4 September 2023
Gender diversity in the leadership of listed companies is a growing focus, with two-thirds of investors participating in the inaugural 40:40 Vision investor survey saying that they plan to increase their company advocacy on the issue in the next 12 months.
The survey of investors backing 40:40 Vision revealed more than 90 per cent of respondents are engaging with the boards of companies they invest in on gender diversity topics. Three-quarters are using their voting power to drive diversity at board level.
However, a third of respondents said a lack of data on company gender diversity was a barrier to taking further action as part of their investment approach.
Launched in October 2020, 40:40 Vision is supported by industry partners representing more than $6.3 trillion in FUM. Supporters want structural change in corporate Australia by encouraging ASX300 companies to set medium and long-term targets for their executive leadership teams, with a pledge to achieve gender balance by 2030.
Debby Blakey, HESTA CEO and Chair of the 40:40 Vision Steering Committee, said the survey results showed that investors sought a greater commitment to gender diversity and gender equality from ASX300 listed companies.
“We have some of the world’s leading investors as members of 40:40 Vision. The findings of this research send a clear message to listed companies: institutional investors want to see clear targets for gender diversity, strategies for achieving workplace gender equality, and transparent reporting of progress,” Ms Blakey said.
“Corporate cultures that are not inclusive and do not encourage diversity represent a clear financial risk to investors – this can negatively impact a company’s reputation, its productivity, and ability to attract and retain talent.
“There is clear evidence that better gender balance in leadership is not only fairer but also smart business – leading to better performance, better profits, and better corporate governance – and this creates long-term value for shareholders.”
The survey showed investors were building discussions on gender diversity in their standard ongoing engagement with companies. These discussions on gender equality issues included gender pay gaps, domestic violence policies, parental leave policies, board gender balance, and workplace sexual harassment. Target setting and reporting were identified as a key priority, along with managing their talent pipeline.
Carlos Castillo, a Deputy Portfolio Manager at Melior Investment Management, which supports 40:40 Vision, said there was much more that companies could do to strengthen gender diversity at senior levels.
“We make this a standard part of our conversations with the companies we invest in,” Mr Castillo said.
“We stress the importance of targets and executive remuneration linked to achieving these targets.”
Another 40:40 Vision supporter, Dr Joanna Nash, Senior Quantitative Portfolio Manager from Realindex Investments, said she had engaged with ASX300 companies on gender diversity in the past 12 months.
“We try to bring up diversity issues with all companies we engage with unless the engagement is for a specific issue,” she said.
“We ask them about their current levels of diversity, set targets, and what internal process they have to improve diversity.”
As an investor, Ms Blakey said HESTA was committed to evaluating the gender diversity performance of companies it was considering investing in.
“We are pleased to see that 92 per cent of the respondents have used the 40:40 Vision program to engage in gender diversity discussions with listed companies in the past 12 months,” Ms Blakey said.
“With only 17 per cent of ASX300 companies currently achieving gender diversity in executive leadership, we want to see more listed companies joining 40:40 Vision and putting robust systems in place to achieve gender diversity.”
 40:40 Vision has 20 investment company members and 60% participated in the survey.
About 40:40 Vision
40:40 Vision is an investor-led initiative bringing together investors with over $6.3 trillion in AUM or AUA to pursue gender diversity in executive leadership in ASX300 companies. The term 40:40 stands for 40 per cent identifying as women, 40 per cent identifying as men, and 20 per cent identifying as any gender.
Among the 36 signatories are many household names, including ANZ, BHP, Bluescope, Domino’s, Mirvac, Ramsay Health, South32, Webjet, and Westpac. Company signatories have a combined value of around $582b representing about 25 per cent of ASX 300 total market capitalisation. Supporting partners include Chief Executive Women, the Australian Council of Superannuation Investors (ACSI), the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA), and the 30% Club.