Only a couple of months after a new Iceland Equal Pay Certification Law has taken effect, Iceland is already the subject of a debate about gender gap at international level.
Journalist Tara Brown, who hosts Australian news program 60 Minutes, came to Iceland last winter to talk to former Minister of Social Affairs and Equality Þorsteinn Víglundsson about the Equal Pay Law and why it’s been implemented. The episode, however, also features an interview with controversial Canadian psychologist Jordan Peterson that did not go down well with Icelanders.
Peterson, who is set to come to Iceland for two lectures in Harpa Concert Hall at the beginning of June, belittled the government’s decision to close the pay gap by calling it a not only a non-reasonable agreement but even a deadly one. Peterson’s arguments are various, including a reference to the Communist Blocks’ failed trials to enforce equity outcomes throughout the 20th century.
His theories, however, are mostly based on the idea that men and women are biologically different, where women are more agreeable and show disposition to care-taking positions, while men are generally more assertive and better negotiators. Therefore, not only does it make no sense to pretend that they’re equal, Peterson contends, but playing with notions of wages and equality can also cause serious damage to the economy.
“I’d say I’d give them fifteen years,” Peterson concludes. “It will produce walloping economic costs because it’s not possible to solve a multi-varied problem like that. It’s technically impossible.”
Brown also interviewed Þorsteinn Víglundsson, who proposed the bill in Parliament while he was serving as Minister. Þorsteinn has put the bill on a basic human rights level since the beginning.
As he told The Grapevine in February, the law was both meant to fill the discrepancies between wages, as well as to address and identify indirect work selection—for instance, why women choose certain jobs instead of others.
“Of course the typical argument is it’s too expensive, and of course when you’re closing a gender pay gap the real expense is not the implementation process of the standard itself, but actually raising wages for women,” Þorsteinn told Brown. “My argument was that if that’s your expense it shouldn’t be borne by women, it should be borne by companies.”