HESTA launches gender balance initiative

HESTA has launched its 40:40 Vision initiative that aims to see women fill at least 40% of executive roles in the ASX 200 by 2030.

The campaign was supported by eight inaugural investor signatories including Aberdeen Standard Investments, BlackRock Australia, Ellerston Capital, Fidelity International, First Sentier Investors, IFM Investors, Pendal Group and WaveStone Capital.

These investors would commit to engaging with ASX 200 companies to encourage them to sign up to the initiative and pledge to achieve 40% women, 40% men, and 20% any gender among C-suite roles by 2030 and to set clear and public targets towards the goal.

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ASX 200 companies that signed onto the initiative would commit to setting public gender composition targets for their executive team for 2023 and 2027 and reporting transparently on progress. 40:40 Vision will benchmark and track the gender split across all ASX 200 companies to check progress to towards the 40:40:20 target.

HESTA chief executive and the inaugural chair of the 40:40 Vision steering group, Debby Blakey, said it was concerning that progress for gender balance in leadership had been so slow and at the current rate it would be another 80 years before gender balance was achieved at the CEO level.

“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,” she said.

“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 noted that better gender balance in leadership lead to long-term performance and stronger corporate governance.

“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.

“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.”

The Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia said it had “thrown its support” behind the initiative and called on the superannuation industry to join the campaign.

ASFA chief executive, Dr Martin Fahy, said: “The next 10 years will see a shift to a more knowledge-intensive economy. If Australia is to achieve its full potential and compete internationally, we cannot afford to continue to ignore the contribution of talented senior women executives”.

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