Women have made their mark in society, and today many occupy important roles as politicians, business people, lawyers, and board members. California’s new law requiring gender diversity is unnecessary and unconstitutional. The law destroys the integrity of corporate boards while also disrespecting women in the workforce.

On September 30, 2018, Governor Jerry Brown (D) signed California Senate Bill 826, which requires foreign and domestic companies with headquarters based in California to have at least one woman on their board by 2019. This law further states that by 2021, companies must have at least two or three women on their boards.

Senate Bill 826 is based on a misunderstanding of the reason behind the lack of female board directors. California state Senator Hannah Beth-Jackson (D-Santa Barbara), a co-author of the bill, stated the bill was proposed because women make up 52% of the state population, but only 15% of the boards of public corporations.

While her statistics are correct, Sen. Beth-Jackson did not acknowledge that the size of the company affects the gender diversity on boards. Large companies tend to have more women on their boards than smaller companies. In fact, according to a Board Governance Research Report, the 50 largest California companies all include women on their boards of directors. Small companies tend to have fewer women on their boards because they cannot sacrifice qualified board members to increase gender diversity whereas larger companies with larger boards can embrace more gender diversity.  The bill’s sponsors failed to comprehend why there is a lack of female board directors.

The California Corporate Gender Law is unconstitutional. This law violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment of the U.S Constitution, which prohibits states from denying any person in their jurisdiction “the equal protection of laws.” Senate Bill 826 contradicts the 14th Amendment as it does not treat males and females equally in a selection process for a board of directors. The state’s gender mandate will cause companies to lose integrity in their selection processes. Requiring companies to include at least one female on their board means that candidates for a board position can be selected solely based on their gender. For example, companies with only one board seat open will be forced to hire a woman over a more qualified man. Many people may be competing for one board spot, creating high competition in a selection process. Companies with no open board positions and no female members may have to lay off employees to meet the gender requirement.

Sen. Beth Jackson stated, “Yet another glass ceiling is shattered, and women will finally have a seat at the table in corporate boardrooms… This is a giant step forward for women, our businesses, and our economy.” However, the bill is actually a step back for women. Sen. Beth-Jackson implies that there are no women in boardrooms, when there are already many women on boards.  Many qualified women have already worked hard to earn a seat on a company’s board of directors and do not need aid in doing so. Additionally, males may believe that their female colleagues were elected based solely on their gender and not on their qualifications, which could result in a toxic environment in boardrooms.

In signing this bill, Governor Brown and the California state senators ironically discriminated against the very population they were seeking to assist.