Tech, business and legal experts step in as California law SB 826 ruled unconstitutional

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) — California’s “women on boards” law has been declared unconstitutional by a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge.

Senate Bill 826, which passed in 2018, required all public companies headquartered in the state to eventually include a minimum number of women on their boards. This objective was to be achieved through progressive compliance.

Retired Superior Court Justice LaDoris Hazzard Cordell weighed in Monday.

“This decision essentially says that gender balance – which is what SB 826 attempted to do – having some gender balance in the boardroom does not remedy discrimination,” the judge said. Cordell.

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The Southern California judge ruled that SB 826 is unconstitutional under the California Constitution and a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the California Constitution.

“She basically said there was no connection between women on boards and corporate governance, which means she didn’t find that women on boards , their presence would change or otherwise affect the way boards of directors govern,” Judge Cordell told ABC7 News.

She continued, “I hope there’s a lot of evidence to the contrary, that when you bring more diverse people into an environment, the way they govern themselves also changes.”

Continuing to respond to the ruling by Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Maureen Duffy-Lewis, Judge Cordell said, “Another thing she said in the notice was that he didn’t There was no evidence that this law, SB 826, will improve opportunities for women in the workplace.”

Cordell addressed several of Duffy-Lewis’ findings. Ultimately, Judge Cordell told ABC7 News, “I disagree with the decision. And I hope it will be appealed. Obviously, that’s the thinking of a judge who was very conservative, and that comes through in the decision.”

Judicial Watch, which is the conservative foundation that challenged the law, released a statement.

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“The radical left’s unprecedented attacks on anti-discrimination law have suffered another crushing defeat. Fortunately, the California courts have upheld the fundamental American value of equal protection under the law,” said the president of Judicial Watch. , Tom Fitton.

However, Ahmed Banafa, a San Jose State University professor and technology expert, said that, as seen in Silicon Valley, the best ideas come from collaboration in environments where all voices are valued. .

“I speak from my experience supervising hundreds and hundreds of students. If there is a mix of both genders in a balanced way, you will have good decisions,” Banafa told ABC7 News. “Because everyone looks at it through their own perspective.”

He said the move was personal to him, given that he has a daughter who is studying business.

“So when I read the story, I said, ‘What are the chances of her ever being on the board? I mean, it worries me too,” Banafa said.

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Experts called the landmark law necessary, given the responsibility of a board of directors to oversee management.

“They make decisions like hiring and firing senior executives, compensation,” said Kaumudi Misra, an assistant professor in CSU East Bay’s management department. “They do the business strategy and basically watch the function, so there’s not too much internal control.”

Misra said the law has brought about changes and it is this progress that cannot be ignored.

“Research has actually shown that diversity within teams improves performance,” she added. “Because different members from different backgrounds bring different ideas and perspectives.”

Experts also point to research that shows that before SB 826 went into effect, women held 17% of seats on state boards. This is based on the Russell 3000 Index of the largest companies in the United States, according to advocacy group 50/50 Women on Boards.

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In September, the percentage of board seats held by women rose to more than 30% in California, from 26% nationally.

Justice Cordell signals to CEOs that a law shouldn’t be necessary for a woman to have a seat at the table.

“They need will. They need political will, they need desire. They need to understand how important diversity is to their own businesses,” she said. “So this message, if it had passed, we wouldn’t have needed the SB 826.”

Pro Tempore Senate Speaker Toni G. Atkins released the following statement regarding the court’s decision, which Pro Tem Atkins co-authored with former Senator Hannah Beth Jackson in 2018:

“This disappointing decision reminds us that sometimes our legalities don’t match our realities. More women on boards means better decisions and companies that outperform the competition – it’s a studied and proven fact. We believe that This law remains important, despite the discouraging decision of the Los Angeles Superior Court – and it exemplifies equal access and opportunity, the very foundation of our democracy. leadership, they have to work on figuring that out because the world moves on without them.”

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