I have never taken the easy path. Not when I immigrated at age 16 from Israel. Not when I began my career in commercial real estate as one of the only women in the industry. Not when I took the helm of National Association of Women Business Owners this past June. So it’s no surprise for those who know me that I am not in favor of the proposed legislation in California to legislate that a required number of women should serve on public businesses originating in California.
We need to earn it. If we want equality in the boardroom, we need to get there with our brains, not a quota. We are strong and we are smart. We do not need a handout from the government. Besides, do you really want a board seat because the law requires someone of your gender? Doesn’t that take something away from the achievement? Do we want the trophy even though we didn’t win the competition? There is nothing free in life. I do realize that 22 percent of Fortune 500 board seats are occupied by women. But there are other inequities, as well. Only 20 percent of law firm equity partners are women while 23 percent of U.S. Senators are women. Should we legislate these areas as well?
As we always stress at NAWBO, women need to network. Who you know will get you in the door. What you know will keep you there. This legislation takes us backward.
Forcing companies to accept women is government overreach. What’s next? Are we to legislate board assignments (and hiring in general), by age, ethnicity, orientation or gender identity? I really have to wonder: Doesn’t California have other issues to deal with?
The truth is, it’s just good business to hire the most capable person for a job or a board seat — regardless of gender, race, religion or sexual orientation. We want equal opportunity under the law, not a quota mandated by the law.
We need to educate our young people to get a leg up on their competition for jobs with education. We need to encourage our young women to consider fields where math, science and engineering are prevalent. That’s what gets you in the door. That’s what gets you in the boardroom.
I think back to my early days in the boardroom. I was involved with all aspects of the financials. I often faced boardrooms filled with only middle-aged men. Back then, I thought they were old! I was a cute 30-something and it was difficult for them to take me seriously; often, they did not address questions to me, only to my husband. So, I overcame these obstacles and used humor to break the ice. I made sure that I was well prepared and moved forward with confidence.
Over my career, I have seen women break through countless barriers in business. We don’t need another one. Remember our rallying cry: #SmashTheGlass! It’s our theme for the year. It’s our hashtag. It’s what NAWBO stands for.
Ronit Urman is president of NAWBO Phoenix and the designated broker with Urman Enterprises LLC.