Column: California’s controversial law requiring women on corporate boards is back in the crosshairs

Column: California’s controversial law requiring women on corporate boards is back in the crosshairs (via @latimesopinion)

8/2/2021 2:04:00 PM

Column: California’s controversial law requiring women on corporate boards is back in the crosshairs (via latimesopinion)

A federal appeals court revived a lawsuit that had seemed to be dead. Now we’re going to find out whether the state went too far in ordering companies to put women on their boards of directors.

But how best to make money is a decision companies should make for themselves.Furthermore, it’s not clear that such a drastic measure was necessary. The number of women on boards has been steadily rising on its own. In 2020,, 95% of Fortune 500 boards nationwide included two or more female directors, an increase from 56% in 2010. In 2020, 47% of the new appointees to corporate boards were women.

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AdvertisementSeveral months ago, Assemblyman Evan Low (D-Campbell), one of the law’s supporters, told me: “I don’t believe we should leave it to capitalism to solve society’s problems. We’ll use the Constitution and the authority we have to create as inclusive a society as we can.”

But not all problems are government’s to solve. Besides, it’s one thing to remove obstacles to advancement. It’s quite another to set quotas and impose mandates, legislating not just equality of opportunity but equality of outcome.Many lawyers — and the pending lawsuit — argue that the law violates the 14th Amendment of the Constitution, which forbids any state to “deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” They say it mandates gender discrimination.

“Serious legal concerns have been raised,”. “I don’t minimize the potential flaws that indeed may prove fatal to its ultimate implementation.”AdvertisementThe U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled in cases in which it has upheld affirmative action programs that specific race- or sex-based quotas are not permissible.

Last year, California followed up the women-on-boards law with a second law mandating that corporate boards must also have members of “underrepresented communities,” a category including African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, gays, lesbians and other designated groups.

Clearly this is a slippery slope. Why would the state stop at board seats? Why not impose quotas on C-level executives as well? Or on employees generally? Is parity only desirable in the boardroom?And if we’re mandating diversity for corporations, why not for government too? Why not set aside 50% of the seats in California’s city councils for women? What’s to stop Texas from passing a law mandating a specific number of Christians on boards of directors?

AdvertisementYou may laugh, but many countries do set quotas for women in their parliaments, which I also think is a not great idea. It’s an effort to legislate equality — at the expense of democracy.I don’t think this is the direction the country wants to be heading.

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Of course there should be diversity — gender, racial and otherwise — on corporate boards, in the workforce, in politics and everywhere else. And I agree that waiting patiently for that to happen on its own is not the solution. People need to stand up and speak out for the change they believe in.

But heavy-handed government mandates are not the way to do it. Read more: Los Angeles Times »

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opinion 'requiring' is a silly condition here. better off stating: no corp can buy from china...