Mazzuca: California dreamin’
A new California law mandates that by the end of 2019, public companies with an executive base in California must have at least one woman on its board of directors. The law also mandates that by 2021, those numbers must increase to a minimum of three female directors if the board has six or more members, at least two female directors if the board has five members and a minimum of one female director if the board comprises four or fewer members.
However, while examining the particulars of the new law, a thought occurred to me — why did California’s legislators feel it necessary to mandate a specific number of women on corporate boards in a state that’s supposed to be gender-neutral? But regardless of the answer to that question and to no one’s surprise, this mandate is catching on in blue America, as Illinois, New York, New Jersey and Washington are all considering similar laws to promote diversity.
Meanwhile, it’s believed here that California didn’t go far enough. Consider, if a board has four or fewer members, why would the law stipulate just one female director, after all, one out of four is only 25% when the population of California is 50.2% female? That hardly seems fair, so it strikes me the law should require at least 50% of all board members be women.
Not only that, but I’m very surprised the California legislature did not include African Americans, Latinos and Latinas, gays and transgender people in the new law. Don’t these communities bring their own unique perspectives and don’t they collectively epitomize diversity? So why were they excluded? And what about Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs?
Admittedly, I don’t have demonstrable evidence, but I’m reasonably certain these last three groups are under-represented in California’s more exclusive, gated and ethnically homogenous communities, such as Malibu Colony Beach, Bel Air and Brentwood.
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But the biggest problem I foresee is that corporate boards are simply not big enough to accommodate all the constituencies that reside in the Golden State. I mean, if a company’s board of directors comprises just four members, how on earth can it include at least one African American, one Latino or Latina, a Muslim, a Hindu, a Sikh, a gay person and a transgender person? And what about metrosexuals, don’t they have valuable perspectives too?
Actually, the answer is really quite simple; California should expand the law to mandate that all public companies with an executive base in California have enough board seats to accommodate every major minority group in the state, perhaps even mandating that at least one Walmart shopper also be included if the state’s goal is true diversity — I mean, fair is fair!
While researching the topic on the internet, I decided to expand my search beyond our borders thinking that perhaps we could learn something from the Europeans. And sure enough, California’s new law mandating women on boards of directors mirrors that of France, a nation whose economic freedom score, according to the Heritage Foundation’s Economic Freedom Index was 63.8, making it the 71st freest economy in the world, placing France behind such economic powerhouses as Armenia, Malta and Uruguay— but hey, at least the corporate boardrooms in France are diverse.
Then, just for the fun of it, I decided to do a Google search of Burisma Holdings Ltd. and discovered that just three of the eight board members were women — a real travesty when one considers how women comprise 54% of Ukraine’s population. So something tells me Burisma may not be the best company on which to model U.S. boards of directors.
So what happens next? My guess is the law will be challenged in court but will not be overturned on appeal and will eventually wend its way to the 9th Circuit where it will again be upheld, which means the final say on its constitutionality will come from the United States Supreme Court — I await the decision with bated breath.
Quote of the day: “Excellence is the best deterrent to racism or sexism.” —Oprah Winfrey
Butch Mazzuca, of Edwards, writes biweekly for the Vail Daily. Follow him on his blog at butchmazzuca.com.