Capitol Alert

‘It’s high time.’ Public companies required to have women on boards under new California law

California Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León embraces Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara as she casts her vote for the state budget on Wednesday afternoon, June 15 2016 at the California State Capitol.
California Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León embraces Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara as she casts her vote for the state budget on Wednesday afternoon, June 15 2016 at the California State Capitol. jvillegas@sacbee.com

With Gov. Jerry Brown’s signature on Sunday, California public companies will soon expand female representation on their boards.

Senate Bill 826, introduced by Democrats Hannah Beth-Jackson and Toni Atkins, requires public companies to have at least one female director on their board by the end of next year. By the end of 2021, companies with five directors must have two women on their boards, and companies with six or more board members must have at least three women.

In a signing statement, Brown acknowledged concerns that “may prove fatal” to the bill’s implementation, but said “it’s high time corporate boards include the people who constitute more than half the ‘persons’ in America.”

The proposal received opposition from the California Chamber of Commerce, which argued the bill would violate the independent voting rights of corporate boards and force companies to discriminate against qualified men. Despite the concerns, the bill was a top priority this year for the California Legislative Women’s Caucus. The bill cleared the Legislature on the final week of session.

“SB 826 is a giant step forward for women, our businesses and our economy,” Jackson said in a statement.

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