OPINION/COMMENTARY

A year after the #MeToo campaign kicked off with a series of high-profile figures falling from grace, the biggest social movement to end sexual harassment and assault in the workplace is making its mark in the boardroom.

Over the next two years, a lot more women will be joining public company boards in California, thanks to a new law signed the first week of October 2018.

This drastic, historic measure is an important step, but the challenges of making it work and a broader effort to make the highest echelons of U.S. corporate power more equal and more representative of employees, consumers and the wider U.S. population are just beginning.

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Public companies in California with no women on their boards have work to do. They are required by law to add at least one female board member by the end of 2019 and have at least two by 2021 for companies with five or more board members.

"We're in a movement, we're in the middle of making a significant change in our culture and in the way that we work together - that's never an easy road. We're not through the obstacles yet," says Shannon Gordon, CEO of The Boardlist, a California-based platform connecting qualified female board candidates with public and private companies across industries. "It will be interesting to see how it unfolds and whether there is a halo effect on things that are going on: The Kavanaugh the nomination vote; the ongoing #MeToo movement; a lot of things going on."

The organization, which has 4,400 users on its platform, has seen a 70% jump in traffic month on month.

There are no illusions about the big job ahead; there are many obstacles for companies in California and beyond.

"The challenge for California will be twofold: Being at the table is the first step, but it's not a guarantee. Once these women are on boards, how do we make sure we reap the benefits of that diversity?" Gordon says.

BoardEx data shows the S&P 500 has 24.6% female representation on boards and women make up about 20.5% of the S&P MidCap 400 boards. Female board members count for only 17.8% of S&P SmallCap boards.

Not everyone embraces an idea of gender engineering at the senior level of corporate governance.

When Women Are 'On Board'

Why have women on corporate boards?

According to a report by Stanford Graduate School of Business, diverse boards improve decision-making, prevent "group think" and "premature consensus."

They also found that research on diverse boards' corporate performance is mixed and "needs to be well-managed in order to be effective."

Secondly, there is the so-called pipeline issue - the idea that there aren't qualified female candidates to join boards. It is a myth; there are women, but not everyone has access to them.

"As you become a public company, you have access to a greater pool of talent and a better network than an earlier-stage company - a private company has less access to a broader pool of talent," Gordon says. "We exist to help extend that network of people."

These types of challenges are not insurmountable, even if they can require more time and resources.

And finally, quotas don't always result in broader diversity across corporate levels.

Not everyone is convinced mandating a percentage of women on boards is the best way to go about solving corporate diversity issues.

Looking to examples in European, quotas are not a foolproof way to increase diversity.

Norway implemented board quotas in 2008. While the number of non-executive directors increased, the number of female business executives has not increased along with them.

In Germany, despite the board quotas, the number of women still falls below 30% of the total board members, according to a recent study by FidAR, a Berlin-based women's advocacy group.

Ready or not, more women will be joining California company boards very soon.

And there are enough data from the U.S. research and around the world in favor of diversity and its correlation with corporate performance for governments and corporations to push for change.

It's clear that something is not functioning right in a society if the company management overwhelmingly does not represent its employees, consumers or the population at large.

But having rigid quotas is no panacea for a much wider problem - the lack of broader diversity at the senior levels of management, beyond gender diversity. Just ask Europe.

Want to Buy $1 Worth of Stock for 90 Cents or Less? You can with certain so-called "closed-end" mutual funds - an often overlooked investment class. Click here to register for a free online video in which TheStreet's retirement expert Robert Powell and an all-star panel tell you all you need to know. 

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