California law requires Silicon Valley to add women to company boards

The state is reportedly the first to pass a law requiring women on corporate boards.

Marrian Zhou Staff Reporter
Marrian Zhou is a Beijing-born Californian living in New York City. She joined CNET as a staff reporter upon graduation from Columbia Journalism School. When Marrian is not reporting, she is probably binge watching, playing saxophone or eating hot pot.
Marrian Zhou
3 min read

California Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat.

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Corporate boards in California are now required by law to include women.

Gov. Jerry Brown on Sunday signed a bill into law that requires publicly traded companies headquartered in the West Coast state to include at least one woman on their boards of directors by the end of next year, according to the Los Angeles Times. California is reportedly the first state to have such legislation.

"Given all the special privileges that corporations have enjoyed for so long, it's high time corporate boards include the people who constitute more than half the 'persons' in America," Brown reportedly wrote in a signing message.

By July 2021, at least two women must be included on boards with five members and at least three women must be on boards with six members or more, according to the Times. Tech giants like Apple , Facebook, Tesla, Alphabet, Intel , Yelp and others headquartered in Silicon Valley are subject to the law. They will reportedly face fines of $100,000 for a first violation and $300,000 for a second or following violation.

Silicon Valley has faced scrutiny in recent years over gender issues. Since 2014, several major tech companies have released diversity reports showing that the percentages of women and minorities in the tech industry were low, which also translated to low numbers of women in leadership positions. Since then, Intel, Facebook, Google, Apple, Microsoft and others have developed programs and partnerships to improve diversity.

In September, a report produced by Melinda Gates's Pivotal Ventures and McKinsey & Co. found that only about 5 percent of the tech industry's philanthropy and social responsibility efforts support women in tech, and only 0.1 percent focus on women of color.

Brown's office didn't respond to request for additional comment. Facebook declined to comment. 

Several tech companies weighted in on the new law. 

John Hennessy, board chairman of Alphabet, said in an email statement: "A diversity of perspectives, ideas, and cultures, both within Alphabet and in the tech industry more broadly, leads to the creation of better products and services. That's reflected in the makeup of our Board. We are committed to continuing that -- and I can confirm that for every new Alphabet Board opening, we will consider a set of candidates that includes both underrepresented people of color and different genders."  

Lesley Slaton Brown, chief diversity officer at HP, said in an email statement: "We are proud to have one of the most diverse board of directors of any U.S.-based technology company – consisting of 40% women and 25% underrepresented minorities. For HP, supporting efforts that promote diversity & inclusion for all underrepresented groups is a business imperative."

Intel highlighted the addition of Risa Lavizzo-Mourey to its board in March. "At Intel we support diversity and inclusion at all levels," said Patricia Oliverio-Lauderdale, spokeswoman of Intel, in an email statement. "Earlier this year, we added another woman to our board, Risa Lavizzo-Mourey."

First published on Oct. 1, 10:55 a.m. PT.
Update, Oct. 2, 6:11 a.m. PT: Adds statements from Alphabet, Intel, Facebook and HP. 

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