SANTA CRUZ >> Santa Cruz County’s five publicly-traded companies would be required to add women to their boards if a proposal, approved by the state Legislature and now on Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk, becomes law.
Local companies Plantronics, Santa Cruz County Bank, Granite Construction, Lighthouse Bank and Fox Factory Holding Corp. would need to restructure their boards, if the proposal is passed.
Senate Bill 826 is looking to diversify the company boards and increase the representation of women. California passed a law in 2013 that called on, but didn’t require, boards to increase representation by appointing more women. The proposal, now on Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk, goes a step further and would require companies to appoint at least one woman.
A study from the Board of Governance Research, an independent research firm, showed just 15.5 percent of California company board seats were occupied by women. More than a quarter of publicly-traded companies in the state do not have women on their boards.
Santa Cruz County has a Women’s Commission that focuses on female empowerment, in the workplace and otherwise. Jillian Ritter, an appointee, said the commission is behind the proposed law.
“If women are not at the table, the issues they want to bring forward will not be on the table,” Ritter said.
As far as mandating the number of women on boards, Ritter pointed to the fact that, historically, women have not had places on boards.
“We haven’t been on boards to the level that men have been on these boards ever,” she said. “Something needs to happen. Something needs to incite change here.”
California is home to 761 publicly-traded companies, including tech companies such as Facebook and Apple and storied companies such as Cisco and Pacific Gas and Electric.
Headset manufacturer Plantronics, one of the largest private employers in Santa Cruz, has one woman on its 11-member board: Kathy Crusco, who joined in August. Companies that have six or more board members would need to have at least three women by 2021, according to the bill.
Granite Construction, a $2.1 billion company in Watsonville, has two women on its 12-member board. Celeste Mastin and Patricia Galloway both joined Granite’s board in February 2017 and the company would need to add at least one more woman to meet the requirements.
Fox Factory Holding Corp., a $2.6 billion company based in Scotts Valley, manufactures and develops high performance shock absorbers and race suspension for mountain bikes, motorcycles and other vehicles. Its six-member board has one female member — Elizabeth Fetter — and would eventually need to include two more to meet the law if it passes.Advertisement
Santa Cruz County Bank’s board of directors include seven people and would need to increase the female representation by two. Tila Bañuelos is the lone woman on the board. Similarly, Lighthouse Bank has one woman — Cynthia Lazares — on its board of 11.
The bill would codify those requirements and have publicly traded companies have at least one woman on their board by the end of the 2019 calendar year. By 2021, the boards for those companies would need to have at least two women if boards have five members or at least three women for boards with six or more directors.
The proposed bill would also impose fines on companies that don’t meet the requirements. Companies would see fines of $100,000 for their first violation.
A coalition of more than two dozen business groups, led by the California Chamber of Commerce, opposes the bill. The group argues the law too narrowly focuses on meeting a gender quota versus other aspects of diversity. They also believe it would violate the equal protection clauses in the U.S. Constitution and the California Constitution.
“More women directors serving on boards of directors of publicly held corporations will boost the California economy, improve opportunities for women in the workplace, and protect California taxpayers, shareholders, and retirees,” according to the language of the bill.
Source : http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/article/NE/20180916/NEWS/180919770769