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Judge strikes down California law requiring women on corporate boards

May 16 (UPI) -- A California state judge ruled Monday that a law requiring corporate boards to include women was unconstitutional.

Superior Court Judge Maureen Duffy-Lewis ordered that the state no longer enforce the landmark mandate that was signed into law in 2018.

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She said California did not provide a persuasive argument that more women on corporate boards would bolster the state's economy or that it could help the state rectify its history of discrimination.

"In support of women in the boardroom, the defense offered the testimony of stereotypical virtues of women such as 'consensus builders' and 'less risky behavior in investments," she wrote. "The court is unpersuaded by this offer of stereotypes for a justification."

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Heather Spilsbury, COO of nonprofit 50/50 Women on Boards, said in a statement that she was "extremely disappointed" with the decision.

"We call upon the business community, along with all women and men, to continue this fight proactively, in the media in courts and in boardrooms, to ultimately achieve gender balance and diversity on corporate boards of directors," she said.

Research from the group showed that the number of board seats held by women in California has doubled in the years since the law was enacted, with women holding 32% of board seats among California's public companies in the Russell 3000 index.

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"We know from first-hand experience of our members that companies led and managed by women are profitable and productive, which parallels research findings indicating corporate boards benefit from having women directors," said Amber Wallace, statewide president of the National Association of Women Business Owners of California, which sponsored the law.

Former State Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, who authored the law, said that the ruling was "only a temporary setback" for women on boards, adding she expects the state to appeal.

"Supporters, including business and community leaders and women and men of all backgrounds will continue the fight to uphold this law," Jackson said.

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