were you surprised to find out that Iceland has the greatest gender equality in the world?

No, not at all. Gender equality is a very important discussion topic here, and therefore we are very aware of it.

More male media coverage

Jónsdóttir says she does not notice much difference in media coverage on men and women but has noticed that media coverage in general is more about men than women.

Despite being a leading nation in gender equality, media coverage about women is only 28 per cent according to the Global Media Monitoring Project, which is lower than in other Nordic countries where the ratio is between 30-33 per cent.

40 per cent of Icelandic news is considered to strengthen gender stereotypes and only 13 per cent is considered to challenge stereotypes. In Internet coverage women rank a little higher; producing 36 per cent of the news while they are the topic of 23 per cent. Only four per cent of the online news seems to challenge gender stereotypes and 42 per cent strengthens them.

Despite Iceland’s leading position, gender gaps have not been erased in the media. After the financial crisis different voices are being heard throughout society on the effect on gender issues. Some say women are worse off in society facing unemployment as cut-backs seem to affect professions that have more female workers than men  – such as teachers and nurses. Other voices say that the crisis finally gave women a way ‘in’ – especially within the business sector where female voices are finally being heard.  Values such as caution became more appreciated than risk-taking behavior and many women have gained higher positions and more responsibility through those changes.


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