NWCT stepped out onto the international stage with our ground breaking program on Gender and Professional Women’s Status in Iceland today at the Comcast Corporate Center. I have always assumed that women in the U.S. have a progressive, opportunistic, and supported role in our society. This presentation opened my eyes as to how behind the curve the U.S. is regarding women’s status.
Two young professionals, Andrea Gunnarsdottir and Kolfinna Tomasdottir presented a picture of what seemed like Utopia to our NWCT audience. Andrea has many activist leadership roles in Iceland and is a student in Engineering Management at Reykjavik University (see below for bios) and works as a Diversity and Inclusion Specialist for Marel, which is the largest chemical company in Iceland. Kolfinna is a Law Student and is also a leader in both student and women’s professional organizations.
Both women were very articulate and had a clear message: WOMEN COUNT IN ICELAND. They currently earn 99 cents to the male’s one-dollar while in the U.S. women earn 77 cents to the dollar. Corporations in Iceland are required by law to have half of their board members be female. There is an extensive government supported daycare policy for newborns. Women can take paid leave for 6 months and men for 3 months, which the men generally take after the wife is finished her leave.
There are very different cultural norms on marriage. They stated that 70% of children are born to unmarried couples and most women have children in the 25 – 27 years age range. Marriage is generally viewed as a civil affair and the country appears to be very secular. The backbone religion of the country is Lutheranism. People in this country use their first names as identification and use their last names as a combination of a parent’s first name and the word for daughter or son attached to that name.
Although they are only 350,000 residents of Iceland, they now support a very large tourist industry and are starting to feel some wear and tear on their natural resources. Several of our members attested to the beauty and grandeur of this highly socialized society. Sounds very inviting! Road trip anyone?
Kolfinna is a Law Student studying at the University of Iceland and working at Fjárvakur – Icelandair Shared Services in financial services. She is currently a board member of Young Professional Women in Iceland (Ungar athafnakonur) as well as President and re-founder of ELSA Iceland (e. European Law Students‘ Association). Kolfinna also sat as a board member in the UN Women Youth Council in Iceland as Financial Manager, in Orator as International Secretary and as President of Nordiska Sekretariatet. Kolfinna is writing her Bachelor Thesis on Cyber Crime and will graduate from the University of Iceland in spring 2019.
Andrea is studying Engineering Management at Reykjavík University and is currently working as Diversity & Inclusion specialist at Marel. A very busy young leader, Andrea was a board member of Young Professional Women (UAK) 2016 - 2018, the President of the Student Association at Reykjavik University Innovation and Entrepreneurship committee 2017-2018, a board member in the UN Women youth council in Iceland for two years, (the second year as vice-chairman) and Andrea was on the project management team for the Golden Egg 2017, the largest business plan competition for entrepreneurs in Iceland, on behalf of Icelandic Startups. Andrea was also an intern at the United Nations Association Iceland in 2018 and is an One Young World Ambassador. You can find her LinkedIn page here.
Rona Cohen the author of this article, served as President of NWCT in the early 90’s, was on the board for five years, and has been an active member for over 30 years. Rona is a consultant specializing in marketing and startup infrastructure strategy for pharmaceutical, medical device and information technology companies. She has provided services to such companies as Living Social, DuPont, Merck & Co, US Air and many others. Prior to going out on her own, Rona held various management roles including Business Development Manager, Director, and General Manager for technology services divisions of such companies as Dun & Bradstreet, Control Data Corporation (Service Bureau Company), Computer Task Group, Inc., Day & Zimmermann Inc, and the Oracle Corporation. Most recently, Rona has been a career counselor and personal shopper for Dress For Success in Philadelphia and has counseled job seekers and lectured on topics associated with career strategies.