Beginning next year, corporate board rooms in California will have to feature at least one woman. But the head of a women's education and policy group thinks this could backfire.
Governor Jerry Brown (D-California) signed the gender-quotas bill into law on Sunday. It affects all publicly traded companies with headquarters in California, and requires at least one woman on a company's board of directors by the end of 2019 – and a minimum of two by the end of 2021.
The Democratic lawmaker who sponsored the bill – State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson – calls the law "a giant step forward, not just for women but also for our businesses and our economy." Not everyone agrees.
"I think this is the problem with all quota systems," says Carrie Lukas, president of the Independent Women's Forum. "They might get a woman or two into a position of power, but it does a lot of damage to this whole idea of women's equality."
When a woman is asked to join a board now in California, Lukas predicts people are going to wonder: Is it because of a quota – or because she got there on her own merits? "And I don't think that helps the cause of women by tarnishing their credentials," she adds.
And while Senator Jackson states she's optimistic other states will follow California's lead, Lukas points out that this approach has been taken quite a bit in Europe – with some pretty discouraging results for women.
"This could really harm the organic process that women are already making," says Lukas about California and any other state looking to follow suit. "That's another important point: Yes, women are still a minority of members of corporate boards, [but] they're a growing share, they're moving in the right direction."