We can and must do better to ensure that African American, Latino and women voices are heard in the boardroom. Many in the business community agree. A recent survey of board members and executives commissioned by Deloitte concluded that “Business leaders clearly believe in the benefits of diversity on their boards of directors. Yet it’s equally clear that current methods of sourcing and selecting candidates tend to reinforce a lack of diversity.”

Unfortunately, there is a disconnect between the business community’s admirable intent to achieve greater equity on their boards and the realization of achieving that goal. In an effort to bridge this gap, I introduced legislation that would require every corporate board in Illinois to include at least one African American, Latino and female member by 2020.

While I understand the opposition’s concern that inclusion can be problematic, I also appreciate that they support the intent of this bill. We are working toward the same goal.

The fact is, the status quo isn’t working for minorities and women and it hasn’t been for generations. It’s hard to come to grips with the backwards logic being pushed by opponents who say that this measure is a form of reverse discrimination. This proposal is only necessary due to decades of prejudicial business and public practices.

A number of businesses in Illinois, including McDonald’s and United, have already taken the lead in prioritizing equitable boards. They should be commended for cultivating a more inclusive corporate culture. The efforts of each of these businesses demonstrate that the goals set forth in my legislation are attainable.  Recent studies even reflect a direct correlation between increased diversity of a company’s board and higher growth over its less diverse competition. It’s a win-win.

If signed into law, my proposal would immediately bring a more diverse perspective to every corporate board in Illinois and put our state on a path to achieve greater equity in the workplace—especially in executive positions that have historically lacked diversity.

According to a study by Catalyst, a nonprofit organization that promotes women in the workplace, companies with more diverse boards of directors tend to hire more diverse candidates to fill C-Suite positions in the future.

I introduced this bill and feel so passionately about securing its passage because there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about creating a brighter future for my children. I am committed to fostering a business environment that offers the same opportunities for my son, daughter, and all women and people of color that are afforded to their peers.

Emanuel “Chris” Welch represents the 7th District, which includes many parts of the west suburbs, in the Illinois House of Representatives.

CONTACT: michael@austinweeklynews.com