It’s no secret that boardrooms have long been male-dominated spaces, but California state legislature is trying to address this problem.
As of Sunday, California has enacted a new law requiring publicly traded corporate firms with "principal executive offices" headquartered in the state to have at least one woman on their board of directors by the end of 2019. The law also requires companies with five directors to add two women, and those with six or more to add at least three women, by the close of 2021. What’s more, companies that fail to comply with the new law within the allotted time will run the risk of penalties up to $300,000.
The bill passed in both the state's House and the Senate last month after being introduced by two women state senators, both Democrats, Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson and Senator Toni Atkins. “Yet another glass ceiling is shattered, and women will finally have a seat at the table in corporate boardrooms,” said Sen. Jackson on Twitter. “Corporations will be more profitable. This is a giant step forward for women, our businesses and our economy.”
The measure, signed by Governor Jerry Brown, is the first of its kind in the U.S. And, though similar laws have been passed in Europe, this new measure officially makes California the first state in this country to mandate diversity in corporate boards. Companies headquartered in California include Apple, Wells Fargo, Intel, Hewlett Packard, Uber, and more.
However, this new law has not been without controversy. Some are opposed to government-mandated quotas, and believe that pressure can be put on companies by the media and other sources. But, generally, the response has been positive, especially given the slow progress of corporate spaces that remain largely white and male dominated.
Leading up to the enactment of this law, co-sponsors Sen. Jackson and Sen. Atkins cited studies suggesting that gender parity in the corporate realm could take as long as 50 years to achieve if proactive measures aren’t taken. And, the passing of this law sets a promising precedent for future legislation addressing these important issues.
“Given all the special privileges that corporations have enjoyed for so long,” Gov. Brown wrote in a statement. “It's high time corporate boards include the people who constitute more than half of the 'persons' in America.”