Women in Iceland walked out of work at 2:38 pm on Monday to protest the gender wage gap that persists in the country. Because women earn 14 to 18 percent less than their male colleagues, 2:38 represents the point in the 8-hour workday when women start working for free.
When the first Women’s Day Off in Iceland took place on October 24, 1975, nearly 90 percent of the country’s women refused to work or engage in domestic work to remind everyone of the value women bring to society and the workplace. That protest served as the inspiration for a movement this month in Poland, during which women took to the streets in the middle of the workday to protest the government’s consideration to criminalize abortion in all cases, including when the life of the woman is at risk. Their goal was to bring the economy to a halt to highlight the importance of women in the country.
In 2005, women in Iceland held a second Women’s Day Off protest, leaving work at 2:08 pm. When it was held for a third time in 2008, they walked out at 2:25 pm. At this rate, it will take until 2068 for women in Iceland to close the pay gap.
Discrimination on the basis of gender has been illegal in Iceland for 60 years, and it is often ranked as one of the top countries in the world for gender equality. A protester remarked to Refinery 29, “We know that no country in the world has reached gender equality, but today reminds me that not even the country that’s supposed to have the most equal rights pays women the same as men.”
In the United States, women are paid an average of 79 cents for every dollar a man earns. For women of color, the gap is much wider—African American women are paid 60 cents for every dollar a white man earns, and Latinas a paltry 55 cents. The Paycheck Fairness Act is a bill that would close the gender pay gap at the federal level, and has been blocked by Republicans in Congress four times since 2012.