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California Passes First Legislation to Encourage More Women on Boards

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For the past eight years, Watermark, in partnership with the University of California, Davis, has conducted the Study of California Women Business Leaders, a census and report on the status of women on boards and in top positions in Fortune 400 companies in California. The news has not been good, and after eight years of research, the trend analysis shows little progress. Last year, we added an advocacy element to our study, because we believe that while it is important to share the data we have collected, it is more important that we do something about the results by putting pressure on companies to do better.

We are gratified that our work with UC Davis has provided the foundational data that led to a breakthrough in legislation passed in the California State Senate just days ago, and hope that this model spreads to other parts of the country.

While we know that there remains much debate over the idea of gender quotas in the boardroom -- and we agree that quotas are not the solution -- it is clear we must take some action, since simply reporting the dismal numbers has not yielded any change. Resolution 62 takes that next step in "encouraging" and "urging" California companies to have equitable and diverse gender representation.

Resolution 62 states:

This measure would encourage equitable and diverse gender representation on corporate boards, and urge that, within a 3-year period from January 2014 to December 2016, inclusive, every publicly held corporation in California with 9 or more director seats have a minimum of 3 women on its board, every publicly held corporation in California with 5 to 8 director seats have a minimum of 2 women on its board, and every publicly held corporation in California with fewer than 5 director seats have a minimum of one woman on its board.

We recognize this is a resolution with little enforcement, but it puts a stake in the ground for gender equality on boards no less. We know greater board diversity leads to better governance and stronger economic growth. Now we need to put our economic power behind this legislation by supporting companies who comply with this recommendation, and taking our business away from those who don't. Seventy percent of all purchases globally are made by women -- that means we, as consumers, have more power to provide the economic incentive for companies to comply with Resolution 62 than legislative encouragement alone. Support companies who support women!