Law requiring women on corporate boards sets 'gender-based quota,' group argues

A new California law requiring publicly traded corporations in the state to include women on their boards of directors is facing its first legal challenge.

Conservative nonprofit Judicial Watch filed a lawsuit against California on behalf of three taxpayers Friday, claiming the law is an “unconstitutional gender-based quota."

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Former Gov. Jerry Brown signed the proposal into law in 2018. At the time he admitted it might be killed in the courts but said, “It’s high time corporate boards include the people who constitute more than half the ‘persons’ in America,” according to The Sacramento Bee.

The law says all publicly traded corporations based in California must have at least one woman on their board of directors by the end of the year and at least two women by 2021 for a board made up of five directors and at least three on boards with six or more, The Bee reported.

But Judicial Watch argued that the law falls short.

“Requiring companies to make gender the primary qualification for board membership will inevitably lead to less qualified private sector boards,” the group said in a statement.

“Requiring companies to make gender the primary qualification for board membership will inevitably lead to less qualified private sector boards.”

— Judicial Watch

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But California state officials defended the law.

“We support the underlying goal of SB 826 to create an equitable economy and inclusive California,” a spokeswoman for California’s Secretary of State Alex Padilla said Friday, according to The Mercury News of San Jose. “We will review the lawsuit and will respond in court."

State Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, who co-wrote the bill, said many companies have already voluntarily complied.

“It is disappointing that this conservative right-wing group is more invested in spending thousands of dollars on a questionable lawsuit than supporting policy that improves business’ profits and boosts our economy,” she said, according to the Mercury News.

The law will affect 537 companies, according to Judicial Watch.