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Opinion by Jon Bragg - March 9, 2022

More ASX 200 companies urged to commit to gender balance in leadership

The 40:40 Vision initiative calls for 40 per cent of executive positions to be held by women.

Seventeen companies in the ASX 200 representing nearly 25 per cent of the total market capitalisation of the index have so far committed to achieving gender balance in executive leadership through an investor-led initiative.

Launched by HESTA in 2020 with eight inaugural signatories including BlackRock and Fidelity, the 40:40 Vision initiative calls on companies to commit to achieving a balance of 40 per cent women, 40 per cent men and 20 per cent any gender in executive positions by 2030.

"It’s wonderful that these 17 high-profile companies are leading the way and committing to making a difference on gender equality," said HESTA CEO and 40:40 Vision steering committee chair Debby Blakey.

“This illustrates a shift in thinking from some of Australia’s most influential companies and is setting new standards we hope others will follow.”

Current signatories include ANZ, BHP, Bluescope, Domino’s, IDP Education, IGO, Mirvac, NextDC, Origin, Pendal, Ramsay Health, SkyCity, South32, Tabcorp, Viva Energy, Webjet and Westpac.

The initiative also has the support of investors representing over $6.3 trillion in assets.

However, in light of the progress to date, Ms Blakey said that it would take 65 years for women to make up 40 per cent of executive leadership roles.

Data suggesting that the number of women in executive positions has stalled is also a cause for concern according to Ms Blakey.

“We’ve seen all too often the risk that can build at companies where poor culture and a lack of board oversight leads to a company’s actions not matching their words,” she said.

“This credibility gap has been consistently shown to risk a company’s social licence and negatively impact long-term shareholder value.”

40:40 Vision highlighted research from the Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre (BCEC) and the government’s Workplace Gender Equality Agency in 2020 which found that listed companies that increased the number of female employees in top level manager roles experienced a 6.6 per cent increase to their market value.

"We know better gender balance means better financial performance, better governance and stronger long-term company value,” said Ms Blakey.

“That’s why we’re urging more ASX 200 companies to become a part of 40:40 Vision and ensure their shareholders, employees and the broader community benefit from improving gender diversity.”

This article originally featured in Investor Daily