Brynhildur Heiðar- og Ómarsdóttir


binna bleik undirskrift

President of Fræðagarður

Brynhildur Heiðar- og Ómarsdóttir

The solidarity of all working people is key to achieving higher wages and better working conditions. We have come a long way in guaranteeing labor rights, but there is still much to be done.

About Me

I was born and raised in Reykjavík, and have a B.A. in Comparative Literature from the University of Iceland and an M.A. og M.Phil. in English Literature from Columbia University in New York. I now study public administration at the University of Iceland, part-time while also working. I have a keen sense of justice and fair play and I believe that a strong and organized labor movement is fundamental in improving the wages and working conditions for all of us who live and work in Iceland. 

I serve as the president of Fræðagarður, the largest labor union in BHM, a confederation of unions for members with a university education. Fræðagarður is a fast-growing and diverse organization, with members working in all sectors of the labor market. As president, I aim to open up our union to diverse voices. Inclusion, human rights and democracy are key to strengthening our union and our society.

I served for over a decade as the Secretary General of Kvenréttindafélag Íslands, the Icelandic Women’s Rights Association, a civil society formed in 1907 to work on women’s rights and gender equality. During the course of my work, I have co-operated closely with the labor movement in Iceland, for example in organizing Kvennafrí, the Women’s Strikes of 2016 and 2018, and organizing the congress of #MeToo women in 2018. We will not achieve women’s liberation until we secure women’s financial independence.

I have also worked as a freelance literary critic and have written and produced various radio programs for RÚV, the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service. My experience as a freelancer has taught me that we who work as independent contractors often lack representation in organized wage bargaining.

I have a long and diverse experience in working in advocacy and civil society and have served on the boards of many civil societies. I was elected to the board of Fræðagarður in 2019, and as union president in 2022. I am the current president of Fjöruverðlaunin – the Icelandic Women’s Literature Prize, a co-organizer of the international literary festival IceCon and serve as an alternate board member for the European Women’s Lobby

I am a practiced public speaker, both in Icelandic and in English. Media appearances include CNN International, BBC World News, DR 1, France 24, NPR, Deutsche Welle and Vox on Netflix

I am a passionate advocate for education, reading, knowledge building, and open and free access to information. I have cataloged (most of) my library and published its contents on the internet. I have also built a little free library for my neighborhood. I published a children’s book in 2010, Sjáðu svarta rassinn minn, a collection of feminist folk tales from Icelandic folklore. You can listen to many radio shows I have produced on literature on the website of RÚV. My two favorite are no doubt the one about the afterlife of books where I investigate what happens to books when we need to cull our bookcases and the one I wrote to my grandfather where I review Icelandic literature in Esperanto, equality, peace and freedom at the margins of Europe.

Brynhildur on CNN
Brynhildur discusses the Eurovision Song Contest on RÚV, the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service, in 2021.
Brynhildur addresses the 2019 Human Dimension Implementation Meeting (HDIM) of OSCE.
Brynhildur moderates a panel at the international children's literature Festival Mýrin in 2021.
Brynhildur being interviewed by the news program Kastljós in 2022, about #JÁTAK, a campain to aimed at increasing diversity among candidates for local government.
Brynhildur gives a keynote lecture about Icelandic solutions in gender equality, at the 2019 Asahi World Forum in Tokyo.
Brynhildur welcomes young members from the German labor movement in her office at the Icelandic Women's Rights Association.
  • President of Fræðagarður (2022–). President of Fræðagarður, the largest union in the BHM confederation. I look after the interest of our members and work with other parties in the labor market to create a better society for everyone.
  • Secretary General, Icelandic Women’s Rights Association (2011–). I am responsible for the successful leadership and management of the organization. My duties and responsibilities include responsibility and accountability for the organizational budget and ensuring adequate financing; project management and event planning; advocacy and encouragement of women’s rights by giving lectures and writing articles; writing official commentary on legislation in Alþingi – the Icelandic parliament; monitoring the Icelandic government’s fulfillment of international obligations in gender equality and women’s rights; developing and maintaining international cooperation; public relations and press communication
  • Information Officer, Gljúfrasteinn (2010–2011) Gljúfrasteinn is a museum, housed in the former home of Halldór Laxness – Iceland’s Nobel Prize winning poet. Responsibilities included maintaining daily operations; directing and overseeing the work of associates; planning and directing various cultural events; collecting and providing service and information to scholars and other visitors to the museum; participating in the writing of a book about the museum and its collection.
  • Lecturer, Johannes Gutenberg Universität, Mainz (2005–2006) I taught two courses on American Literature at the Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany.
  • Graduate Student Teacher and Teaching Assistant, Columbia University, New York (2003–2009) I attended graduate school at Columbia University. As a part of my study at the university, I taught several courses in academic writing at the college level. As a graduate student teacher I was responsible for the curriculum of these courses, lecturing, teaching, and final grading. I also worked at the university’s writing center and as a teaching assistant to professors.
  • Independent Literary Critic (2000–) I have worked independently for over a decade as a literary critic, by writing articles for newspapers and journals, writing book reviews, giving lectures on feminism, culture and literature, and editing several magazines. I have published one book, Sjáðu svarta rassinn minn, a collection of feminist folk tales for children. Since 2011, I have written and produced various radio programs for RÚV, the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service. My programs primarily deal with literature, culture and women’s rights.
  • Various Jobs Teaching and in Libraries (1998–2003) While studying at the University of Iceland and Columbia University, I also worked as a library clerk and teacher. I worked as a library clerk at the Reykjavík Public Library (1998–2000) and as a children’s librarian at Garðabær Library (2001–2002). I worked as an English teacher at a social center for senior citizens (1998–2000), a paraprofessional at an assisted living residence (2000) and as a peer educator for the Reykjavík Sports and Youth Council (2003).
Power of the hammer! Brynhildur chairs a side event at the 2018 meeting of the UN Committee on the Status of Women (CSW).
Brynhildur walks with BHM members at a rally, May 1st 2022.


The Labor Market

  • Strong collective bargaining, timely and professional preparations based on the demands of our members and in good cooperation with sister unions in BHM.

  • Guaranteeing that education is fairly reflected in wages, push for improvements in the student loan system and securing pension rights.

  • Correcting the job evaluation system used by the municipalities to guarantee that wages are fairly calculated consistent with people’s education, experience and responsibility.

  • Guaranteeing the rights and wages of zero-hour workers and members with non-traditional employment contracts. Increase services and support to those members.

  • Eradicating violence and harassment in the workplace, holding employers and the government responsible, guaranteeing professional work procedures and a transparent process.

  • Guaranteeing the rights of workers in a post COVID-19 labor market, by reevaluating and improving the rights of people working from home and increasing job flexibility.

  • Improving working conditions and guaranteeing the physical and mental wellbeing of our members in regards to work pressures.

  • Prioritize the reevaluation of work traditionally seen as women’s work and the revision of the Equal Pay Standard.

  • Bridge the gap between the end of parental leave and start of guaranteed daycare.

  • Good cooperation with the labor movement in Iceland. The solidarity of all working people, including university graduates, is key to achieving higher wages and better working conditions. 

A Stronger Fræðagarður

  • Stronger services for members.

  • Stronger support for unemployed members and financial support for continued training.

  • Increased education for members, such as on their rights in the labor market.

  • Increased consultation with members, with regular online meetings and surveys.

  • Strengthen the voice of professional groups within Fræðagarður, increase support for their work and encourage members to create new groups.

  • Increased visibility of Fræðagarður and active participation in public debate, in the media, social media and with formal campaigns.

  • Strengthen regulations and work processes of Fræðagarður, to increase transparancy, fairness and impartiality

  • Strengthen democracy and freedom in Fræðagarður. Change the bylaws so that the president of Fræðagarður is elected for a two-year term, not four years, comparable to other board members.

Candidacy 2022

Dear fellow members of Fræðagarður!

My name is Brynhildur Heiðar- og Ómarsdóttir and I am running for president of Fræðagarður – the Union of University Graduates.

I am running for president because I am passionate about the fight for fair wages in the labor market. I have been a board member of Fræðagarður since 2019, serving as Treasurer for the last two years. I feel that it is important to strengthen our union to increase wages and benefits, improve working conditions and strengthen the rights of our members in the labor market.

Negotiations Ahead

There are many challenges ahead. Collective bargaining with the municipalities is ongoing and negotiations with the State and Reykjavík City will begin later this year. One of the big issues we need to tackle during our negotiations is the job evaluation system used by the municipalities, a system that does not benefit our members. This needs to change. 

I look forward to leading the negotiations and securing better wages and stronger rights for our members.

Income Equality and Fair Wages

A longtime goal for us who are active in the labor unions is to correct the longstanding pay inequity in our society. Women’s work is less valued than men’s work, and this social ill is reflected in the pay structures of our society. We need to reevaluate work in the labor market, to fairly reflect the value of all jobs.

Eradicating pay inequity is both just and right, an this correction goes hand in hand with other actions that labor unions should focus on, such as bridging the gap between the end of parental leave to the start of daycare, increasing flexibility in work, guaranteeing security in the workplace (#MeToo) and working against intersectional discrimination. The diversity of our labor force strengthens the Icelandic labor market and society.

A Secure Future

Fræðagarður must also begin to work towards securing the position of people in a labor market that is undergoing a radical shift, with the increase of zero-hour contracts and working from home. Many of us have experienced working in the gig-economy and know full well how our rights are restricted in that situation. 

Fræðagarður must be a strong voice in guaranteeing the rights of workers in this changing economy, and can and should become a center for research and services for zero-hour workers.

Stronger Together

There are now over 3,300 members in Fræðagarður and together we make up almost 2% of the Icelandic labor market. We have many challenges ahead of us. We need to push for more changes to the student loan system, guarantee housing security and family benefits, stand against any cutbacks in wake of COVID-19, secure stronger rights to sick leave in the common labor market, strengthen pension rights, among other challenges.

Fræðagarður is a strong union and we should be leaders in the public debate. For this to happen, our union must have a strong vision and a vibrant presence in the media and social media. I am ready to lead that effort, working closely with our members, the board and our sister unions in BHM.

The solidarity of all working people, including university graduates, is key to achieving higher wages and better working conditions. We have come a long way in guaranteeing labor rights, but there is still much to be done.

If I am elected as president of Fræðagarður, I will work with integrity and passion for better wages and stronger rights for our members and for justice and equality in the labor market. 

Let’s create a better future, together!

binna bleik undirskrift

Contact Me

I encourage you to be in touch, if you have any questions and suggestions. 

I look forward to hearing from you. Together we will create a better future!