Norway was the first country to introduce a quota for women on company boards and this initiative is now held as a case study for gender diversity at boardroom level for the European Union. Ms Viviane Reding, the Vice-President of the European Commission plans to propose similar measures to achieve gender balance in the corporate boardrooms.
The Norwegian government made it mandatory that public corporations must have an average of at least 40% women as board members. Since its introduction in 2003, female representation has gradually increased from 6% in 2002 to more than 40% in 2009. The success is mainly due to the broad political support, fairly though sanctions, intense political and public debate, the database for women to publicise their skills and training programmes to improve gender equality for companies.
So far, the European Commission challenged publicly listed companies across Europe to promote women's leadership by voluntarily signing the 'Women on the Board Pledge for Europe' (http://ec.europa.eu/commission_2010-2014/reding/pdf/p_en.pdf). The project will be finalised in March 2012 on International Women’s Day.
Details of quota legislation can be found in a report by Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) titled Women on Board: the Norwegian Experience.