The buzz leading up to last weekend’s election in Iceland was all about the nation’s upstart Pirate Party, the collection of anarchists, libertarians, and techies founded by “poetician” Birgitta Jónsdóttir, that was expected to make huge gains in parliament. The Pirate Party tripled its presence in the legislative body but came up short of the lofty projections. Instead, the real winner of Saturday’s vote was women.
Female candidates won a record 30 of parliament’s 63 seats. That puts female representation in Iceland’s parliament at 48%, making it “the most equal” in the world among countries without a quota system, according to its own Ministry for Foreign Affairs.
Other nations whose parliaments are closer to parity or majority women—Rwanda, Bolivia, and Cuba—either have quotas or “positive discrimination” in Cuba’s case that ensure the success of female candidates. Iceland, meanwhile, has no such requirement, and yet its female representation is head and shoulders above the global average of 23%. It also beats the United States, where Congress is just 20% female. In other words, when it comes to electing women politicians, the tiny island of Iceland is winning against the rest of the world, big time.