Support for 40:40 vision expands to ASX300 to achieve gender balance

Debby Blakey, 40:40 Vision Steering Committee Chair and Chief Executive Officer at HESTA

40:40 Vision, the investor-led initiative to achieve gender balance in executive leadership, has expanded to the ASX300 with media giant Southern Cross Austereo (SCA), homewares retailer Adairs, healthcare company Healius and insurer QBE among the latest signatories.

Chief Executive Women (CEW) census data shows firms in the ASX300 are some of the worst performing when it comes to gender diversity in executive leadership, compared to the ASX100 and ASX50. 62% of all ASX300 firms have no women in line roles, meaning there’s no consistent pipeline to increase the proportion of female CEOs and executive leaders.

How are companies faring on the gender balance card?

HESTA Chief Executive Officer and 40:40 Vision Steering Committee Chair Debby Blakey acknowledged the leadership of the newest signatories, saying the expansion to the ASX300 was designed to continue to build the momentum for transformation.

“The stats speak for themselves; CEW census information shows only 1 in 23 ASX300 CEOs appointed in 2021 were women and there are only 18 women CEOs across the entire ASX300. As investors, we felt that if we were to see the biggest transformation then we had to broaden our focus to where progress is slowest”, Ms Blakey commented.

“Women represent only 26% of executive leadership roles in the ASX300, well below the 40% target. By focusing on the broader ASX 300 we aim to encourage the significant shift in thinking that’s required to improve diversity across corporate Australia,” Ms Blakey said.

Who is behind the renewed push for gender balance?

Ms Blakey said investors representing over $6.3T in AUM were behind the push to improve diversity that will help strengthen corporate governance and maximise value for investors.

“We know better gender balance means better financial performance, better governance and stronger long-term firm value, which can impact the performance of members’ investments. Our ambition is to have all companies within the ASX300 publicly committing to the principles of taking measurable action to improve their gender diversity by 2030,” Ms Blakey said.

Firms that commit to 40:40 set gender targets in the shorter term, make a plan for how they will meet targets and report annually on their progress. But Ms Blakey said the initiative recognised there was not a one-size-fits-all approach on how to achieve gender balance.

“We recognise there are varying complexities and differences in organisational structures, which is why 40:40 is designed to achieve one common outcome without being overly prescriptive in its approach to diversity and inclusion”, Ms Blakey commented.

What is the prevalence of 40:40 Vision?

As a recent signatory SCA’s CEO Grant Blackley said it had achieved gender parity across all organisational levels, except its executive leadership, saying: “Joining 40:40 Vision shows to our workforce and investors and stakeholders that we are committed to addressing the gap.”

Launched a little over a year ago, the initiative has seen strong support from ASX listed companies with the current signatories having a combined value of $550bn and representing close to 25% of the index. They include: Adairs, ANZ, BHP, Bluescope, Challenger, Domino’s, Healius, IDP Education, IGO, Iress, Mirvac, NextDC, Origin, Pendal, QBE, Ramsay Health, Sothern Cross Austereo, SkyCity, South32, Tabcorp, Viva Energy, Webjet and Westpac.

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.

For more information and to track progress visit www.hesta.com.au/4040Vision