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Economic and Political Gender Inequalities in Iceland and the United States

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DOI: 10.25236/memssr.2021.001


Runtan Wang

Corresponding Author

Runtan Wang


The differences between Iceland and the United States on gender equality are both quantitatively and qualitatively significant, and these different outcomes are the results of many factors, including the relevant quantitative and qualitative policy efforts in the two countries. The significant presence of women in the Icelandic policy-making process has made strong impacts on the political debate and the political agendas of the traditional political parties, bringing policies regarding women’s welfare onto the discussion tables of the Icelandic political system, and the gender equality debate into mainstream politics and policy-making in Iceland, away from the margins where it often resides. Hence, with Iceland being a country that adopts the Coordinated Market Economy and a Social Democratic welfare state, by granting parental leave to both parents, the welfare state and its political will is supportive of gender equality, which results in not only more power-sharing but also an increase in responsibility-sharing for running a home and family. Subsequently, culturally ideas about masculinity are changing among the young Icelandic population, which will very likely contribute to the elimination of gender segregation in the labor market in the near future. On the other hand, 54 years after the United States passed the Equal Pay Act, a woman earns 79 cents for every dollar a man earns on average, and it was being predicted that it will still take nearly 500 years for women to reach fair representation in government in the United States at the current rate of progress, the political-economic gender inequality there is much more severe than of Iceland, with a lack of the using of the “fair representation” electoral systems and insufficient presence of women in government leadership, while the market punishes women with children and rewards men with children. Studying both cases, this paper suggests that, as the Coordinated Market Economy and Social Democratic welfare policies can empower women employees in firms in decisions making in ways that are not as feasible in the Liberated Market Economy model, and can give the government more legal power to enact social welfare policies, with sufficient women presence in politics, frameworks as such, if established, could empower more women to join the government until its political gender representation is fair, which could foster stronger political will to implement policies that promote and enforce the business practices that are consistent with the demands of gender equality in the society, which will, in turn, strengthen the mentioned political-economic frameworks.


Iceland, United States, gender equality, political economy, Coordinated Market Economy, Social Democratic welfare state