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Calif. Legislative caucuses ask companies to expand diversity in leadership

Top executives said they have already been taking steps to create more inclusive and diverse work environments

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California State Capitol Dome (Blade file photo)

SACRAMENTO – California’s six Legislative Diversity Caucuses — Asian & Pacific Islander (API), Black, Jewish, Latino, LGBTQ, and Women’s — sent hundreds of letters over the last two months to California’s largest publicly traded companies, encouraging them to come into compliance with new laws designed to increase diversity across corporate ranks, especially in executive and board positions.

“The most successful companies in the world need to show a greater commitment to diversity and inclusion than hashtags and slick marketing campaigns,” said Assemblymember Evan Low (D-Silicon Valley), Chair of the California Legislative LGBTQ Caucus. “It’s time for these companies — many of which are based here in California — to channel their words into decisive action. Representation matters because those diverse, lived experiences have the potential to reverberate across a company’s culture, inspire the next generation of leaders and make companies more accountable to their customers.”

The letters were sent in response to two laws: Assembly Bill 979, which will require corporations to have at least one member from an underrepresented community on their corporate board by the end of 2021; and Senate Bill 826, which would require companies to add at least one female director by the end of 2021, and in some cases two, depending upon the size of the publicly held corporation.

The response to the letters has been supportive, as top executives for AT&T and East West Bank said they not only appreciate the Legislature’s efforts but have already been taking steps to create more inclusive and diverse work environments.

“AT&T has a longstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion, and we believe that this commitment starts at the top and is embedded at every level of our organization,” said Rhonda Johnson, President of AT&T California. “The current composition of the AT&T Board of Directors includes representation from women and people of color, and encompasses a broad range of backgrounds, industry knowledge, skills and expertise relevant to AT&T’s business.”

Studies have found that diverse workforces encourage greater innovation and improve corporate culture through new viewpoints and perspectives. Companies with above-average diversity produced a greater proportion of revenue from innovation (45% of total) than companies with below-average diversity (26%), according to BCG. This advantage in innovation led to overall better financial performances.

“As a financial institution, East West Bank works every day to continue earning the trust of our customers and the places where we operate and serve,” said Travis Kiyota, Senior Vice President and Head of Global Corporate Affairs for East West Bank. “Ensuring that diverse communities have equity in our workplace will remain a centerpiece of that work, as it has been since 1973. We look forward to sharing with you our progress toward a better, stronger, more diverse and inclusive California.”

Earlier this year, 20 companies and organizations that are part of Silicon Valley Leadership Group signed on to the 25×25 initiative. The companies pledged to increase representation by filling 25% of executive positions with hires from underrepresented groups by 2025. Companies were also given the option to increase the number of underrepresented individuals in leadership roles by at least 25% by 2025.

“To address the underrepresentation of API and other people of color on corporate Boards and C-suites, corporation must oppose racism. Although numerous APIs have demonstrated the highest levels of achievement, too few are visible at highest levels of leadership in corporate America,” said Senator Richard Pan (D-Sacramento), Chair of the API Legislative Caucus. “Corporations must shatter the glass ceiling for API and all people of color, so our communities are visible at every level of corporate governance and are seen as decision-makers in American business.”

“Following the global protest of George Floyd’s murder last year, we as a society began to examine the role companies have in dismantling institutional and structural racism,” said Senator Steven Bradford (D-Gardena), Chair of the California Legislative Black Caucus. “In response, the world’s largest companies publicly stated their desire to take a closer look at their boards’ racial and ethnic makeup in an effort to create change. I would encourage these companies to look in the mirror at your boards or workforce — if both do not reflect the diversity of your community, you’re doing something wrong and you’re losing money in the process. Through greater diversity, you not only change the color of your board, but the culture of your company ‎as well.”

“Our incredible diversity is one of California’s greatest strengths and part of what makes the Golden State such a special place to live and do business,” said Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel (D-Woodland Hills), Chair of the California Legislative Jewish Caucus. “The Jewish Caucus is proud to stand in solidarity with the other Diversity Caucuses in calling on California companies to strengthen their efforts to promote diversity and inclusion.”

“Diversity in our boardrooms matters. The unique experiences of California’s communities of color have much to add to our leadership decisions,” said Senator María Elena Durazo (D-Los Angeles), Chair of the California Latino Legislative Caucus. “We expect that diversity at the top will lead to diversity at all levels. Diversity should lead to our communities doing better — we should all be better off once California’s companies start to reflect diverse demographics.”

“California, the most diverse state whose population is made up of just over 50 percent women, must be representative of its population,” said Assemblymember Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens), Chair of the California Legislative Women’s Caucus. “Women hold only 26.5 percent of California’s public company board seats, yet women of color who make up 32 percent of California’s population currently hold only 6.6 percent of public company board seats — Black women account for 2 percent and Latinas for 1 percent of that number. Last year, the killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor sparked a racial reckoning not seen in America in decades. Likely not wanting to find themselves on the wrong side of history, each major company immediately issued statements of support for the movement for Black lives and made commitments to create more inclusive and diverse environments. These companies should be rushing to implement these new laws, making sure that the decision-making table is reflective of their words.”

Silicon Valley Leadership Group members that signed on to the 25×25 pledge include Twitter, Facebook, Zoom and others, all of which promised to make top-level leadership more diverse and inclusive in the coming months and years. The Legislative Diversity Caucuses intend to report progress made by publicly held companies in California in the coming months.

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California

California readies 3,000 miles of network infrastructure

Newsom announced that California is one step closer to delivering affordable high-speed internet service to communities throughout the state

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Courtesy of the California Department of Technology

SACRAMENTO – Governor Gavin Newsom announced that California is one step closer to delivering affordable high-speed internet service to communities throughout the state on Friday, awarding new contracts that will supply the materials necessary for building 3,000 miles of broadband infrastructure.

The California Department of Technology, as part of the state’s Middle-Mile Broadband Initiative, awarded contracts to two vendors totaling nearly $225 million that will allow the state to purchase enough optical fiber and materials to construct 3,000 miles of the network. 

“Delivering broadband to all is essential to California’s success,” said Governor Newsom. “Access to high speed internet can mean the difference between launching a successful career and being without work. Once constructed, this network will be the largest in the world – and our action today will make the promise of broadband for all a reality.” 

California is strengthening broadband connections to improve access to education, health services and employment opportunities throughout the state. The Middle-Mile Broadband Initiative is the first step to creating an open-access, middle-mile network that will build infrastructure to bring high-speed broadband service to unserved and underserved communities, regardless of technology used, on equal economic and service terms.

675,000 underserved Californians would gain access to high-speed internet across the state with new broadband network

The action today is one part of a comprehensive and long-term approach to tackling the broadband infrastructure deficiencies still impacting rural and low-income communities, bringing the state closer to achieving affordable, high-speed broadband internet service for all communities. Construction on the middle-mile network is expected to be completed by December 2026.

Middle-mile network refers to the physical infrastructure required to connect global internet with local networks

Middle-mile network refers to high-capacity fiber lines that carry large amounts of data at higher speeds over longer distances between local networks. It is the physical infrastructure required to connect global internet networks with local networks and is an essential component of the state’s Broadband for All efforts.

Supply chain issues and nationwide broadband projects have created competition to secure necessary materials. The state’s Invitation For Bid (IFB) was a proactive step to ensure supplies will be available at a pre-negotiated price when they are needed. The state has the ability to add an indefinite amount of materials as needed to complete construction over the next four years.

As a result of the competitive process, the state is guaranteed to have conduit, vaults, optical fiber and construction hardware readily available for the next four years as construction begins in earnest.

Government Operations Secretary Amy Tong said purchasing the material for the network is a critical first step to make sure California has the supplies it needs for construction of the middle-mile network in the coming years.

“This fiber will be the backbone of the middle-mile network, which will bring access to unserved and underserved Californians so they can participate equally in digital society,” Tong said.

Russ Nichols, acting director of the California Department of Technology and chair of the Middle Mile Advisory Committee, said the projects will begin soon.

“With this milestone in place, we can continue our planning with Caltrans to begin installing the fiber as soon as possible,” Nichols said. 

Last year, the Governor signed historic legislation allocating $6 billion for achieving Broadband for All, including $3.25 billion for the middle-mile network and this year’s revised budget proposes an additional $1.1 billion to support the project as it moves into construction. 

The 2021 legislation included:

  • $3.25 billion to build, operate and maintain an open access, state-owned middle-mile network.
  • $2 billion to set up last-mile broadband connections that will connect homes and businesses with local networks. The legislation expedites project deployment and enables Tribes and local governments to access this funding.
  • $750 million for a loan loss reserve fund to bolster the ability of local governments and nonprofits to secure financing for broadband infrastructure.
  • Creation of a broadband czar position at the California Department of Technology, and a broadband advisory committee with representatives from across state government and members appointed by the Legislature.

In 2020, the state mobilized companies, business leaders and philanthropists through public-private partnerships to facilitate distance learning at school districts in need across the state. The effort helped connect students lacking high-speed internet or an appropriate computing device at home with donated mobile hotspots, laptops, Chromebooks, tablets and other devices. 

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California

Newsom gets second booster dose, urges eligible Californians to get theirs

California’s vaccination strategy has saved tens of thousands of lives and prevented even more cases and hospitalizations

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Governor Newsom receives his second Moderna booster dose (Office of the Governor)

BAKERSFIELD – Amid rising COVID-19 cases across the country, and following the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s emergency authorization of a booster dose for healthy 5- to 11-year-olds, Governor Gavin Newsom today received his second Moderna booster at a clinic in Bakersfield, and encouraged all eligible Californians to get boosted to keep their immunity strong against COVID-19.

The second booster dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech or the Moderna vaccine is available to all Californians 50 and older, as well as those who are immunocompromised or received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

“Vaccines have saved tens of thousands of lives in California, and with COVID-19 still prevalent, we can’t afford to let our guard down,” said Newsom. “The best protection against serious illness and hospitalization is getting vaccinated and boosted. I encourage all eligible Californians to get your second booster – for you, for your family, for your friends, for your community.” 

Under the Newsom Administration’s SMARTER Plan, the state maintains operational readiness to continue the fight against COVID-19 and respond quickly, including the ability to administer 200,000 vaccinations and 500,000 tests per day. The California Blueprint includes another $2.4 billion for COVID response, which ensures California will be on the best possible footing against future waves.

According to a study analyzing California’s pandemic response, COVID-19 vaccines prevented an estimated 1.5 million coronavirus infections, nearly 73,000 hospitalizations, and almost 20,000 deaths in California.

The Governor received his booster shot at Clinica Sierra Vista, one of hundreds of health clinic locations around the state where people can receive their free vaccine and booster. The Governor was joined today by California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly and community and local leaders who have supported vaccine equity efforts in the region. To date, Clinica Sierra Vista has administered nearly 100,000 COVID-19 vaccination doses.

“Vaccines remain the best protection against hospitalization and death from COVID-19. Our state, like much of the nation, is beginning to see an increase in COVID-19 transmission. Fortunately, thanks to California’s robust vaccination efforts, we are seeing relatively low hospitalization rates,” said Dr. Mark Ghaly, California Health and Human Services Secretary. “This underscores the efficacy and importance of staying up to date on your COVID-19 vaccines. Californians age 50 and over are encouraged to get their additional booster dose to keep their immunity strong and strengthen their protection against COVID-19.”

According to the California Department of Public Health, the statewide test positivity rate is 5 percent as of Tuesday, about double the positivity rate a month prior, with some regions seeing positivity rates as high as 9 percent. Unvaccinated people are 4.8 times more likely to get COVID-19 than fully vaccinated individuals who are boosted. Unvaccinated people are also 6.5 times more likely to be hospitalized than boosted individuals, and 7.8 times more likely to die than boosted individuals.

California’s response to COVID-19 has led the nation with the lowest COVID death rate among the country’s most populous states. More than 8 in 10 Californians have received at least one dose of the vaccine and more than 15.5 million Californians have received their first booster dose, representing 59.1 percent of those eligible for a booster. Additionally, 22 percent of eligible Californians have received their second booster dose. 

The state’s Vaccinate ALL 58 campaign continues to focus on driving vaccine efforts in lower-income and non-English speaking communities with cultural competency and in-language outreach and education. Its community-based organization network, in partnership with philanthropy, is now standing at over 700 organizations and supports outreach and appointment assistance efforts.

Clinica Sierra Vista is a comprehensive health care organization serving the primary medical, dental, and behavioral health needs of about 200,000 people in Kern and Fresno counties. With the continued support of federal, state, and local governments, they have been able to reach out to thousands of new patients, offering comprehensive programs tailored to the needs of those they serve over a vast geographical region in the heartland of California.

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California

Newsom highlights state & local action to combat drought

At a Los Angeles County Water Recycling Facility, Newsom called on Californians to take immediate action to avoid a crisis

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At MWD water recycling facility in LA, Governor Newsom highlights drought action. (Office of the Governor)

CARSON – Governor Gavin Newsom visited a Metropolitan Water District of Southern California water recycling facility Tuesday to discuss the administration’s response to the ongoing megadrought affecting the western United States.

January through March were the driest first three months in the state’s recorded history, the state’s largest reservoirs are currently at half of their historical averages, and the state’s snowpack is just 17 percent of average. Governor Newsom called on local water agencies and Californians to step up and take action to conserve water.

“California will need to use every tool in its toolbox to safeguard our communities, businesses and ecosystems from the severe, climate-driven drought being felt throughout the West,” said Newsom. “The state is taking urgent action to tackle drought impacts, drive water savings, and empower local water agencies to step up conservation measures across the state. All of us must take aggressive action to meet these challenges head-on while we work to build a climate-resilient water system.”

Governor Newsom has taken swift action to combat the drought conditions, including extending the drought emergency statewide last October and in March, issuing an executive order calling on water agencies to implement, at a minimum, Level 2 of their drought contingency plans to achieve water use reductions in response to a supply shortage of up to 20 percent.

In addition, under proposed emergency regulations by the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB), the local agencies that have not yet adopted conservation plans, covering just 8 percent of the state’s population, will be compelled to take steps to achieve water use reduction with steps like limiting outdoor water use. 

(Office of the Governor)

The Governor’s March order was based on lessons learned from the last drought including that conservation actions are most impactful when imposed at the local level, based on regional needs and behaviors, and can be an effective means to achieve statewide conservation goals.
 
In response to the Governor’s direction, many local water agencies, including the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD), have taken aggressive action to combat the drought. While an overwhelming majority of the state’s water agencies have drought plans at the ready, plans covering about 50 percent of California residents have not yet been activated at the level urged by the Governor.
 
On May 13, the SWRCB released draft regulations that will require all local water suppliers to implement Level 2 of their Water Shortage Contingency Plans, and compel those that have not developed their own plan to take the following steps:   

  • Limit outdoor water use to two days per week.
  • Ban watering during the hottest parts of the day.
  • Ban irrigating ornamental grass at business and commercial sites.
  • Enforce fines of up to $500 a day for districts and corporations not in compliance. 

 The draft regulations will be considered by SWRCB at their May 24 meeting and, if adopted and then approved by the Office of Administrative Law, will ensure all local plans are in effect by June 10. The SWRCB also will consider regulations banning the watering of decorative grass at business and institutions, which the Governor’s March order directed the Board to consider. 

The state is calling on Californians to take immediate action to avoid a crisis, including: 

  • Limiting outdoor watering – on average, each time you water your yard equals about 240 flushes or 13 full laundry loads (for a washer that uses 30 gallons per load).
  • Taking shorter showers. Going to a 5 minute shower to save up to 12.5 gallons per shower when using a water-efficient shower head. 
  • Taking showers instead of baths – a bath uses up to 2.5 times the amount of water as a shower.
  • Using a broom instead of a hose to clean outdoor areas to save 6 gallons of water every minute.
  • Washing full loads of clothes to save 15-45 gallons of water per load.
(Office of the Governor)

The Governor’s California Blueprint proposed this year would invest an additional $2 billion for drought response, which includes $100 million in addition to a previous investment of $16 million this fiscal year for a statewide education and communications effort on drought. These investments build on the previous $5.2 billion three-year investment in the state’s drought response and water resilience through the California Comeback Plan (2021). 

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