Illinois Almost Follows in California’s Board Footsteps: The Broadsheet
Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Emma Hinchliffe here to close out the week. Mette Frederiksen is Denmark’s youngest-ever prime minister, mammograms go glam, and Illinois came close to following in California’s footsteps on board diversity. Have a wonderful weekend.
• Almost making board history. Last week, Illinois seemed set to follow in California's footsteps with legislation requiring companies based in the state to meet diversity benchmarks for their boards of directors.
But then things took a turn.
The bill was, as Rev. Jesse Jackson put it to the Chicago Tribune, "gutted" during the final days of Illinois's spring legislative session.
Originally meant to build on the California legislation, the Illinois bill would have required at least one woman, one African-American and one person of Hispanic descent on the boards of all publicly traded companies headquartered in the state. That list includes McDonald's, the Walgreens Boots Alliance, Ulta Beauty, and more.
Instead, the legislation that passed the state Senate only requires companies to disclose the demographics of their boards and executives and makes plans for an annual report card on companies' diversity, to be graded by the University of Illinois.
According to Rep. Emanuel "Chris" Welch, who introduced the bill, the pivot came after Illinois Governor J. B. Pritzker raised concerns. Among them: The legislation was boundary pushing and therefore controversial.
"That came up over and over," Welch told me. "The governor seemed convinced that one of our rightwing opponents would get someone to go into court and test the new law. When we put something out there, we want to put something out there we don't believe can be challenged."
Nevertheless, Welch says he's satisfied with the compromise. "We're all happy. We believe it was a big victory," he says.
But Welch's original legislation—meant to address the disconnect between the representation in corporate leadership and the Illinois consumers providing these companies with their revenue—would have led on this issue nationwide. Not everyone likes California's quota, but Illinois came close to moving those benchmarks beyond gender into a more holistic view of board diversity.
The diversity disclosure bill is headed to the governor's desk. McDonald's, get your report cards ready.
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