Thanks for Your Lawsuit, Conservatives. Let's Keep Talking About Women on Corporate Boards | Opinion

"You grew up in San Francisco and studied in Berkeley. You couldn't be more liberal!" my friends joke occasionally.

Yet, even I, a Bay Area, Berkeley-educated liberal, had initial reservations about requirements for companies to recruit women for their corporate boards. To me, something about quotas felt "un-American." I worried that the legitimacy of every female executive would be called into question, as her co-workers doubted whether she deserved her board seat at all, or rather was there to meet a legal requirement. And as general counsel of a pre-IPO startup, I certainly didn't want to see yet another law that would increase the compliance burden.

And yet I still hoped that the companies would see the light. I hoped that they would diversify their boards on their own, doing it for their bottom line and not for legal compliance purposes. It was increasingly apparent that my hopes were just wishful thinking.

I eventually changed my mind. In fact, I even advocated, testified and rallied support for California SB 826, a 2018 law that requires public companies with principal executive offices in California to have at least one director who is a woman by December 31, 2019. I can point to two main reasons for my change of heart.

One, I realized that even according to optimistic predictions, it would take to 40 to 50 years to reach parity on corporate boards. So I did the math. The facts are cold, and they hit me like a snow in July. In 40 to 50 years, I would be in my 90s. Even with modern medicine and technology, I may not see the change (though I fully intend to live beyond 150). And even the next generation is no better off. My young daughters would be planning their retirements by the time parity might be achieved—and that's in a best-case scenario. Math is stubborn, and it didn't add up to parity on corporate boards anytime soon.

Two, I spent almost two years shaming the then-25 Fortune 500 companies who didn't have a single female director on social media twice a day. I was able to convince about a dozen. While grateful that I can be persuasive, I realized that these individual efforts are not scalable. In the grant scheme of things, we are still looking at more or less the same 40- or 50-year timeline.

I asked myself repeatedly: How do I scale justice? How do I get to parity on corporate boards in my lifetime? Granted, there is a worldwide trend toward gender equality, and we will get there eventually. It may take a very long time, but in course this 13 billion-year-old universe, 40 to 50 years is a drop in the bucket. Yet, I am very attached to this drop. It is my drop in this huge bucket of life. Why should my drop, my 50 years, be wasted? Why are the chances of seeing parity so slim, even for my daughters? Why aren't companies solving this parity problem now?

Changing laws is the answer. That is how you scale justice.

Since SB 826 passed, I have noticed three promising trends. One, many companies, universities and organizations are educating professionals, including women, about corporate board service and steps to take to make this a reality. Two, many companies are actively looking for and interviewing diverse candidates. Three, most important, SB 826 has changed the social baseline. Everywhere I go, professional women, from college graduates to seasoned executives, aspire to serve on corporate boards and map their corporate board directors' journeys. This was not in the career roadmap or social discourse among women before SB 826.

This month, Judicial Watch, a Washington-based conservative activist group, announced it was challenging SB 826 in court. And to it, I have two words in response: Thank you! You see, the constitutionality of the law is irrelevant.

Conference room
SB 826 requires public companies with principal executive offices in California to have at least one director who is a woman by December 31, 2019. Serkanozalp/Getty

SB 826 has accomplished its main mission: It changed expectations and social norms. It unleashed hopes and dreams for all working women, and not just in California. You cannot un-hope. You cannot un-dream.

In fact, independent of the outcome, this litigation keeps the important conversation and public discourse about women in leadership and women on corporate boards alive. It reminds us to fight harder and aim higher.

Remember the trend is toward gender equality. The constitutionality of SB 826 is a red herring. The only question is whether you and your organization will have a Wikipedia (or whatever replaces it in the future) note on your page, pointing out that on this issue, you were on the wrong side of history.

Olga V. Mack is a strategist, attorney, nationally recognized author, public speaker and women's advocate. She is vice president of strategy at Quantstamp, the first decentralized security auditing blockchain platform, and founder of Women Serve on Boards.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.

Thanks for Your Lawsuit, Conservatives. Let's Keep Talking About Women on Corporate Boards | Opinion | Opinion