California Gov. Jerry Brown Signs Landmark Bill Requiring Women On Corporate Boards

"It’s high time corporate boards include the people who constitute more than half the ‘persons’ in America," the governor wrote in his signing message.
Fred Greaves / Reuters

California on Sunday became the first state to require corporate boards of directors to include women.

“Given all the special privileges that corporations have enjoyed for so long, it’s high time corporate boards include the people who constitute more than half the ‘persons’ in America,” Gov. Jerry Brown wrote in a message when signing the bill into law.

The bill, titled SB-826, was introduced by state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara).

It requires any corporation based in California to have a minimum of one woman on its board of directors by the end of 2019. By the end of 2021, the bill mandates that number increase to at least two women directors if the corporation has five directors, or to a minimum of three women if the corporation has six or more directors.

Jackson thanked Brown in a tweet Sunday, writing “yet another glass ceiling is shattered, and women will finally have a seat at the table in corporate board rooms.”

California state Sen. Toni Atkins (D-San Diego), who co-authored the bill, echoed Jackson’s tweet.

The two “authored this bill because it’s indeed ‘high time’ corporate boards include women,” Atkins tweeted.

Not everyone was a fan of the measure. The California Chamber of Commerce, and a coalition of about 30 businesses and groups in California, have argued the bill is unconstitutional.

“Gender is an important aspect of diversity, as are the other protected classifications recognized under our laws,” the coalition wrote in a letter to the California state Senate in May. “We are concerned that the mandate under SB 826 that focuses only on gender potentially elevates it as a priority over other aspects of diversity.”

In his signing statement, Brown acknowledged the bill’s opponents but explained why he is signing it anyway.

“There have been numerous objections to this bill and serious legal concerns have been raised,” Brown wrote. “I don’t minimize the potential flaws that indeed may prove fatal to its ultimate implementation. Nevertheless, recent events in Washington, D.C. — and beyond — make it crystal clear that many are not getting the message.”

At the end of the statement, Brown cc’d the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, which has been in the spotlight following Thursday’s highly charged testimony from Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford.

Ford has accused the federal appeals court judge of sexually assaulting her when they both high school students. Two other women have come forward with accusations of misconduct against Kavanaugh, all of which he has denied.

The committee on Friday voted to advance the nomination of Kavanaugh.

A final vote had been expected next week, but Senate GOP leaders agreed to a supplemental FBI investigation into the allegations, lasting up to one week, following a dramatic series of events leading up to the committee vote Friday.

SB-826 was among a slate of Me Too-inspired bills Brown signed, including one that bans secret settlements in sexual harassment cases.

Marina Fang contributed to this report.

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