In September, California mandated women directors on corporate boards.  In a new paper titled “Mandating Women on Boards: Evidence from the United States,” authors Sunwoo Hwang, Anil Shivdasani, and Elena Simintzi review the effects of mandating the inclusion of women on boards.

The California law requires that public companies headquartered in the state of California have at least one female director by end of 2019.  By year-end 2021, companies with six or more directors must have three female directors, boards with five members must have two female directors, and boards with four or fewer directors, must have at least one female director.  Noncompliance would result in potential fines. There are approximately 450 public companies in the Russell 3000 index headquartered in California with a market cap of nearly $5 trillion.

The authors present evidence that mandating gender diversity through legislation is expensive for shareholders.  This results from heightened costs for female directors, because there is a small supply and public companies will be pressed to comply at the same time resulting in competition.  In addition, the authors find costs will increase as a result of the possibility that companies will expand their boards in part to comply with the requirements.   Although the paper concludes that there is a lack of a consensus on the impact of regulations mandating gender diversity, it raises concerns.

Separate from the paper, commentators have raised concerns regarding the constitutionality of the California law.