HESTA stands up to all-male boards

HESTA chief executive Debby Blakey penned a letter to all S&P/ASX200 companies urging them to set specific targets and timeframes for the number of women positioned at senior executive level.

Blakey said it was "vital" that companies are transparent about the number of women they aim to have in senior leadership, with published timeframes and annual reporting on progress.

"While a lot of attention has rightly been paid to the number of women on boards, we also need to increase the number of female senior executives to improve decision making and support a healthy pipeline of women qualified to join boards in coming years," Blakey said.

"We see diversity as an accurate indicator of a well-run company more likely to deliver long-term value to shareholders, and, therefore, better long-term returns for members.

"Any company not looking closely enough at 50% of the population when identifying its next leaders will not attract the best people and performance of the organisation will eventually suffer," she said.

Blakey added that having women in senior leadership flows through to all levels of an organisation, creating a "more inclusive work culture" and "greater career opportunities" for women that over the long-term, can also increase their retirement savings.

Building on their call to action, Blakey said that HESTA would vote against the most senior director up for election in those companies with all male boards.

A 2016 joint KPMG and ASX analysis of diversity disclosure at listed companies found few in the S&P/ASX 200 disclosed numerical diversity targets.

Bloomberg data as at April 2017 indicates that just 10 companies in the S&P/ASX 200 have a female chief executive and, on average, women make up 26% of senior leadership.

Comparatively, HESTA has a female independent chair and chief executive, and 57% of its senior leadership positions from general manager to board level are made up of women

The fund is also a member of the 30% Club and Australian Council of Superannuation Investors, both of which advocate for the boards of Australia's biggest companies to have a minimum of at least 30% female directors.

Read more: WomenBoardsHESTAASX200Debby Blakey30% ClubACSIAustralian Council of Superannuation Investors
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