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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For decades, women have been unknowingly suffering from PSD and intergenerational trauma, but now Dr. Valerie Rein wants women to reclaim their power through mind, body and healing tools.
As women, no matter how many accomplishments we have or how successful we look on the outside, we all occasionally hear that nagging internal voice telling us to do more. We criticize ourselves more than anyone else and then throw ourselves into the never-ending cycle of self-care, all in effort to save ourselves from crashing into this invisible internal wall. According to psychologist, entrepreneur and author, Dr. Valerie Rein, these feelings are not your fault and there is nothing wrong with you— but chances are you definitely suffering from Patriarchy Stress Disorder.
Patriarchy Stress Disorder (PSD) is defined as the collective inherited trauma of oppression that forms an invisible inner barrier to women's happiness and fulfillment. The term was coined by Rein who discovered a missing link between trauma and the effects that patriarchal power structures have had on certain groups of people all throughout history up until the present day. Her life experience, in addition to research, have led Rein to develop a deeper understanding of the ways in which men and women are experiencing symptoms of trauma and stress that have been genetically passed down from previously oppressed generations.
What makes the discovery of this disorder significant is that it provides women with an answer to the stresses and trauma we feel but cannot explain or overcome. After being admitted to the ER with stroke-like symptoms one afternoon, when Rein noticed the left side of her body and face going numb, she was baffled to learn from her doctors that the results of her tests revealed that her stroke-like symptoms were caused by stress. Rein was then left to figure out what exactly she did for her clients in order for them to be able to step into the fullness of themselves that she was unable to do for herself. "What started seeping through the tears was the realization that I checked all the boxes that society told me I needed to feel happy and fulfilled, but I didn't feel happy or fulfilled and I didn't feel unhappy either. I didn't feel much of anything at all, not even stress," she stated.
Photo Courtesy of Dr. Valerie Rein
This raised the question for Rein as to what sort of hidden traumas women are suppressing without having any awareness of its presence. In her evaluation of her healing methodology, Rein realized that she was using mind, body and trauma healing tools with her clients because, while they had never experienced a traumatic event, they were showing the tell-tale symptoms of trauma which are described as a disconnect from parts of ourselves, body and emotions. In addition to her personal evaluation, research at the time had revealed that traumatic experiences are, in fact, passed down genetically throughout generations. This was Rein's lightbulb moment. The answer to a very real problem that she, and all women, have been experiencing is intergenerational trauma as a result of oppression formed under the patriarchy.
Although Rein's discovery would undoubtably change the way women experience and understand stress, it was crucial that she first broaden the definition of trauma not with the intention of catering to PSD, but to better identify the ways in which trauma presents itself in the current generation. When studying psychology from the books and diagnostic manuals written exclusively by white men, trauma was narrowly defined as a life-threatening experience. By that definition, not many people fit the bill despite showing trauma-like symptoms such as disconnections from parts of their body, emotions and self-expression. However, as the field of psychology has expanded, more voices have been joining the conversations and expanding the definition of trauma based on their lived experience. "I have broadened the definition to say that any experience that makes us feel unsafe psychically or emotionally can be traumatic," stated Rein. By redefining trauma, people across the gender spectrum are able to find validation in their experiences and begin their journey to healing these traumas not just for ourselves, but for future generations.
While PSD is not experienced by one particular gender, as women who have been one of the most historically disadvantaged and oppressed groups, we have inherited survival instructions that express themselves differently for different women. For some women, this means their nervous systems freeze when faced with something that has been historically dangerous for women such as stepping into their power, speaking out, being visible or making a lot of money. Then there are women who go into fight or flight mode. Although they are able to stand in the spotlight, they pay a high price for it when their nervous system begins to work in a constant state of hyper vigilance in order to keep them safe. These women often find themselves having trouble with anxiety, intimacy, sleeping or relaxing without a glass of wine or a pill. Because of this, adrenaline fatigue has become an epidemic among high achieving women that is resulting in heightened levels of stress and anxiety.
"For the first time, it makes sense that we are not broken or making this up, and we have gained this understanding by looking through the lens of a shared trauma. All of these things have been either forbidden or impossible for women. A woman's power has always been a punishable offense throughout history," stated Rein.
Although the idea of having a disorder may be scary to some and even potentially contribute to a victim mentality, Rein wants people to be empowered by PSD and to see it as a diagnosis meant to validate your experience by giving it a name, making it real and giving you a means to heal yourself. "There are still experiences in our lives that are triggering PSD and the more layers we heal, the more power we claim, the more resilience we have and more ability we have in staying plugged into our power and happiness. These triggers affect us less and less the more we heal," emphasized Rein. While the task of breaking intergenerational transmission of trauma seems intimidating, the author has flipped the negative approach to the healing journey from a game of survival to the game of how good can it get.
In her new book, Patriarchy Stress Disorder: The Invisible Barrier to Women's Happiness and Fulfillment, Rein details an easy system for healing that includes the necessary tools she has sourced over 20 years on her healing exploration with the pioneers of mind, body and trauma resolution. Her 5-step system serves to help "Jailbreakers" escape the inner prison of PSD and other hidden trauma through the process of Waking Up in Prison, Meeting the Prison Guards, Turning the Prison Guards into Body Guards, Digging the Tunnel to Freedom and Savoring Freedom. Readers can also find free tools on Rein's website to help aid in their healing journey and exploration.
"I think of the book coming out as the birth of a movement. Healing is not women against men– it's women, men and people across the gender spectrum, coming together in a shared understanding that we all have trauma and we can all heal."