Australian industry superannuation fund HESTA has made a major move to get more women in senior executive roles at ASX-listed companies with the launch of a new campaign that has the backing of global fund managers.
The 40:40 Vision aims to see women fill at least 40 per cent of executive roles in ASX200 companies by 2030.
Eight fund managers namely Aberdeen Standard Investments, BlackRock Australia, Ellerston Capital, Fidelity International, First Sentier Investors, IFM Investors, Pendal Group and WaveStone Capital - have signed up to drive this change.
Between them they manage more than $1 trillion in assets and will use their influence to encourage ASX200 companies to sign up to 40:40 Vision and pledge to achieve a combination of 40 per cent women, 40 per cent men and 20 per cent any gender in Csuite roles by 2030.
The move has been prompted by what HESTA says is slow progress towards gender balance. In 2020, just 30 of the ASX200 companies had at least 40 per cent women in executive leadership roles.
"It's concerning progress has been so slow, and at this rate it will be another 80 years before we see equal representation of men and women at CEO Level 2 and similarly in executive leadership unless action is taken now," says Debby Blakey (pictured), the CEO of HESTA and inaugural chairman of the 40:40 Vision Steering Group.
"We see lack of gender diversity in leadership as a financial risk. Companies that fail to consider 50 per cent of the population for leadership positions risk missing out on the best people and the performance of the organisation will eventually suffer.
"That's why we're calling for all ASX200 companies to pledge support for 40 per cent gender balance by 2030."
The initiative will use the combined power of investors to encourage ASX200 companies to sign on to 40:40 Vision, committing them to publicly set gender targets for the executive team for 2023 and 2027.
It is planned that 40:40 Vision will track and benchmark the progress of all ASX200 company's progress, regardless of whether they have signed to participate.
While Blakey concedes all companies are different and will need to develop their own plans and targets to bolster gender diversity, she is adamant that 40:40 Vision will deliver a tangible shift in corporate culture.
"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 says.
"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."
The 40:40 Vision campaign is being supported by Chief Executive Women, the Australian Council of Superannuation Investors, 30% Club and the Workplace Gender Equality Agency.
"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," says Ms Blakey.
"More inclusive workplaces mean more career opportunities for women that can, over the long-term, improve their retirement outcomes."
As an industry superannuation fund for workers in the health and community services industry, women account for more than 80 per cent of HESTA members.
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