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Another First for California

Joshua Passman

California is boldly going where no state has gone before.  This week, Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill into law mandating that public companies based in the state have at least one woman on their boards by the end of 2019.  Larger boards will be required to add more than one woman by the middle of 2021 and companies that do not are subject to hefty fines and penalties.

This is more than just another crack in the glass ceiling.  It is more like a Mack Truck smashing through it at 70 miles an hour barreling down the I-5.  The move by Governor Brown will no doubt face major legal challenges.  Whatever ultimately winds up happening, it is a bold move and one that should be applauded.  Creating more gender diversity on corporate boards is a good thing.  But that is not the only reason I think it makes sense.

Working as I do at a very diverse organization, I recognize the major benefit that comes from collaborating with people with different backgrounds and experiences. Our clients benefit tremendously, whether they realize it or not, from the cognitive diversity on our account teams.  Often the most clever, creative and unexpected ideas come from the most junior members on the account team.  Great ideas for how to engage women consumers can just as easily come from the men on the team as from the women.

In my view, diversity has as much to do with narrowing the gender diversity gap (and other gaps that exist) as it does with creating more diversity of opinion, thought and perspective. A corporate board that consists solely of women, if any exist, would benefit from adding male members, and the same can be said for all-white boards adding people of color.  

My hope is that down the road, creating more diversity on corporate boards (and elsewhere) will not have to be mandated by the government, but rather by a desire to create more cognitive diversity.  But, for now, this bold move is a big step in the right direction.

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