This week, state legislators in California decided that publicly-traded companies with headquarters in their state must have at least one woman on their boards.

The story gained traction on social media as women, usually on opposite sides of the political spectrum, reacted in different ways. Some women applauded the move to empower women in business. Others were skeptical that this legislation would only hinder workplace relations.

Governor Jerry Brown has not signed the bill into law, but if he does so, California will become the first state to follow in Europe’s footsteps by mandating female representation. The European Commission aims for a 40 percent goal of female representation on corporate boards. Many U.S. companies have at least one woman on their boards, but few exceed two.

If public companies in California don’t comply with the legislation once it becomes law, they will face fines and penalties. Private companies who may want to go public may need to comply with this law before they can even apply.

On the surface, this idea might not seem so bad. Obviously, women are just as capable as men, and there’s no doubt many qualified women deserve spots on corporate boards. Often times, there can be extra hoops that women need to jump through in the male-dominated business world. That said, if female representation is mandated, women are only going to face more discrimination in the workplace. Even more so, male counterparts will always be able to say, “Well, you’re just here because we had to fill the woman spot.” Qualified women don’t need help competing for jobs against men. It would be wrong to reduce female accomplishment to a representation mandate.

There are plenty of women who have proven that they don’t need the government to succeed and thrive in their respective fields. Whether their field be finance, business, entertainment or fashion, women all over the country are chasing their passions without the government mandating that they are put in a position to chase their passions.

A lead author of a scholarly journal exploring female representation, Vicki W. Kramer said, “One [woman] is definitely not enough. But at least with companies that have none, to at least just get one — and then let’s go from there. But one is not enough. One is a token.”

To clarify, of course, more women should be on corporate boards; that’s not the pressing issue here. Women deserve more than legislation or a government mandate promising them a “token” spot on corporate boards. In fact, that promise is demeaning to women. Society cannot continue to tell women that they simply can’t accomplish anything by themselves and need the government to succeed. Women are just as intelligent, driven and savvy as their male counterparts in the business world.

Female representation is important, but the government is not where the solution to under representation lies. This legislation implies that Californian women just don’t have enough merit to make it on corporate boards by themselves, which, of course, is incredibly false. As women, we have to empower ourselves to go after what we want. We can’t rely on the government to give us periodic boosts.

Karly M.
Karly Matthews is a student at Temple University, where she is majoring in political science and journalism while minoring in Spanish. At any given moment, Karly can be found talking about Marco Rubio and advocating for conservative values with a large coffee mug and color-coded planner in hand.

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