Norway has said it might close down companies that fail to meet proposed boardroom quotas for women.
Companies aren't moving fast enough, the government says
The new coalition government in Oslo said it was considering introducing a law which would require 40% of boardroom posts to be filled by women.
Norway's previous government drew up the law, which it threatened to apply if companies failed voluntarily to meet minimum quotas by 1 July this year.
Only a fifth of Norway's 590 publicly listed firms comply with the quotas.
"It's not going fast enough," said Karita Bekkemellem, Norway's minister for family and children.
"I don't want to wait 20 or 30 years until sufficiently intelligent men finally appoint women to the boardrooms."
She added: "I wish to establish, from January 1 2006, a system of sanctions which makes it possible to break up companies."
Out of all proportion
The cabinet of Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg is due to examine the gender equity law which, once applied, would give companies two years to comply before being threatened with break-up.
Critics condemned the proposed law, arguing it could force some companies to relocate outside Norway.
"The closure of a company is a punishment out of all proportion to the offence," said Sigrun Vaageng, who heads Norway's employers' association.
"In theory, the government can break up a company because it is missing a single woman."
But a spokeswoman for Ms Bekkemellem said introducing the law could be the only way to of ensuring equality in the boardroom.
"It is a question of power," the spokeswoman said, insisting that several surveys had found that companies where both sexes were strongly represented on the board were more profitable.
"For a woman to get in a man must get out. It is not difficult to find qualified women."