Feb 21, 2020 - Economy

California's "woman quota" law seems to be working

Illustration of conference table with men. In the middle is a silhouette of a woman.

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

When California passed its boardroom law requiring public companies based there to have at least one female director, there were concerns it would spark a gold rush for the same handful of well-known women — but that hasn’t happened.

Why it matters: Of the 138 women who joined all-male California boards last year, 62% are serving on their first company board, per a study by accounting firm KPMG. That means a majority of companies aren't contributing to so-called overboarding in corporate America.

The deadline to place a woman on an all-male board was Dec. 31, and KPMG has just tallied the outcome:

  • Only 4 women joined more than one all-male California board last year — with each joining two of these boardrooms.
  • Two-thirds of the women serve only on the board they joined last year.
  • The data suggest “the law broadened the candidate pool for public company directors,” KPMG writes in its report.

Of note: The report doesn’t look at whether the women are also on the boards of private companies or nonprofits.

There’s no standard definition of how many boards is "too many" for one person to serve on.

  • Vanguard, an asset manager that can sway corporate management, said last year it would vote against companies’ would-be board members who already serve on more than five boards.

The backstory: California's first-in-the-nation law was signed in September 2018, which gave companies more than a year to comply. By 2021, companies with five-person boards will have to have at least two women, while boards of six or more will have to have three.

  • 27 publicly traded companies in California — or 4% — still had all-male boards by the end of last year, KPMG says.

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