Why thousands of women in Iceland walked off the job at 2:38 p.m.

For thousands of women in Iceland on Monday, fighting for equal rights meant ditching out on work early.

Women across the country powered down their smartphones, closed their laptops, and canceled meetings at 2:38 p.m. to protest the gender pay gap, according to an Iceland Review report.

Why 2:38? The protestors didn't just choose a random time.

Women in Iceland make roughly 18% less than their male counterparts, according to the latest European Union data. Which is good, compared to a lot of other countries — including the United States (which ranks 28th on the World Economic Forum's Gender Gap Report; Iceland is first). But still pretty unfair.


Unless, of course, their work day was 18% shorter. Which means they'd get out at 2:38 p.m.

This isn't the first time women in Iceland have gone on strike.

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A photo posted by Áslaug Lárusdóttir (@aslauglar_) on

In 1975, labor unions and women's rights organizations in the country organized the first Women's Day Off. According to a BBC report, 90% of women in the country participated, including domestic workers and stay-at-home mothers. The strike paralyzed the country, forcing many men to take their children into the office.

"Probably most people underestimated this day's impact at that time — later both men and women began to realise that it was a watershed," Styrmir Gunnarsson, a former newspaper editor, told the BBC.

Iceland's (and Europe's) first female president, Vigdis Finnbogadottir, who joined that first protest 40 years ago, believes the mass demonstration helped pave the way for her election five years later.

This 2016 protest is the fourth time Iceland's women have gone on strike — and the time of the walkout has gotten progressively later with each one as women's relative wages have increased.

In 2005, protestors walked off the job at 2:08 p.m. In 2008, they left at 2:25.

Frelsi og feminismi. Við systurnar viljum jafnrétti núna STRAX!

A photo posted by Dóra Júlía Agnarsdóttir (@dorajulia) on

But 2:38 p.m. is still not late enough!

At that rate, the wage gap in Iceland will take more than 50 years to close on its own. A WEF report estimates that the global wage gap may take as long as 118 years to sew up. But if the first protest changed the way the country values women's labor, then perhaps the pressure from more massive events can speed up the clock.

Women of Iceland are gathering at Austurvöllur today to protest against the gender wage gap #kvennafrí

A photo posted by Reykjavik Grapevine (@rvkgrapevine) on

Perhaps on a Women's Day Off not too long in the future, they'll be skipping out at the end of the day with their male colleagues.

Hopefully happy hour will still be running.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less