A Man Among Female Leaders: ‘The Risk of Mansplaining Is Very High’

His topic: maternal health.

“When you speak to an audience of women about motherhood and you are a man, the risk of mansplaining is very high,” he admitted.

I had sought out Mr. Prats Monné because I was curious: At an international conference of politicians, how does a man feel when he is in the minority? What could it tell us about gender equality?

An anthropologist by training, Mr. Prats Monné was intrigued. “I deal with primates every day,” he said of his male colleagues. “Maybe this will be different?”

He agreed to let me shadow him for 24 hours.


Mr. Prats Monné and his female Icelandic driver Erla, who offered to help with his luggage. She said that gender roles were not that clearly defined in Iceland.

Katrin Bennhold/The New York Times

At 5.30 p.m., that female driver, a 27-year-old named Erla, was taking us to our first event: a reception hosted by Iceland’s former president Vigdis Finnbogadottir, 87, whose cult status is such that all Icelanders refer to her by her first name. Vigdis means war goddess in Old Norse. In 1980, she became the country’s (and the world’s) first directly elected female president — and was a single mother to boot.

Erla told us that gender roles were not that clearly defined in Iceland: Her father, she said, was “a housewife” for a few years when she was a teenager. Her mother, a nurse, was the breadwinner.

Indeed, the World Economic Forum has ranked Iceland first for gender equality nine years in a row, in an index that examines educational opportunities, life expectancy, pay equity and other factors. Eight out of 10 Icelandic women work, the highest female employment rate in the world.

The pay gap between men and women is due to close here in 2022 — the World Economic Forum says that globally, it will take 217 years.

It was starting to snow. The landscape outside was barren, almost moonlike. “You need to be pretty tough to survive in this climate, man and woman,” Mr. Prats Monné observed.

He had noticed the sturdy shoes women wore on the plane flight over.

“Iceland is also egalitarian in appearance,” he said.


The modernistic building where the conference was held.

Katrin Bennhold/The New York Times

When we arrived at the reception,…

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