In a country such as norway with strong social welfare system and emphasis on equal rights, it isn't too surprising that the government has decided to take on inequities in board representation.
The country will be mandating that 40% of the board seats be occupied by women, with measurement starting in 2005 and enforcement penalties being levied starting in 2007. Further, if their boards are not "appropriately" comprised by 2007, they may lose their board certifications, thus costing the company their ability to do business. This is serious stuff!
One interesting note from the story is that in Norway, 8.4% of the board members are women, whereas in the US (which has no notable legislation in this part, and is considerably less of a welfare state) over 12% of the board seats are occupied by women.
This isn't the first time that Norway has made gender-based quotas for representation. In 1979, the Equal Status Act set forth a 40% requirement for all local and state government boards and commissions.
Here is a particularly interesting quote from the woman who introduced the bill:
"They are not using the competence of women in society. It's about equality and democracy. The only way for them to do it in Norway now is if they have to do it. What did they do in the past eight years? Nothing."
There will not be equality," she added, repeating one of her favorite lines, "until you have incompetent women in the boardroom."