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.

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Shanda Lynn Poitra was born and raised on the Turtle Mountain Reservation in Belcourt, North Dakota. She lived there until she was 24 years old when she left for college at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks.

"Unfortunately," she says, "I took my bad relationship with me. At the time, I didn't realize it was so bad, much less, abusive. Seeing and hearing about abusive relationships while growing up gave me the mentality that it was just a normal way of life."

Those college years away from home were difficult for a lot of reasons. She had three small children — two in diapers, one in elementary school — as well as a full-time University class schedule and a part-time job as a housekeeper.

"I wore many masks back then and clothing that would cover the bruises," she remembers. "Despite the darkness that I was living in, I was a great student; I knew that no matter what, I HAD to succeed. I knew there was more to my future than what I was living, so I kept working hard."

While searching for an elective class during this time, she came across a one-credit, 20-hour IMPACT self-defense class that could be done over a weekend. That single credit changed her life forever. It helped give her the confidence to leave her abusive relationship and inspired her to bring IMPACT classes to other Native women in her community.

I walked into class on a Friday thinking that I would simply learn how to handle a person trying to rob me, and I walked out on a Sunday evening with a voice so powerful that I could handle the most passive attacks to my being, along with physical attacks."

It didn't take long for her to notice the difference the class was making in her life.

"I was setting boundaries and people were either respecting them or not, but I was able to acknowledge who was worth keeping in my life and who wasn't," she says.

Following the class, she also joined a roller derby league where she met many other powerful women who inspired her — and during that summer, she found the courage to leave her abuser.

"As afraid as I was, I finally had the courage to report the abuse to legal authorities, and I had the support of friends and family who provided comfort for my children and I during this time," she says.

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If you listened to traditional news media (and sometimes social media), you'd begin to think the Internet and technology are bad for kids. Or kids are bad for technology. Here's a fascinating alternative idea.

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This article originally appeared on 03.31.15

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