4min readBusiness 25 November 2019
Gender diversity in the workforce has been a longstanding issue that has consistently crippled women's ability to climb the corporate ladder. In effort to finally place women in the seats their resumes prove they deserve, a recent California law approved by the senate state in 2018 required all public companies headquartered or incorporated in the state to have at least one female board member by yearend 2019. By 2021, boards will be required to give 40% of their seats to women. The penalty for failing to comply with the quota is set at a hefty $100K in fines and 300K for subsequent offenses. While the new bill may be welcomed by men and women who seek to bring gender equality and diversity to corporate boardrooms, it has been met with widespread backlash— and rightfully so.
According to California's Democratic state Sen. Hanna-Beth Jackson, women's insight is critical towards the growth and profitability of any business. In sponsoring the legislation, Jackson believed this decision to be a progressive and fair attempt at leveling the playing field for women.
"One-fourth of California's publicly traded companies still do not have a single woman on their board, despite numerous independent studies that show companies with women on their board are more profitable and productive," stated Jackson. "With women comprising over half the population and making over 70% of purchasing decisions, their insight is critical to discussions and decisions that affect corporate culture, actions and profitability."
What this bill does particularly well is opening doors for women who have the credentials and experience needed to successfully serve on a board and contribute to the company's overall development. However, that may very well be where its achievements end. The first lawsuit issued against California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, was filed by Washington-based conservative activist group, Judicial Watch. Tom Fitton, president of the group, said in a statement that "California's gender quota is brazenly unconstitutional." His argument is far from an over exaggeration as then-Gov. Jerry Brown, who signed off on the bill, made a statement regarding the questionable legality of the women's quota.
"There have been numerous objections to this bill, and serious legal concerns have been raised," stated Brown. "I don't minimize the potential flaws that indeed may prove fatal to its ultimate implementation."
The second lawsuit against Padilla was filed earlier this month by Creighton Meland Jr., shareholder of OSI Systems, Inc. Like Fitton, Meland argued against California's Women Quota claiming it to be a "sex-based classification that violates the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution." For Meland, sitting on an all-male board, the new law forces him and other shareholders alike to perpetuate sex-based discrimination when voting in board elections. Rather than voting for a woman solely on her credentials and potential to make effective decisions about the growth and future of the company, shareholders are left choose a token woman that will fulfill the criteria of the bill and ultimately protect the business from paying a fine.
While the legal concerns surrounding the Women Quota affect shareholders more than the women being placed on company boards, the ramifications of this bill are serving to hinder women in their fight for gender equality and diversity in the corporate workforce. Companies being forced to have women sit on their board will not only fail to see them as valuable assets towards the growth of the company, but it perpetuates the stereotype that women are incapable of attaining top level positions on their own without any outside help or handouts.
On Pacific Legal Foundation's website, the foundation filing Meland case, attorney Anastasia Boden wrote a response to an article written on Vox that accused PLF's lawsuit of "allegedly discriminating against men." According to Boden, the sex-based classifications needed to fulfill the criteria of the quota are far more damaging to women than they are helpful. They undermine any achievements these women will make in the future therefore reinforcing antiquated stereotypes while inadvertently opening the doors to further sexism in the workplace. Rather than recognizing women for the work they do and the success of their contributions, the stigma associated of being a "quota hire" will prevent women from receiving proper recognition.
While Boden argues that there is no evidence of discrimination in every boardroom, the women's quota does not offer a remedy for it either. When, in a board meeting, all members are aware of the fact that some members hold positions not through merit alone, but because the government has had the upper hand in that decision, women run the risk of being excluded from important decisions.
Not only does California's new law undermine women and their capabilities, but it may be misguided in perpetuating the idea that there are so few companies willing to put women on their board or that women are struggling to get those positions themselves. Boded cited the Equilar Gender Diversity Index which shows that women are already near parity even though women admittedly have a long way to go to in order to reach full gender parity.
"In Q2 2019, 42% of new board members across the top 3,000 were women. Over 20% of board members for those companies are women; 90% of boards have at least one woman," stated Boden.
Diminishing the progress that has already been made towards achieving gender equality and diversity does not provide a remedy for the lack thereof, but makes victims out of women while discouraging shareholders and investors from hiring women simply because they believe it is the fair and reasonable thing to do. Despite the well-intentioned effort to give women opportunities to hold positions they deserve; California's "Women Quota" seems to miss the mark when it comes to uplifting female leaders while breaking away from stereotypes that have oppressed women long enough.
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Help! I'm Dating a Jerk!
Dear Armchair Psychologist,
I've been dating my boyfriend for a year. After spending some vacation time with him and realizing he is not treating me the way I like I'm wondering — what do I do? I need him to be kinder and softer to me but he says simply, "chivalry is not his thing." I believe when two people decide to be together they need to adjust to each other. I don't think or feel my boyfriend is adjusting to what's important to me. Should I try to explain to him what's important to me, accept him for what he is, or leave him as I'm just not happy and the little gestures are important to me?
- Loveless Woman
Dear Loveless Woman,I am saddened you aren't getting your needs met in your relationship. Intimacy and affection are important to sustain a healthy relationship. It's troubling that even though you have expressed your needs to your boyfriend that it's fallen on deaf ears. You need to explore, with a therapist, why you have sought out this type of relationship and why you have stayed in it, even when it's making you chronically unhappy? Your belief that couples should adjust to each other is correct to some degree. These things often include compromising and bending on things like who gets the bigger closet or where to go for dinner. However, it's a tall order to ask someone to change their personality and if your boyfriend is indeed a jerk, like you say, who refuses to acknowledge your love language or express kindness and softness, then maybe you should find a partner who will embrace you while being chivalrous.
- The Armchair Psychologist
Hi Armchair Psychologist,
Just wanted to let you know that your article was really offensive to read. Do you refer to women's genitals as: "gross," "ghasty," "smelly," or otherwise? Humans are not perfect, each of us is different and you should emphasize this. I hope that man finds a partner that will love and accept him rather than tearing him down. Which gender has a whole aisle devoted to their "special" hygiene needs? I can tell you it's not men.
Dear Male Reader,Thank you for your thoughtful feedback to my Armchair Psychologist column. My email response bounced so am writing you here. I am so sorry I offended you. It wasn't my intention. I actually meant to be sardonic and make the writer see how ridiculous she sounded for the harsh language she used to describe her date. I obviously failed at this sneer since you think I meant to be offensive. Many apologies. I'll do better. Have a wonderful day and keep writing us with your thoughts.
- Ubah, The Armchair Psychologist