The Iowa Senate State Government Committee advanced Senate Study Bill 1037 to the full chamber last week. The bill would remove gender quotas from state boards and commissions and from local commissions.
Senator Jason Schultz, who sponsored the bill, said he is not a quota supporter and believed the problem has solved itself.
“I believe it is time to address the artificial restrictions placed on both state and local (boards),” Schultz said.
The 2012 law, which expanded the quotas to local boards and commissions, does allow someone to be put on the board if three months pass and the quota cannot be met. Now, though, Schultz said he believes women are being insulted because the reason they’re asked sometimes to be on the board or commission is due to the gender quota.
“In 2023 I think it’s time to go ahead and move forward removing quotas on something that I think is taken care of,” he said.
He said he had a constituent who would like to be on a judicial nominating commission but cannot because she is in a spot where too many women are already on it.
“It’s time for government to get out of the way and put the most qualified person on there,” he said.
Democrat State Sen. Claire Celsi spoke against the bill. She said most women in government and leadership positions she knows started on a board or a commission to “test their wings.”
“I followed in that path,” Celsi said. “The only way I got a chance to do that was because of the rules that we had on gender.”
Celsi said at the time the mayor didn’t see the value in having a balanced mix of genders on commissions and boards. She was appointed to the board of adjustment because there was a spot for a woman on the board, she added.
“We all knows, it’s human nature, people appoint people who look like them or are their golf buddies or whatever,” she said. “That’s just the way it works. This is a boys’ club in our state in many places. We women know this. We’ve all experienced this blocking of our advancement in some way or form.”
Democrat Senators Pam Jochum and Janice Weiner also spoke against the bill. Jochum said she isn’t sure what problem the bill is trying to solve and that having diversity on boards or commissions helps build a leadership bench and brings new experiences and perspectives to the table. Jochum said she doesn’t believe Iowa has reached the point it needs to at the state or local level and more work is necessary since women were overlooked for “far too long.”
Weiner said the gender quota sometimes causes people to go out and recruit more candidates. She cautioned it is “really easy to fall back into old habits.”
Republican Sen. Scott Webster said the issue is “near and dear” to him as his wife is strongly in favor of the change. He said she’s turned down appointments because she felt she was only picked because she is a woman.
Schultz said in his closing comments that he hopes Democrats offer the same opposition on the floor of the Senate as they did in committee.
“I believe that it will help me make my case that this idea is out of date and it doesn’t belong in code after 30 years,” he said. “It’s time to move Iowa code forward and acknowledge the merits of women and not just simply the need to artificially place highly qualified women on boards.”
Take away quotas!