Brennan’s AB 467 remarks to the California State Assembly Committee on Arts, Entertainment, Sports, Tourism, and Internet Media

I’m Sabrina Brennan, President of the San Mateo County Harbor Commission and Co-founder of the Committee for Equity in Women’s Surfing. Thank you for this opportunity to address the committee.  

This morning, I awoke to a reoccurring nightmare about gender-based discrimination in the workplace, unfair business practices, and the systematic exclusion of women professional athletes from competitions.  

Today, I’m here representing the San Mateo County Harbor District.  We issue a Special Use Permit for the iconic Mavericks Challenge big-wave surf competition, held near Half Moon Bay. Mavericks was founded in 1998 and the contest is internationally known for producing 30’ to 60’ waves and its event promoters are notorious for gender-based discrimination. 

The first Mavericks Competition was titled, “Men Who Ride Mountains.” Now, two decades later, women big wave surfers have still not had an opportunity to compete. 

It’s impossible to achieve equal pay in athletic competitions that exclude women.

Please read the March 29th letter from the Harbor Commission. We respectfully request that AB 467 be amended to protect athletes from gender-based discrimination, consistent with the Unruh Civil Rights Act. 

We urge you to address concerns about unintended consequences. Please close the loophole in AB 467 that encourages and incentivizes event businesses, promoters and athletic organizations to exclude female categories from athletic competitions, in an effort to thwart equal pay requirements. 

Please require the following: 

  • A female category and a male category for all athletic competitions held on California state lands.

  • Equal prize money.  

  • Category winners receive the exact same prize amount. 

  • No total purse formula applied. 

  • Equal logistical support for all categories (including travel related expense; airfare, hotel, etc.).

  • Equal equipment for all categories.

Mavericks is not the only professional athletic competition with a history of gender-based discrimination. 

Last month, women were excluded from competing in Huntington Beach at the Jack’s Surfboards Pro, a World Surf League 1,500 Qualifying Series event, that awards prize money and points. 

Women pro surfers are concerned about the scarcity of qualifying events in California, this inequity significantly limits their opportunities to make a living as pro athletes. 

Increasing the number of events and awards for women, as well as offering equal prize money, is the only way to achieve meaningful equity in competitive sports. 

Equal pay is only part of the problem. Please require that all State agency permits and leases prohibit discrimination. Please amend AB 467 to require businesses and organizations that manage and promote athletic competitions on California state lands comply with the Unruh Civil Rights Act. 

Unfair business practices prevent women professional surfers from utilizing public resources and coastal access. Please act to prohibit gender-based discrimination.

Please ensure that AB 467 provides the oversight necessary to stop decades of gender-based discrimination. 

My remarks to the joint Assembly and Senate Committee on Sexual Harassment Prevention & Response

State Capitol, Sacramento— My remarks to the joint Assembly and Senate Committee on Sexual Harassment Prevention & Response. It’s a sub-Committee of the Rules Committee under both houses. Joint Committee Agendas and Packet documents.

Click the video below to hear my remarks to the Joint Committee.


Joint Sub-Committee on Sexual Harassment Prevention and Response

Thursday, Feb 15, 2018

I'm Sabrina Brennan, a Harbor Commissioner in San Mateo County, and I’m speaking today as a member of the public. I can tell you from personal experience that complaints and investigations are severely mishandled at the countywide special district that I represent.

Thank you for your service and for the opportunity to make the following remarks: 

There should be uniform anti-harassment, anti-discrimination, and anti-retaliation policies, laws, whistleblower protections, education, and training across State and Local Agencies.  

In depth anti-harassment, anti-discrimination, and anti-retaliation education and unconscious bias training should be a requirement for all elected and appointed representatives and government employees.

  • Current training lacks information about best practices for conducting independent investigations once a complaint is made.

All harassment, discrimination, and retaliation complaints should be investigated and the findings should be transparent.

Types of inappropriate behavior should be clearly described and consequences should be well defined.  Doing this would help move cultural norms in a positive direction. 

A panel of three or more people should select investigators and the panel must include both women and men. 

The complainant and complainee should be provided with copies of all investigation reports.  

A panel or a review board that includes both women and men should make recommendations about disciplinary action.

  • A commission or a statewide elected board might be a logical option for reviewing investigations and determining outcomes.
  • An appeal board could review decisions in the event a complainant or complainee was dissatisfied with an investigation or the outcome of an investigation. 

Recently I’ve been in conversation with Neil McCormick, Director of the California Special District Association about the need for anti-harassment, anti-discrimination, and anti-retaliation training that includes best practices for conducting unbiased and independent investigations.  

However I’d like to point out that it’s not reasonable to expect that local agency associations like CSDA, the League of Cities, or an overburdened state oversight agency such as the Fair Political Practices Commission will be able to correct the long history of sexual harassment, gender discrimination, and sexual orientation discrimination in the workplace. And it’s worth noting that many of those organizations lack gender diversity, racial diversity, and sexual orientation diversity in management positions, organizational governance, consultants hired to provide training, and newsletter, website, and social media content. 

This pandemic has been overlooked for far too long. A comprehensive statewide plan for addressing these complex problems must be thoughtfully developed, prioritized, and funded.   

It’s critically important that workplaces throughout California be safe and free from harassment, discrimination, and retaliation. I applaud your effort to search for creative solutions. Thank you.

spectrum of sexual misconduct

Kathleen Kelley Reardon, Ph.D., Professor Emerita, University of Southern California Marshall School of Business spoke at the joint committee hearing.  Read her paper on the spectrum of sexual misconduct.