California Mandates Women on Public Boards

Words of Advice from a Silicon Valley Board Recruiter

Dotty Schaffer, October 1st, 2018

On Sun­day, Gov­er­nor Jer­ry Brown signed Cal­i­for­nia leg­is­la­tion man­dat­ing every pub­lic board in the state must have at least one woman board direc­tor by the end of 2019. The goals of the leg­is­la­tion are to advance gen­der equal­i­ty and help break the cor­po­rate glass ceiling.

In our August 2018 blog on the top 150 pub­lic com­pa­nies in Sil­i­con Val­ley, we report­ed that there were still over 20 com­pa­nies with no women on their boards on this list at that time. Clear­ly, there is a lot work boards will need to do to respond to this legislation.

As an expe­ri­enced Sil­i­con Val­ley board recruiter, here is my advice to Board Chairmen/​Nom & Gov Com­mit­tees seek­ing to attract new women to their tech­nol­o­gy boards:

You and your fel­low board mem­bers won’t know the like­ly can­di­dates: as we report­ed in our 2017 Who Runs Sil­i­con Val­ley C‑Suite edi­tion, most top operating/​leadership roles in the Sil­i­con Val­ley are filled by men. Most boards don’t know the young up-and-com­ing women exec­u­tives they will need to secure the best qual­i­fied new mem­bers.

The first woman-filled seat is only the begin­ning: adding the first woman to your board is just the start. From our expe­ri­ence, you will be far more suc­cess­ful when you have recruit­ed the sec­ond female board mem­ber, and the dynam­ics of the board as they relate to gen­der start to change in pos­i­tive ways.

3. Now is the time to act: every com­pa­ny we work with is high­ly moti­vat­ed to add a woman to their board. The most qual­i­fied women are in great demand and will have their dance cards full. Act now or strug­gle clos­ing on the right new direc­tor for your board.

There are lots of qual­i­fied women board direc­tors out there: since the start of 2017, half of our pub­lic board place­ments have been women. These direc­tors are tal­ent­ed up and com­ing exec­u­tives who bring oper­at­ing expe­ri­ence and fresh ideas to the table. We are con­fi­dent that the boards act­ing now will be suc­cess­ful in attract­ing great women lead­ers.

This is a water­shed moment for pub­lic tech boards in the Sil­i­con Val­ley. If I can be of any help to you, please con­tact me and I would be hap­py to give you my advice and support.

Dotty Schaffer

Partner, Lonergan Partners

Specialty: Public Company Boards


[email protected]

Dotty Schaffer Portrait