On Monday, around 2:38 PM, thousands of women left work early and headed to Austurvollur square in the Icelandic capital of Reykjavik. Punctuality mattered: They were trimming a typical 9-to-5 workday by precisely two hours and 22 minutes, or around 30 percent. Thirty percent also happens to be the gap in average annual income for men and women in Iceland; for every dollar a man makes, a woman makes 72 cents (other ways of measuring the gender wage gap in Iceland yield smaller percentages, and the gap narrows when considering men and women who do the same sort of work). Those assembled at Austurvollur shouted Ut, or “Out,” to discrimination against women. They were essentially saying: If I were a man, I might have earned my paycheck by now, so I’m taking the rest of the afternoon off and demanding change.
The protest put a complex issue into the simple terms of hours and minutes. We’re all intimately familiar with the workday; it’s how many of us mark time. And we can all appreciate how early in the day 2:38 PM is—especially if you’re living in Iceland and women suddenly leave offices and stores and schools en masse. One father who had to pick up his daughter from preschool before 2:38 told the public broadcaster RUV that he supported the demonstration despite the inconvenience. “She should get a better salary in the future like the men,” he explained, as he held his daughter in his arms.