Bill would require publicly traded companies in Calif. to hire more women on boards

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Companies that are based in California may soon have to hire more women on their boards. A bill passed by the State Senate is now sitting on the governor's desk waiting for his signature.

Few women occupy leadership positions, even here in progressive California.

The Russell 3000 index which tracks the biggest companies in the U.S. found that only 1 in 6 board seats is filled by a woman.

Senate Bill 826 would force publicly traded companies with headquarters in California to put at least one woman on their boards by the end of 2019.

By 2021, companies with five board of directors must have two women. Companies with six or more, must have three woman.

"So when you think of the women who are making the health care decision, who are making the housing decisions, who are making the consumer decisions for their families, it seems only right that we also have representation at the highest levels of power," said Christine Pelosi, Chairman of the California Democratic Party Women's Caucus.
Williams-Sonoma is based in San Francisco. It has equal number of men and women in top executive positions, including at the board level.

Their CEO, Laura Allber said, "It's not about gender. It's not about race. It's not about sexual orientation or age. It's about performance and that's really very simple."

But law experts say companies will fight it.

"Even if it's a smart policy to increase diversity on these boards, it's just flat out illegal. You can't have a quota like this," explained David Levine from the UC Hastings College of the Law.
The California Chamber of Commerce opposes the mandated quota, saying, "Our companies are not focused on only one particular classification, but rather all classifications."

Another company, San Jose based TiVo, the digital video recording company, has no women on its board and says it's not looking for new board members, even though it takes the issue of diversity very seriously.

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