Industry super fund HESTA is leading an initiative to push companies in the ASX200 to fill at least 40 per cent of their executive positions with women by 2030.
The investor-led initiative, 40:40 Vision, is backed by Aberdeen Standard Investments, BlackRock Australia, Ellerston Capital, Fidelity International, First Sentier Investors, IFM Investors, Pendal Group and WaveStone Capital. Together, these fund managers are responsible for over $1 trillion in assets.
HESTA chief executive Debby Blakey says investors see a lack of women in leadership positions as financial risk.
“Companies that fail to consider 50% of the population for leadership positions risk missing out on the best people and the performance of the organisation will eventually suffer,” she said.
Investors joining 40:40 Vision will engage ASX200 companies to sign up, and pledge to achieve 40 per cent women, 40 per cent men and 20 per cent any gender among C-suite roles by 2030. The companies will be encouraged to set clear and public targets towards this goal, with flexibility around how they develop their strategy to get there.
“We want to see real, genuine change – not just additional layers of needless reporting and governance that invariably becomes a tick-the-box exercise,” Blakey said.
“As a significant investor, we cannot simply diversify away from risks stemming from social inequality. Investors have real power to engage with ASX200 companies on the gender diversity of their executive teams and influence change.”
Blakey points to the research that shows gender-balanced leadership teams make better decisions and have stronger-long term financial performance.
“We see gender diversity as an accurate indicator of a well-run company, with strong, inclusive decision making that’s more likely to deliver long-term value to shareholders,” she said.
“While we know improving the gender balance in major companies will benefit our members’ investments, we also know that women in senior leadership are important champions for cultural change. More inclusive workplaces mean more career opportunities for women that can, over the long-term, improve their retirement outcomes.”
According to recent research by Chief Executive Women, just 5 per cent of ASX200 companies are led by women. In the past year, just one of the 25 CEOs appointed to lead ASX 200 organisations has been female. The year before, only two female CEOs were appointed.
Sue Morphet, president of Chief Executive Women said she was very disappointed with these results.
“Any movement in the positive direction throughout the census has shown a glacial change, but generally speaking it’s flatlined, and in the key jobs of line roles and CEOs it’s gone backwards,” she said.
HESTA’s 40:40 Vision will benchmark and track the gender split across all ASX200 companies to check progress to towards the 40:40:20 target.
The initiative has the support of the Australian Council of Superannuation Investors, Chief Executive Women, 30% Club, and the Workplace Gender Equality Agency.