WHEN Norway introduced a 40% quota for female directors of listed companies in 2006, to come into force in 2008, it was a first. Non-complying firms could theoretically be forcibly dissolved, though none has in fact suffered such a fate. Since then gender quotas for boards have been imposed in Belgium, Iceland, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain (though with less severe sanctions: non-complying firms must generally explain in their annual reports why they fell short and what they plan to do about it). The European Commission is considering imposing quotas across the EU. Malaysia has imposed a 30% quota for new appointments to boards, and Brazil a 40% target, though only for state-controlled firms. The governments of several other countries, including Australia, Britain and Sweden, have threatened to impose quotas if firms do not appoint more female directors voluntarily. So why are gender quotas becoming more common?