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California AB 979 and Other State Laws on Board Diversity: Corporate Governance and Requirements for Directors from Underrepresented Groups

Penalties, Legal Challenges, Disclosures, and Enforcement

Recording of a 90-minute CLE video webinar with Q&A

This program is included with the Strafford CLE Pass. Click for more information.
This program is included with the Strafford All-Access Pass. Click for more information.

Conducted on Thursday, March 18, 2021

Recorded event now available

or call 1-800-926-7926

This CLE course will address the requirements for increased diversity on corporate boards as required under new California and Illinois laws and proposed in several other states. The new laws expand diversity categories to include board members from underrepresented communities. The panel will discuss best practices for compliance and the penalties and implications to brand and reputation for violations of these policies.


The United States continues to lag in corporate board diversity, with most corporate boards dominated by majority men. Progress on this issue has been slow. In late 2020, California passed, and the governor signed Assembly Bill 979 requiring boards of California public corporations to include directors from underrepresented communities beginning by Dec. 31, 2021. This new California law aims to increase diversity on boards, and is evidence of a larger trend although some legal challenges have been asserted.

Multiple states (including New York, Delaware, Illinois) and several countries have passed laws instituting some diversity requirements for corporate boards, regardless of their size. Some statutes include potentially serious penalties for failure to comply, including fines of $100,000 to $300,000 per violation.

The emphasis on corporate board diversity expands beyond individual state legislatures and relates to various facets of diversity. Both the NASDAQ and Forbes have acknowledged the need for board diversity to promote market performances and benefit corporate culture overall. Board diversity relates to such familiar considerations as gender, race, nationality, LGBTQ+, and age, and also to the lesser-known concept of professional diversity (i.e., the range of professional backgrounds) to broaden diversity of thought at the highest levels of corporate leadership.

Listen as our expert panel discusses the current and proposed legal requirements for corporate board diversity and recommended practices for ensuring that skills and expertise are front and center in achieving diverse boards.



  1. California AB 979
    1. Requirements
    2. Penalties
    3. Pending litigation
  2. Other states and countries
    1. Gender diversity
  3. Professional diversity
  4. Recommended practices


The panel will review these and other relevant topics:

  • What are the requirements for board diversity under California AB 979?
  • How can corporate boards work to achieve social diversity (outside of gender diversity)?
  • What are the current trends in states other than California regarding board diversity?
  • What professional diversity qualifications should be considered when recruiting new board members?
  • What are recommended practices for compliance with corporate board diversity regulations today and in the future?


Jackson, Corinn
Corinn Jackson

Littler Mendelson

Ms. Jackson serves as a California liaison for Littler’s Workplace Policy Institute (WPI). She focuses on...  |  Read More

Torres, Britney
Britney N. Torres

Littler Mendelson

Ms. Torres is an experienced litigator and advisor for employers of all sizes on all aspects of the employer-employee...  |  Read More

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