Women on Corporate Boards (SIGNED)

WHAT THE BILL WOULD DO 

Under SB 826, publicly held companies with principal executive offices in California would be required to have at least one female director by Dec. 31, 2019, or else face a fine. By the end of 2021, corporations with five directors would have to have at least two female directors, and corporations with six directors or more would have to have at least three female directors. Under this bill, authored by two female Democrats—Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson and Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins—corporations out of compliance would have to add a board seat and fill it with a woman if none opens before the deadlines.

WHO SUPPORTS IT 

The National Association of Women Business Owners sponsored the bill, urging the state to set an example and consider evidence that companies led by female directors perform better financially. Women’s business groups and small business associations also support it, noting that mandated gender diversity on corporate boards is common in Europe, and that the results of voluntary diversification have been slow.

WHO’S OPPOSED

A coalition of some two dozen business groups led by the California Chamber of Commerce are fighting the measure, saying it focuses too narrowly on gender, as opposed to other kinds of diversity, and violates federal and state constitutions. There is no federal requirement for female representation on U.S. boards.

WHY IT MATTERS

According to the bill’s authors, a quarter of the publicly held corporations in California do not have a single woman in their boardrooms, a reflection of the male domination of corporate boards nationally. Gender representation in the corporate world has been an issue of huge debate, and this bill would make California the first state to enact legally binding requirements for women on boards.

GOVERNOR’S CALL

Signed by Governor Brown on September 30, 2018.

From Gov. Brown’s signing statement: “Given all the special privileges that corporations have enjoyed for so long, it’s high time corporate boards include the people who constitute more than half the ‘persons’ in America.”

—Antoinette Siu