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Note: Affirmative Action: The Constitutional Approach to Ending Sex Disparities on Corporate Boards

By Julia Glen. Full text here.

Women hold far fewer seats on U.S. corporate executive boards than men, despite composing nearly half of the workforce. In 2015, women held only 16.5% of the top five executive board positions in businesses on the S&P 500, and fourteen percent of all executive board positions. Internationally, governments are instituting quotas to combat this disparity. Norway, France, and Germany amended their constitutions to ensure a female presence on executive boards; meanwhile, the United States has not taken any affirmative steps to combat this inequality.

Although a quota would be unconstitutional in the United States, this international approach is not the only way to achieve gender parity in corporate boardrooms. This Note proposes that corporations in the United States institute a voluntary affirmative action program, similar to one operating in the United Kingdom, to address female underrepresentation in executive board positions.

Achieving gender equality on U.S. corporate boards is critical for the continued success of American business. This Note provides statistics showing that companies with women leaders on their executive boards perform better than companies without. Instituting voluntary affirmative action programs promoting female representation on corporate executive boards is a constitutional alternative to the quotas used in other countries, and it is a necessary step in combating sex discrimination and promoting business in the United States.