California Law Requires Diversity on Corporate Boards; Members Can ‘Self-Identify’ as Black

Gavin Newsom
Getty Images/Frederic J. Brown

California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a law on Wednesday that requires corporations to have a minimum number of board members from “underrepresented communities” — as defined by race, gender, sexuality, and other categories of identity.

Newsom signed the new law, AB 979, along with other laws aimed at ending “systemic racism,” including a law establishing a task force to study reparations for slavery. (California never had slavery and was admitted to the Union as a free state.)

The new bill comes on top of existing legislation, signed into law in 2018, requiring that companies have a minimum number of board members who are female, or who at least identify themselves as female.

According to the legislative counsel’s digest, AB 979 requires public companies to have “a minimum of one director from an underrepresented community, as defined.”

It will also “require, no later than the close of the 2022 calendar year, such a corporation with more than 4 but fewer than 9 directors to have a minimum of 2 directors from underrepresented communities, and such a corporation with 9 or more directors to have a minimum of 3 directors from underrepresented communities.”

The text of the law defines a member of an “underrepresented community” as “an individual who self-identifies as Black, African American, Hispanic, Latino, Asian, Pacific Islander, Native American, Native Hawaiian, or Alaska Native, or who self-identifies as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender.”

The law does not indicate how to distinguish someone who “self-identifies” as black from someone who is actually black, for example.

Proposition 209 — which is up for repeal by voters this November in Proposition 16 — bans the state from using race as a criterion in hiring, but does not bar legislation requiring companies to implement self-identifying diversity criteria.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). His newest e-book is The Trumpian Virtues: The Lessons and Legacy of Donald Trump’s Presidency. His recent book, RED NOVEMBER, tells the story of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary from a conservative perspective. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

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