More women are being sought now to serve on public company boards of directors by the end of this year because of a new state law, which was explored in a panel discussion Oct. 17 in Goleta that was moderated by the co-author of that measure.
“There are so many qualified women who haven’t had a chance to serve on a board because they are women,” state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, told a crowd of about 60 people during a discussion of SB 826 at the Hilton Garden Inn.
The discussion was put on by the Santa Barbara chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners. SB 826 requires at least one woman serve on public companies’ boards this year and more in coming years.
“There used to be an expression that a woman had be twice as good to go half as far,” said Jackson, the panel moderator, who is soon ending her stint in the Senate since she is termed out next year.
Panelist Betsy Berkhemer-Credaire, CEO of Berkhemer Clayton Retained Executive Search and CEO of 2020 Women on Boards, said the 444 public companies in California are actively seeking more women to serve as directors to comply with SB 826, which was signed into law last year by then-Gov. Jerry Brown.
Author of “The Board Game: How Smart Women Can Be Corporate Directors,” Berkhemer-Credaire said California public companies are seeking women who have competence, collegiality and a comfort level to serve on a board.
“Guys think women ask pesky questions,” she said. However, she added women on corporate boards can make companies more profitable.
Panelist Kathy O’Dell, CEO-elect of Women’s Economic Ventures, said when she first served on a corporate board, “The guys didn’t know what to do with me.”
O’Dell said service on such a board should not be taken lightly. Directors are in charge of hiring and firing CEOs. “So, you better know what the CEO does,” she said.
When a woman is on a board, men see things differently and change the way they collaborate, O’Dell said.
Panelist Karen Bogart, president of Smith Bogart Consulting, said she has served on a number of boards and on all but one, she was the only woman.
She said if a woman wants to serve on a corporate board, she can use her experience on a not-for-profit board to get to the next level.
Bogart and O’Dell stressed the need for networking so that women can use their contacts to serve on corporate boards.
O’Dell pointed out that service on a public board requires a fiduciary responsibility to protect the company’s shareholders. Directors have to ask if the company is acting responsibly.
Berkhemer-Credaire said companies are calling her to help them find women to serve on their boards. Women who want to do so, should express that desire and point to a specialty they may have, such as human resources or cyber security, so that they may be qualified to serve on a board committee.
Panelist Kristen Miller, president and CEO of the Goleta Chamber of Commerce, said she has never served on a corporate board, but joined the panel to learn more. After hearing the discussion, she said she would like to serve on such a board.