Canadian author Margaret Atwood visited Iceland this past July, and the experience appears to have stayed with her.
In an interview with Forbes Magazine, Atwood said that “Iceland is probably a country that we should be studying because they’ve gone pretty far with equality, and their happiness quotient seems to be quite high.”
For scale, Iceland ranks number 1 in terms of gender parity (i.e., gender equality) on the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap report.
The report predicts that the global gender equality gap, in 106 of the countries it has surveyed since 2006, will close within the next 100 years. It takes into account, among other factors, “political empowerment” based upon the ratio of women in office.
Within Iceland’s political administration, 48% of seats in parliament belong to women. Historically, Iceland has seen two female Prime Ministers and one female President, the first in the world.
On Jan. 1, 2018, the Nordic country enshrined equal pay in law, meaning companies that fail to pay women equal wages are subject to disciplinary action.
Even as far back as the 18th century, equal pay for women in Iceland in certain occupations—namely, women in the provincial fishing industry—was mandatory, although the law wasn’t followed. At a meeting of parliament in 1720, it was agreed that “if women do the same work as a man in hay-harvesting, rowing, or turf cutting, then her work should be assigned a similar value as the work of men.”
Atwood has written over 20 books of poetry and nonfiction, as well as novels, the most well-known of which is The Handmaid’s Tale. The dystopian novel has become a symbol of rebellion for women’s rights activists. Some have even donned the red cloaks and white bonnets made famous by the enslaved women in the novel at protests, most recently in Buenos Aires.