HESTA garners more support for ASX300 gender equality initiative

HESTA garners more support for ASX300 gender equality initiative

A gender equality initiative led by superannuation fund HESTA has received a fresh wave of support from four more ASX-listed companies that have committed to diversifying their executive leadership by 2030.

Launched just over a year ago, 40:40 Vision has expanded its reach to ASX300 companies after Adairs (ASX: ADH), QBE (ASX: QBE), Healius (ASX: HLS) and Southern Cross Austereo (ASX: SXL) became its latest signatories.

The companies will join others that have gotten behind the initiative such as Domino’s (ASX: DMP), Mirvac (ASX: MGR), NextDC (ASX: NXT), Ramsay Health (ASX: RHC), IDP Education (ASX: IEL) and QBE (ASX: QBE).

HESTA CEO and 40:40 Vision steering committee chair Debby Blakey said the move would continue to build momentum for change.

“Women represent only 26 per cent of executive leadership roles in the ASX300, well below the 40 per cent target.” she said.

According to data from the 2021 Chief Executive Women Senior Executive Census (CEW Census), one in 23 ASX300 CEOs appointed between 2020 and 2021 were women.

Across the entire ASX300, only 18 women (6.2 per cent) were given the top job.

“As investors, we felt that if we were to see the biggest change then we had to broaden our focus to where progress is slowest,” Blakey said.

Companies that sign up for the movement are encouraged to form an executive leadership team that comprises 40 per cent women, 40 per cent men and 20 per cent of any gender in the next eight years. Each company also commits to making a public plan on how it will reach the desired target and makes annual reports on its progress.

In October 2020, the HESTA announced its plans to target the top ASX200 companies as part of its 40:40 Vision. Since then, it has expanded its target to the ASX300. 

While HESTA claims the move is beneficial for inclusivity, it can also contribute to increased profitability, performance and productivity.

Data released by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) in 2020 found that women in top-tier managerial positions added 6.6 per cent to the market value of ASX-listed companies.

“We know better gender balance means better financial performance, better governance and stronger long-term company value, which can impact the performance of our members’ investments,” Blakey said.

HESTA CEO and 40:40 Vision steering committee chair Debby Blakey
HESTA CEO and 40:40 Vision steering committee chair Debby Blakey

However, she also acknowledges there is not a one-size-fits-all approach to how companies achieve gender balance.

“We recognise there are varying complexities and differences in organisational structures, which is why 40:40 is designed to achieve one common outcome without being overly prescriptive in its approach to diversity and inclusion,” Blakey said.

In a March 2021 report titled Gender balance is good for business, CEW president Sam Mostyn also discussed how respect in the workplace is crucial to seeing long term change. 

"How do we build respect for women across society and in workplaces and release the talent that is currently held back by unsafe workplaces and poor practices? It's a big agenda, but it should be an ambition we have for the country," she said. 

SCA CEO Grant Blackley acknowledged the company had achieved gender parity across all organisational levels, except its executive leadership.

“Joining 40:40 Vision demonstrates to our workforce and to our investors and other stakeholders that we are committed to addressing this gap,” he said.

Blakey said investors representing more than $6.3 trillion in assets under management (AUM) were behind the push to improve diversity in the ASX300.

The initiative has seen strong support from ASX-listed companies with a combined value of $550 billion amongst current signatories, representing close to 25 per cent of the ASX300. Other backers include ANZ (ASX: ANZ), BHP (ASX: BHP), Bluescope (ASX: BSL), Challenger (ASX: CGF), IGO (ASX: IGO), Iress (ASX: IRE), Origin (ASX: ORG), Pendal (ASX: PDL), SkyCity (ASX: SKC), South32 (ASX: S32), Tabcorp (ASX: TAH), Viva Energy (ASX: VEA), Webjet (ASX: WEB) and Westpac (ASX: WBC).

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