New electrical workers received their electrician journeyman license certification last weekend and were rewarded for their achievements in the final examination. Two young women claimed all the awards, Sylvía Dagsdóttir and Ágústa Ýr Sveinsdóttir.
The smelter in Straumsvík where Sveinsdóttir used to work. Copyright: Icelandic Photo Agency.
Dagsdóttir, who graduated from electronic studies, now works for the company Rafteymi in Egilsstadir, east Iceland, which collaborates closely with Míla, a telecommunications company in Reykjavík. “There is plenty to do and lots of traveling,” she told Morgunbladid.
“I have of course been asked what the attraction to this work is and received comments that it is just for men. But not here at my job; I’m with a fine company,” Dagsdóttir said.
“I wasn’t sure what do to after I finished junior college, whether I’d go to university or try something else. Then I chose this and it proved incredibly fun. It also helped that I have a boyfriend who supported me the whole time,” she added of her motives.
Sveinsdóttir was in Germany when the journalist got hold of her, embarking on a six-month backpacking journey around the world.
“I once worked at the film festival RIFF and wanted to become a projectionist but then you have to know basic electronics. I just fell for it completely,” Sveinsdóttir said. She finished her studies in evening classes alongside junior college.
“It was hard and I also had to make a living. I was an intern for one year with an electrician in Reykjavík and at the smelter in Straumsvík for two years. Thinking back, I find it amazing that I pulled through it,” Sveinsdóttir commented.
She was the only woman at Straumsvík but was warmly welcomed by her male colleagues. “Sometimes, at the beginning, it was hard for them to swallow when I said something should be done differently. But most of them are incredibly nice and I like working with men.”
Almost 3,000 people have journeyman certification at the Union of Icelandic Electrical Workers (Rafís), of whom 40 are women.
However, according to chairman of Rafís Kristján Thórdur Snaebjarnarson, the women earn on average 10.2 percent more than their male counterparts.
The difference in wages is, among other issues, explained by the age distribution in the group and that female electrical workers often end up in higher paid jobs.
“It shows that electrical studies are no less suited to women than men,” Snaebjörnsson said. “I find it likely that their number will increase. […] These jobs are good for women; we use our heads but don’t necessarily need much physical strength.”
Although clearly not the case among electrical workers, recent surveys indicate that the overall gender-based salary difference in Iceland where men earn more than women is still fairly high.
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