HONOLULU — A bill that would require publicly traded corporations based in Hawaii to include women on their boards of directors has advanced in the state Senate, but it is facing resistance from business advocates.
The bill would require public corporations with its principal executive offices in Hawaii to have at least one female director on their boards by the end of 2020, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Sunday.
The legislation introduced by Oahu Democratic Sen. Karl Rhoads would expand the requirement for boards to diversify by gender by the end of 2022.
Each board with six or more members would need to have at least three women directors after 2020, while boards with five directors would be required to have a minimum of two women directors.
Companies would be allowed to increase the total number of directors to meet the requirements. The state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs would have authority to impose fines of $100,000 on companies that fail to comply.
The fine would rise to $500,000 for repeat offenders.
Rosalyn Baker, the Democratic chairwoman of the Senate Commerce, Consumer Protection and Health Committee, said making female membership a policy would send a message to corporate boards that they need to be more diverse.
“Women are at least half of the population, maybe a little bit more depending on which area you’re in, which means half of the brain power is going to be excluded if they’re not brought in to sit on these boards,” Baker said.
Staff for state Attorney General Clare Connors warned that requiring corporate boards to have minimum numbers of women creates “an explicit gender-based classification” and may run afoul of the equal protection clauses of the U.S. and Hawaii constitutions.
The Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, founded by Libertarian activist Dick Rowland, mocked the bill in a newsletter as an example of the urge by lawmakers “to regulate every element of our lives.”
Grassroot President Kelii Akina wrote that the bill uses gender equity as justification for “imposing a quota” of female directors.
“I’ll let you be the judge of whether this law would be more likely to achieve gender equality or chase executive offices out of the state,” Akina wrote.