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Why Our Efforts to Get More Women on Boards Aren’t Going Far Enough

Mary Karen Wills

September 26, 2019

Women are rising, but we’re a long way from gender parity

California lawmakers drew national attention—and criticism—last year by passing a law that will essentially require certain companies in the state to appoint a whopping 684 women to corporate boards by 2021.

Senate Bill 826’s backers equated the move with breaking a glass ceiling—and pointed to simple arithmetic: women hold just 15.5 percent of board seats at Russell 3000 companies in California, compared to 16.2 percent among all the companies in that index. “It’s high time that corporate boards include the people that constitute more than half the ‘persons’ in America,” Governor Jerry Brown said at the time.

Wherever you stand on the California law, which faces inevitable court battles and is especially controversial in California’s male-dominated tech sector, its passage should prompt anyone who cares about gender parity in corporate leadership to ask a tough question:

If after years of initiatives and good-faith efforts, boardrooms are still dominated by men, then what, aside from laws and mandates, can be done to level the playing field? Perhaps the answer starts with getting more women into the C-suite and onto board recruiters’ radars. And as women, we can help populate those databases with purposeful networking and forceful advocacy on the boards we’re already on.

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Mary Karen Wills

Managing Director

Washington, DC

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