Recently, California made the decision to consider having more women on the Board of Directors. According to USA Today, California would be the first in the nation to make it mandatory to have women in boardrooms. The bill (SB-826) will require companies that are based in California to have at least one woman on their Board of Directors by the end of 2019, and a minimum of two by the year 2021. There have been arguments made by individuals who are for, against or possess mixed feelings in regards to the bill.
Those who are for the decision argue that it is a step towards gender equality in the workplace. People who are against the decision argue that passing the bill is another way that the government tries to control businesses and the ways in which they run them. Lastly, those with mixed feelings about the bill argue that having women on the Board of Directors of major companies is a progressive step. However, they do not want to see the decision in the form of a law.
In my opinion, I think that having women on the Board of Directors of major companies is a big deal. Essentially, it’s giving women a place to be in a position that they might not otherwise end up in. However, I think that the way that it’s being presented is problematic.
This bill is a form of tokenization. The bill (as of now) states that companies should at least have one woman present at the moment. Having only one woman on the Board of Directors of major companies is unsettling, because many women who are qualified to be in that space should already have the opportunity to be there. Many fields of employment are male-dominated and there does need to be a change in how the workplace is gendered, not just a law requiring a female presence.
If companies do not comply with the bill, they will be penalized. According to USA Today, “Penalties for noncompliance would start at $100,000 for the first violation and increase to $300,000 for those that occur in the future.” This essentially only fuels an argument for those that are against the bill itself, although it will push directors of major companies to give women the opportunity to be in the workplace.
As of today, women make up 47 percent of the workforce but only 17.7 percent of board members nationwide. Women deserve much more than this.
Another argument against this bill is that it is not addressing the sexism in a constructive way, nonetheless the racism present in many workplaces. I think that whenever arguments are being made about having women in places of power, the ways women (specifically Black and those of color) are discriminated against should be acknowledged first and foremost.
Having “gender quotas” in the workplace only fuels the narrative that women do not belong in those spaces.
According to some studies done independently, companies with at least one female director performed better than those without any. This is interesting considering how slow the push for having women in boardrooms has progressed.
Overall, I think that this bill is a form of progress. However, I do think that it is essentially a way to force these major companies to hire women. A company should not be “forced” to hire women. Women deserve to be in places of power, but the problem is the system, something that an individual law will do little to change.