Case Studies

These case studies illustrate how Alcoa is acting upon its commitment to sustainable development throughout the world. We are pleased with this progress, but look forward to achieving even more.

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In the casthouse operations room

Pouring molten aluminum into a mold


Iceland - 2009

Alcoa Strives for Gender Equality in Iceland


In the eastern region of Iceland, where limited employment opportunities existed for women, Alcoa Fjardaal is progressing on its goal of full gender equality in positions, wages, and benefits for employees at all levels.

As of May 2009, women comprised 26% of the workforce at Alcoa’s newest aluminum smelter—33% as managers and 26% as operators. Although short of the smelter’s 50% goal, this achievement has set a new record within Alcoa and possibly the global aluminum industry.

“We have faced numerous challenges in attracting women to work at our smelter,” said Guðný Hauksdóttir, Alcoa Fjardaal’s manager of health and safety who previously served on the smelter’s human resources team and was responsible for recruitment. “Many women had left the area for the nation’s capital because there were more job opportunities there. Also, women tended to enter more traditional female professions, such as teaching and nursing, but that is changing. Our smelter is also located in an area that does not have a large industrial base except for the fishing industry.”

During its initial hiring for the smelter, which opened in 2007, Alcoa also faced a nearly 0% unemployment rate in Iceland. That has since changed, but attracting women remains a challenge despite the smelter offering equal wages (women in Iceland typically earn less than men).

Reasons for the reluctance of women to apply for jobs include 12-hour shifts in the smelter that interfere with child-rearing duties and the physical demands of some of the operator positions. In addition, there are fewer women than men living in East Iceland.

“My husband is from East Iceland, and we decided to move back here because of Alcoa,” said Særún Kristinsdóttir, a potline coach at Alcoa Fjardaal. “I applied for a position and was assigned to the potroom. I had a few concerns initially about being able to do the same work as a man and being treated differently because of that. When I started, however, I was immediately treated the same as everyone else. I’m proud of my work, and I have a lot more opportunities than when I worked in the service industry.”

Hauksdóttir agrees.

“Alcoa’s presence has given me more opportunity to move up in my professional career,” said Hauksdóttir. “This project has pushed me to be more independent and not be afraid of making decisions. It’s been very educating, and I’ve grown a lot as a person here.”

To reach its 50% goal, Alcoa Fjardaal continues to reach out to women through advertising and onsite events. In addition, the smelter is examining work practices, such as 12-hour shifts, to see how they can better fit the needs of women.

In 2008, Alcoa Fjardaal earned the prestigious Gender Equality Award from Iceland’s Gender Equality Council for its efforts to increase female recruitment levels and eliminate gender wage differentials.