California mandates that publicly traded companies based in the state have a minimum of one woman on their boards of directors by the end of 2019. If the new regulation survives anticipated legal challenges, representation will increase: By the end of July 2021, companies have to have at least 2 women on boards of 5 members; at least 3 women on larger boards.
If states can require corporations to place women on their boards, how far are we from requiring that employees are represented, as well?
It’s long been held that employee “say” — that is, workers’ participation in decisions — is fundamental to well-being. As well-being professionals, we should advocate for participative decision-making with the same gusto we reserve for elements of well-being like health, work-life balance, and resilience.
13 European Union countries require board-level representation of employees in private companies. At least 6 countries require it in state- or municipally-owned companies.
Employee representation, often known as co-determination, shouldn’t be dismissed as just another partisan feud. In a recent survey, respondents across a broad swath of the American political spectrum favored employee representation on company boards.
This prospect wasn’t lost on organizers of Google employees who walked out to protest the company’s gender-based discrimination and harassment. One of their demands: an employee representative on the board to “help allocate permanent resources …equity efforts, ensure accountability to these demands, and propose changes when equity goals are not met.”
The Google organizers wrote:
From the moment we start at Google we’re told that we aren’t just employees; we’re owners. Every person who walked out today is an owner, and the owners say: Time’s up.
Whether time really is up remains to be seen. But a potential #TimesUp-fueled movement to add employee representation to corporate boards (along with one state’s precedent for board-of-director representation quotas) — and the disruption this can create for employee well-being — makes this Number 10 in the list of Top 10 Wellness stories of 2018.