Does gender matter in food and management?

Iceland is widely known as a model country when it comes to gender equality. The first Equality Act was enacted in 1976, the country scores high in international audits on gender equality and the government has set gender equality at the forefront of its foreign policy. Iceland is one of the countries that has set gender balance rules for corporate boards. Icelandic farmers have also taken a serious look into gender equality in their organizations. This discussion really took off when the Icelandic Sheep Farmers Association got the Research Institute in Gender Equality at the University of Iceland (RIKK) to conduct an assessment of the status of women in Icelandic sheep farming in 2015. The report from 2016 shows that there is work to be done. But since then, two women have held the presidency in the Sheep Farmers Association. Now a woman is also the chairman of the Icelandic Farmers’ Association for the first time.

Gender equality in the media

Gender equality in the media has also been high in the spot light in Iceland in recent years. The Association of Women in Business has been at the forefront of that struggle as well as numerous female journalists. At the end of 2015, RÚV (State Radio and TV) started to measure of the proportion of men and women in the group of interviewees in its regular programs and news. The results is an obvious increase in women being interviewed and RÚV received rewards from the Icelandic Equal Rights Council in 2016. In 2018, the gender ratio in RÚV´s regular programs was 50/50. In the news programs the proportion of interviewees were 63% men compared to 37% women.

Society really needs to want equality

I myself worked for many years as a reporter at RÚV, Channel 2 and NFS (The New News Station). It was precisely during those years when the debate about the gender ratio of the interviewees was getting serious. For a few weeks during the last days of the NFS (it was a short lived TV station) I hosted a weekly TV program called Politics. There, the gender ratio for interviewees, was 55% women and 45% men. Later, I produced an eight episodes TV series about Icelandic food that was shown on RÚV in 2016. About 60% of the interviewees were women and about 40% were men. In my opinion, reaching gender equality among the interviewees is all about will and intention.

Full equality not yet reached … even in Iceland

Fortunately gender equality in Iceland is high, thanks to the concerted efforts of many. Gender equality programs of all sorts and sometimes tough legal instructions have helped Iceland to come a long way. The results are evident when it comes to equality in government and in politics as our powerful female Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir is a clear example of (above picture from www.government.is/). But it still stings to see just how far behind the business sector is. According to a recent news story from Kjarninn, an independent Icelandic online news media, men manage most pension funds, banks and big companies in Iceland. Only 9% of these Icelandic companies are managed by women while 91% are managed by men. Capacent has reached the same conclusion according to a recent RÚV news story. This also applies to Icelandic retail and food companies. We might not look so good in international comparisons of gender equality, if we would focus specifically on the food sector. These companies are mostly managed by men. Is it the way we want it to be?