HESTA launches 40:40 Vision campaign for at least 40% women in ASX200 executive roles by 2030

| October 1, 2020

HESTA has launched 40:40 Vision, an ambitious investor-led initiative that aims to see women fill at least 40 per cent of executive roles in the ASX200 by 2030.

The campaign has already attracted the support of prominent investors representing over $1 trillion in assets under management who are committed to working collaboratively to drive structural change and achieve greater gender balance among the senior leadership of ASX200 companies.

The 40:40 Vision Investor Statement was launched with eight inaugural signatories: Aberdeen Standard Investments, BlackRock Australia, Ellerston Capital, Fidelity International, First Sentier Investors, IFM Investors, Pendal Group and WaveStone Capital. The Statement outlines investor commitments and expectations for companies on gender diversity in executive teams.

40:40 Vision also has the support of industry partners Chief Executive Women, the Australian Council of Superannuation Investors, 30% Club and the Workplace Gender Equality Agency.

Investors joining the initiative will commit to engaging with ASX200 companies to encourage them to sign up to 40:40 Vision 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 this goal.

HESTA CEO and inaugural Chair of the 40:40 Vision Steering Group, Debby Blakey said investors were concerned at the slow progress towards greater gender balance among the leadership of major listed companies, with just 30 ASX200 companies having at least 40% women in executive leadership in 2020.[1]

“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,” Ms Blakey 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. That’s why we’re calling for all ASX200 companies to pledge support for 40% gender balance by 2030.”

Ms Blakey said 40:40 Vision recognises the complexity and differences in organisational structure among ASX200 companies, giving flexibility for companies to set and develop their own plans and targets.

“We want to see real, genuine change – not just additional layers of needless reporting and governance that invariably becomes a tick-the-box exercise,” Ms Blakey said.

“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.”

Ms Blakey said that there was clear evidence that companies with greater gender balance among its leadership enjoyed better decision making and stronger long-term performance.

“There is clear evidence[3] better gender balance in leadership is not only fairer but is also smart business, leading to long-term performance and stronger corporate governance,” Ms Blakey said.

“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.

“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.”

More than 80% of HESTA members are women.

To encourage progress, ASX200 companies that sign on to 40:40 Vision will 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 ASX200 companies to check progress to towards the 40:40:20 target.