By: Angie Haddock
For the past twelve years, the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report has ranked Iceland number one on its list of countries closing the gap in equality between men and women. What is it about Iceland that enables its society to make such meaningful progress in this ongoing battle, from electing the world’s first female president to passing legislation specifically designed to help even the playing field at work and at home?
This non-fiction does have a lot of stats in it, but it still manages to be quite fun. It was written by the current First Lady, who is originally from Canada. So, her personal perspectives include those of a mother, public figure, and immigrant… aside from being a woman herself, obviously.
But Reid doesn’t rely solely on her own experiences and some easy-to-dig-up statistics – she interviews dozens of women from around the island, famous and not, on a variety of topics. She also intersperses these larger chapters with smaller stories from Icleland’s history.
The bigger topics include: parenting, networking, Iceland’s views on sex, women in corporate roles, the media, working outdoors, the arts (and sports), immigrant and minority women, and politics.
As Reid points out in the final pages, everyone she interviews can easily fit into multiple categories.
Obviously, the gender equality concept here intrigued me. But I have to admit, what made this book actually fun to read was learning about Iceland! The terrain, customs, and culture seem very different than those of the US.
For example, would we even need a whole chapter on working outdoors? But, much of their economy comes from agriculture and fishing, so it’s an important distinction for them that women can do these jobs, too. (Especially on fishing boats that don’t have bathrooms, where one is expected to “go over the edge.”)
I loved that, in the chapter on politics, one of Reid’s interviewees was heading up a student council at a large university. I think we tend to think of those sorts of things as opportunities to learn, or stepping stones to a future job (perhaps in politics, or not)… but we don’t treat our young people like they’re equals, already doing important work. So, even who was chosen to be interviewed shows how different their outlook on these topics are from our own.
If you’re up for a book with quite a few stats, and really long names, this is an interesting read. I realize, though, that those things aren’t going to appeal to everyone.
I was able to read this book for free through the Sourcebooks Early Reads program.
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