Last Wednesday, California state legislators passed a bill that would mandate that publicly-traded companies headquartered in California have at least one woman on their board by the end of this year. Companies that fail to comply would face a penalty. CNN called the bill “a crucial step toward increasing the number of women on corporate boards.” If the bill is signed into law, California would become the first state to require this type of quota.
There is no doubt that the boardrooms of America are populated mostly by men. CNN reports that only 25 percent of companies in the S&P 500 have more than two women on their board (though a majority do have at least one). But, of course, the question is: is this kind of mandated diversification the best way to get women in the boardroom? And, relatedly, is it necessary — or feasible, or desirable — to have an equal number of men and women on a company’s board?
Laws like these only serve to highlight modern feminism’s willingness to achieve “success,” even if it means upending the actual underlying tenets of the original feminist movement. Anna Beninger, senior research director and corporate engagement partner at a nonprofit studying women and work, recently said that “when organizations are required to make progress, required to follow these regulations, they do — and the progress happens.” But is it really progress? Or is it just a facade that looks like the end goal, but actually upended your entire belief system to get there?
Feminists are meant to believe — they tell us they believe — that women are “powerful” and “strong.” But laws like the one California hopes to pass sure don’t seem to put a lot of faith in women. How delicate they must think us — how incompetent and in need of support — if we can’t even get hired on our own. Talk about a damsel in distress waiting around to be saved by a knight in shining armor, too passive to make any kind of move on her own. Surely this view of women belongs to the patriarchy, not modern feminists… right?
In addition to painting women as weak and incompetent, this type of legislation negates the hard work, effort, and talent of the women who worked their way to the top without this kind of handout. The “strong” and “empowered” women feminists are always talking about (but apparently don’t actually believe) how women are out there achieving success — proving themselves to be of equal value to the men in their companies. If this bill becomes law, any woman on a board might be there because of legal mandates — rather than independent achievement — which effectively negates the hard work of women who got there on their own.
So basically, in the name of feminism, California is ready to reduce all women to passive damsels in distress and negate the achievements of women in power. Yay feminism!
These days, feminists are fond of breaking down “gender stereotypes,” insisting that a woman can do anything a man can do and vice versa. One humorous flowchart making the rounds on social media helpfully explains how to tell if a toy is for boys or girls: “Do you operate the toy with your genitalia?” If no, “It is for either girls or boys.” If yes, “This toy is not for children.” One could ask the same question of the work being done in a company’s boardroom: “Do you complete this work with your genitalia?” If no, “It can be done by men or women.” If yes, “This is probably not a company that needs a board.” If companies are adding women to their boards simply for the sake of having women on them, surely this means they are judging women on their sex alone. And surely this goes against everything feminists believe in.
Lol! How to tell if a toy is for boys or girls: A guide pic.twitter.com/MLuI6Km5zc
— Sophia Banks (@sophiaphotos) August 29, 2013
We’re supposed to think that the lack of female board members is due to systemic oppression and sexism. And there may be some of that — there certainly has been historically, and I’m sure it’s still in the fabric of some companies — but there’s been a lot of (non mandated) progress too. And these days, it’s very possible that the lack of women in the boardroom is not due to the evil patriarchy’s plot to keep them out, but to other considerations that might often cause men to be better candidates for the job. For example, women who choose to be involved in the daily management of care of their children may work fewer hours than the men in their companies, leading to fewer promotions. This isn’t sexism, it’s priorities. (Sexism would be promoting the woman anyway, even though she did less work than the man.)
Feminists can’t have it both ways. Either women are helpless victims who need to be rescued (by being given jobs they don’t necessarily deserve) or they are strong and capable of earning seats in the boardroom through their hard work and dedication (in which case they don’t need handouts). Certainly, a woman who deserves a spot on the board should be given equal consideration to the male applicants for the same seat, but that is not the same as just giving her the seat because she’s a woman. It isn’t her femaleness that makes her a good candidate, it’s her hard work, her dedication, and her drive. Judge her on that, and we’ll be well on our way to equality.