Shareholders holding billions of dollars in ASX 200 companies want change for the betterment of company performance and social equality.
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Nine major investors have signed a plan to push for 40% female representation in S&P/ASX 200 Index (ASX: XJO) executive roles by 2030.
The $52 billion superannuation fund HESTA on Thursday launched the 40:40 Vision campaign, with Aberdeen Standard Investments, BlackRock Australia, Ellerston Capital, Fidelity International, First Sentier Investors, IFM Investors, Pendal Group and WaveStone Capital on board as founding signatories.
These investors will now target ASX 200 companies to get them to sign up to the pledge as well.
Currently only 30 ASX 200 companies have at least 40% women in executive positions.
The initiative wants to see policies and targets that will eventuate in 40% women, 40% men and 20% “any gender” in C-suite roles by the year 2030.
Companies that sign on will need to be transparent on their progress and set interim targets for 2023 and 2027.
Not good enough, say investors
HESTA Chief Executive, Debby Blakey, said progress was currently too slow and was proving to be a risk to shareholders.
“At this rate it will be another 80 years before we see equal representation of men and women at CEO level – and similarly in executive leadership – unless action is taken now,” she said.
“We see lack of gender diversity in leadership as a 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.”
Blakey, who is also chair of the 40:40 steering group, said the initiative gives companies the flexibility to set their own path to the 40% goal.
“We want to see real, genuine change – not just additional layers of needless reporting and governance that invariably becomes a tick-the-box exercise,” she said.
“As a significant investor, we cannot simply diversify away from risks stemming from social inequality.”
HESTA, as a super fund for the health and community sector workers, has 80% female membership.
There was significant evidence that gender balance in executive positions led to better decision making and stronger company performance.
“As a long-term investor, 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.
“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.”
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