On the 24th of October 1975 – 90% of women in Iceland went on a strike.
They wanted to draw attention to the economic importance of women’s work contribution. They wanted same wages for the same work.
Women stopped working and rallied downtown, 25.000 women filled the streets of Reykjavik. Comparable rallies took place around Iceland.
This day has since then been known as “The Women’s Day Off” in Iceland. An act that paralysed the country and opened the eyes of many men who, as a consequence, had to feed their children and take them to work.
This had a big influence, according to the former President of Iceland, Vigdís Finnbogadóttir on the fact that five years later, Vigdís a divorced, single mother, became the first democratically elected head of state in the world.
Can a man be a president?
Vigdís Finnbogadóttir was the president of Iceland for 16 years or long enough to change the role models of the sexes for the children growing up. When Ólafur Ragnar Grimsson became our next president, children asked; can a man be a president?
The absence of women in their traditional roles demonstrates clearly the importance of all the parts women play in society. These are often jobs that are regarded as less important. This day was a game changer in our fight for equal rights for men and women, and Iceland has since then been in that highest rank in gender equality. In 2020 the parliament agreed on “Act on Equal Status and Equal Rights Irrespective of Gender” to enforce that even further.
The fact is that the gap in wages between the genders is still 22,8 %
This means that after 15:10 women are giving their work for free.
Our leading ladies
In society we have quite powerful women and women in Iceland have the same opportunities for education and life as men.
At least on the paper. Let’s remember not to take that for granted. It wasn’t always like that. Female Mayors of Reykjavík we can still count on one hand, Auður Auðuns, Ingibjörg Sólrún Gísladóttir, Steinunn Valdís Óskarsdóttir and Hanna Birna Kristjánsdóttir.
We’ve had more than one female Prime Minister, today Katrín Jakobsdóttir, 2009-2012 Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir the worlds first openly gay Prime Minister. The sitting government has five female Ministers. The last parliament elections almost gave us exact equality of women and men in our parliament. Until the last minute we even were very close to getting a female majority which had never happened in history.
The world needs to hear the voices of women!
We can see many successful women taking place in powerful positions and that is great. I still meet women in my courses that are fighting, as so many do, with the classical fear of public speaking. The fear of claiming their space, and speaking up, using their authentic voice!
Is it because women have a tendency to need to be perfect in everything they do? They don’t want to open their mouth unless they are really sure that they will not be judged?
Or is it because they want to be professional and one way of being professional is to train your skills to speak to the public. Could the reason be that women have many ages to recap in having a voice in society, the heritage of the generations?
Why do we still judge women for their voices and appearance?
Because we do. It is interesting to think about the way we talk about men’s voices and then how we describe the voices of women.
Often connected to the stereotype idea we have about women. Being surprised if a woman has a strong voice.
The most famous example of a woman who achieved a further political career by training her voice, is Mrs.Margaret Thatcher.
Mrs. Thatcher, being professional and quite self critical, took action. She had her teeth straightened, got a stylist that built her unique power dressing style and she hired a vocal coach from the National Theatre to work on her voice and speech.
There we might be looking at the make or break, in the voice training. Mrs Thatcher realised the voice is a magical powerful tool if you put it into practice. You really can hear a huge difference in her voice before and after. The voice has gone from the head into the body.
What is an Authentic Voice?
The voice is a very interesting tool indeed and such a big part of our identity. We really judge people by their voices and that is probably why we are so often afraid to raise it. We think people with powerful voices are strong characters and people with tiny little voices are judged by their appearance. Can you think of an example in your life?
Constant fight and flight mode?
I have wondered about women working in “male orientated working places” like the National Parliament. I often hear people referring to female politicians as an example of how awful female voices can sound.
My theory is (not based on any science, just feeling) that the female politicians are still in such an “unsafe” place, that they mostly act out of the fight and flight mode. Or unconsciously fall into that pit, .
In doing that they lose the body connection with their voice and that is why sometimes their voices can be described as “shrill”.
As they described Mrs. Margaret Thatcher until she started to train her voice. An embodied voice is an authentic voice.
An authentic voice is a powerful tool, in life and in politics.
How to build trust with your audience
Ásdís Emilsdóttir Petersen, an Icelandic Anthropologist working on her Masters project on Human Resources Management at The University of Iceland, did an interesting research on the voices of leading politicians.
What Ásdís used for her research were political speeches, from the leaders of all the political parties in Iceland at the time. Sadly there was no woman among them. The aim was to research what kind of voices would build the most trust with their audience. This was only an audio.
Two different groups listened and answered questions about the impact the politicians had on the audience with their speeches.
The result was a bit surprising since the myth is that the deepest voices are the most trustworthy.
But it turned out to be the voices that had the most relaxation in them, or the least of tension and those that spoke fewest word per minute. So if you want to build trust with your audience you speak slowly without tension.
I guess you need a lot of training to be able pull that off on a daily basis, being in politics!