California Law Spurs Companies to Add Female Directors
From the Wall Street Journal:
California last year embarked on a unique social and political experiment in the U.S. What would happen if the government required corporate boards to include female directors?
The answer: Companies would add them in droves.
Ninety-three California-based members of the Russell 3000—an index which includes most public companies on major U.S. stock exchanges—had all-male boards when the law was signed on Sept. 30, 2018, according to Equilar, a corporate governance-data firm. As of this Nov. 22, the most-recent date for which comprehensive data are available, that number had dropped to 17. A few companies have since said that they have added female board members as the year-end deadline for compliance nears.
When then-Gov. Jerry Brown heralded the law as the right thing to do, he also said he expected it to face fierce opposition, and governance experts said the effort could stall amid legal action. Some warned that companies would dip into the same small pool of women who already held board seats, potentially overloading them.
In reality, more than 60% of the women who joined the board of a California company in 2019 had never served on a public company board, according to Equilar.
It took nearly a year for a legal challenge to surface. Conservative group Judicial Watch filed a lawsuit in August challenging the mandate. Another was filed last month by a shareholder of Hawthorne, Calif.-based OSI Systems Inc.
“The law is not only deeply patronizing to women, it is also plainly unconstitutional,” the shareholder suit stated.
OSI didn’t respond to requests for comment. It said last week that Kelli Bernard, an executive at infrastructure and engineering firm Aecom, would join its board.
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