16 March 2021
Better gender balance in ASX leadership vital for improving performance
If ASX companies want to increase their long-term market value they need to act now and increase the number of women in CEO and executive leadership positions.
This was one of the many views expressed during a panel discussion at a virtual event today for the 40:40 Vision initiative launched last year by industry super fund HESTA with industry partners Chief Executive Women, Australian Council of Superannuation Investors (ACSI), 30% Club and the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA).
The panel comprised Sam Mostyn, President Chief Executive Women, Louise Davidson, CEO, ACSI, Colleen Harris, Group Chief People Officer, Ramsay Health Care, and moderated by HESTA CEO Debby Blakey agreed that there had been too little progress on seeing women advance to senior roles.
Panellists said, while it was good the number of ASX200 women chairs had grown from 11 in 2015 to 24 in 2021, it was disconcerting only 10 ASX200 CEOs are women and only one of the 25 CEOs appointed to ASX200 CEO roles last year was a woman.
In 2020, the WGEA and the Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre released research showing 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 Australian ASX-listed companies.
40:40 Vision Chair and HESTA CEO Debby Blakey said: “As investors, we share a common goal with companies to improve their long-term performance – it’s good for our members and it's good for their shareholders. 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.”
“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.
“Those companies not looking closely enough at 50 per cent of the population when identifying top talent risk missing out not only on the best people but also the long-term performance edge a more diverse and inclusive culture provides.”
Global company Ramsay Health Care was the first ASX listed companies to join the initiative. Ramsay’s Group Chief People Officer Colleen Harris said: “Ramsay Health Care has a strong record of embracing diversity and promoting women into leadership roles. By supporting the 40:40 Vision initiative, we hope to encourage other ASX200 companies to achieve gender equality.
“Globally, we are a significant employer of women, and we have long been committed to having strong female representation at all levels of the organisation. In Australia, 59 per cent of our hospital and facility CEOs are women and 60 per cent of our regional executives are women.”
ACSI CEO Louise Davidson said investors have long recognised the value of gender diversity in governance and leadership roles.
“We’re very encouraged to see the number of women directors continuing to increase. But it’s disappointing that the number of female chairs and CEOs continues to languish. Through 40:40 Vision, investors are driving companies to capitalise on the long-term value of diversity by setting gender targets in leadership teams. 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.”
President of Chief Executive Women, Sam Mostyn, said: “ASX200 companies can lead the way and achieve better results for all their stakeholders by ensuring their leadership teams are balanced. More diverse teams lead to stronger financial performance and safer company cultures. Risk is reduced and outcomes improved – a 40:40 vision of gender equality is a corporate responsibility right now.”
Ms Blakey said HESTA launched the 40:40 Vision initiative last year with industry partners out of concern that the number of women in leadership positions had stalled.
“The 40:40 Vision initiative was necessary because a lack of gender diversity in leadership is ultimately a financial risk. 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.”
Ms Blakey encouraged all ASX200 companies to pledge support for a 40 per cent gender balance by 2030, and 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 resulting in a tick-the-box exercise,” Ms Blakey said.
1. Gender diversity in the ASX200
Source: The case for change: Women at work in Australia (Chief Executive Women)
2. About the 40:40 Vision Initiative
Launched in October 2020, 40:40 Vision is working to achieve by 2030: 40 per cent or better gender balance among senior leadership of ASX200 companies (20 per cent any identification). Prominent 40:40 Vision investor signatories representing over $4.1trn in assets under management or advice include HESTA, Aberdeen Standard Investments, BlackRock Australia, Ellerston Capital, Fidelity International, First Sentier Investors, IFM Investors, Pendal Group WaveStone Capital, ACSI, Alphinity, Aware Super, Eiger Capital, Ethical Partners, Schroders, VFMC and EOS at Federated Hermes.
40:40 Vision is supported by industry partners Chief Executive Women, the Australian Council of Superannuation Investors, 30% Club and the Workplace Gender Equality Agency.
ASX200 signatories to the 40:40 Vision include Ramsay Health Care, South32 and Domino's. More information about 40:40 Vision is available at hesta.com.au/4040Vision