Powerful absence of presence! Women’s Day Off!

Powerful absence of presence! Women’s Day Off!

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. 

Vigdís Finnbogadóttir former president of Iceland on the balcony of her home the election day 29th June 1980

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 Government of Iceland. Our female Ministers; Þórdís Kolbrún Reykfjörð Gylfadóttir Minister of Tourism-, Industry and Innovation, Svandís Svavarsdóttir Minister of Health, Katrín Jakobsdóttir Prime Minister, Lilja Alfreðsdóttir Minister of Culture and Áslaug Arna Sigurbjörnsdóttir Minister of Justice.

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?

25.000 women stopped working and rallied for equal rights of the genders in Reykjavik. A moment in time nobody forgets that lived it!

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 had been criticised for the way she dressed, her teeth and her “shrill” voice.

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!


When to plant the seed for your vision?

When to plant the seed for your vision?


Yesterday we had Autumnal eEquinox (Jafndægur að hausti). “For ancient societies, the autumnal equinox marked the end of summer and the vernal (or spring) equinox marked the end of winter, which helped people track time-sensitive activity, such as when to plant crops. According to the Farmers’ Almanac, the changing colors of the leaves on deciduous trees is actually triggered by the shorter days with reduced amounts of daylight.

I am always fascinated by moments in time carved out by nature. It must be the influence from an ancient DNA in me, leading back to the time when we were in connection with nature and had to listen to it, to find our balance and make our living possible. Harvesting food at the right time, planting seeds at the right time. The same applies to me in so many ways even if I am not planting actual seeds into the earth, it is  about the seed planted in my mind. The seeds of vision of where I  want to grow. What is my vision with this performance? What is my vision about my life, what are my dreams?

During the autumnal equinox, the sun shines directly on the equator, and the northern and southern hemispheres get the same amount of rays.”  Today it is all about balance, looking at the right time to plant the seed. Where would I want to have more balance in my life? In my work and life situation? In my financial situation? In my body? 


Training the voice, the first thing we look at, is awareness. What am I doing now? What good habits would I like to grow to expand my voice, to expand my awareness, to expand in creative communication? We, human beings are a part of nature. Getting in touch with our voice is like discovering our inner landscape. The seed planted through breath, to build your voice, will make you grow, like a plant or a flower. Beautiful in its own right. 

A  plant opening it’s flower buds is what I see in action when I work with people, building their skills in public speaking, to o become better communicators. It is as if I have been watering a flower that comes alive with new force. People have the tendency to withdraw into their body. A natural mechanic defence of the brain, to protect us from danger in all the stimuli of our surroundings. The brain often interprets innocent circumstances as a life threatening danger and turns on the fight and flight response as if we were in immediate danger, facing a lion. 

The fight and flight response is exactly what happens when we are facing our audience, going on stage, giving a presentation, going live online or if we need to speak up and we don’t believe anyone will listen. Our heart starts to beat faster, the breath gets shallow and we feel the voice starting trembling. We all know this feeling. This is where our breath comes to our rescue. With our awareness and physical connection, we can tell the brain that we are safe. By breathing deep down into our body, slowly we tell our body and mind that all is good. We are not facing a lion. The lion is a figment of our mind.  This is why training our skills at public speaking is an inside job on a deep level. Not only physical. We have to go into our subconscious mind and take control of our thoughts. Plant new seeds. New thoughts that don’t limit us. When we do that, we can grow from inside, like a beautiful flower, strong and resilient. When we get into connection with our inner landscape we can feel the balance. We can sense how much tension to use where and when, to support our breath and voice. Where to open the “flower bud” for our communication and we can present what we want to say, as a wonderful bouquet of flowers that we have chosen from our ever growing, blossoming garden. All in the right balance of the light and dark. 


Where do you want to grow? Where do you want to have balance? Where do you want to be “in equinox” knowing when it is the right time to plant the seeds of your visions. If you take a stand and become pro-active in pursuing your dreams you will see that things start to change for the better. You are the one person who knows best what it is that gives you balance in life. Make sure you provide yourself with these things and plant the seeds to grow into the person that you want to be in the world. If now now, when?

Thank you for reading
Have a wonderful day, full of light and love and balance!


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