HESTA has pushed listed companies to hire more women in executive positions, after the ASX 200 only named one female chief out of 25 new bosses in 2020.
There has been too little progress on women advancing to senior roles, a panel with representatives from Chief Executive Women, the Australian Council of Superannuation Investors (ACSI), Ramsay Health Care and HESTA has agreed.
A recent analysis by ACSI showed the number of women in chair positions across the ASX 200 has approximately doubled to 24 from 11 in 2015. But out of the total 200, only 10 companies had female chief executives. Further, only one of the 25 new CEOs appointed in the ASX 200 during 2020 was a woman.
HESTA is powering ahead with its 40:40 Vision gender diversity initiative in response, urging all of the ASX 200 to sign up.
Launched in 2020 with a number of industry partners, 40:40 Vision has pushed for a balance between a minimum of 40 per cent female and 40 per cent male representation in companies’ leadership by 2030.
HESTA CEO Debby Blakey commented her fund is interested in long-term company performance and outcomes for investors.
“We know from local and global research that addressing gender diversity in leadership is essential to creating stronger decision making and this long-term improvement in a company’s value,” Ms Blakey said at a virtual event for 40:40 Vision.
“With only 25 per cent of ASX200 executive leadership positions held by women, it’s not surprising there are such a small number of women CEOs. Boosting the number of women in leadership will provide an important pipeline of diverse talent for boards.”
Research from the government’s Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) and the Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre last year showed an increase in the share of female top-tier managers by 10 percentage points or more led to an average 6.6 per cent increase in the market value of ASX-listed companies.
Ms Blakely commented the fund had established the 40:40 goal with the concern that the number of women in charge had stalled.
“The 40:40 Vision initiative was necessary because a lack of gender diversity in leadership is ultimately a financial risk,” she said.
“We have set ambitious targets; the time for waiting is over because we can’t wait decades to see equal numbers of men and women in senior leadership.
“We want to see real, genuine change – not just additional layers of needless reporting and governance resulting in a tick-the-box exercise.”
ACSI CEO Louise Davidson added investors have long recognised the value of gender diversity in governance.
“Women’s progression to executive leadership positions and CEO roles still has a long way to go and it will take sustained effort for this to change,” Ms Davidson said.
Sarah Simpkins is a journalist at Momentum Media, reporting primarily on banking, financial services and wealth.
Prior to joining the team in 2018, Sarah worked in trade media and produced stories for a current affairs program on community radio.
You can contact her on [email protected].