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Investors take charge in C-suite equality

A $52 billion industry superannuation fund has launched an initiative to increase gender diversity in the executive teams of the ASX200 companies and already has the support of industry heavyweights.

HESTA's 40:40 Vision campaign has launched with eight prominent investor signatories who are committed to driving change and pledging to see women fill 40% of C-suite roles by 2030.

Aberdeen Standard Investments, BlackRock Australia, Ellerston Capital, Fidelity International, First Sentier Investors, IFM Investors, Pendal Group and WaveStone Capital will engage with ASX200 companies to encourage them to sign up to HESTA's initiative.

HESTA chief executive, and chair of the 40:40 Vision Steering Group, Debby Blakey said investors are concerned that just 30 ASX200 companies have at least 40% women in executive leadership.

"It's concerning progress has been so slow, and at this rate it will be another 80 years before we see equal representation of men and women at CEO level2 - and similarly in executive leadership - unless action is taken now," she said.

Investors joining 40:40 Vision will pledge to achieve 40% women, 40% men and 20% any gender and declare medium and long-term targets for 2023 and 2027.

In addition, the plan will be made public to employees, shareholders and investors and will be reported on annually as to how they are tracking towards the targets.

40:40 Vision has the support of industry partners Chief Executive Women, the Australian Council of Superannuation Investors, 30% Club and  the Workplace Gender Equality Agency.

The Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia also welcomes the campaign and is calling on the superannuation industry to join the initiative.

ASFA chief executive Martin Fahy said: "ASFA commends HESTA and encourages all super funds to sign up to the 40:40 Vision campaign and commit to addressing the current gender imbalance in senior leadership in corporate Australia."

The initiative comes as around 80% of HESTA members are women. Blakey said as a significant investor the fund cannot diversify away from risks stemming from social inequality.

"Investors have real power to engage with ASX200 companies on the gender diversity of their executive teams and influence change," she said

"As a long-term investor, we see gender diversity as an accurate indicator of a well-run company, with strong, inclusive decision making that's more likely to deliver long-term value to shareholders.

Read more: HESTADebby BlakeyAberdeen Standard InvestmentsAssociation of Superannuation Funds of AustraliaAustralian Council of Superannuation InvestorsBlackRock AustraliaChief Executive WomenEllerston CapitalFidelity InternationalFirst Sentier InvestorsIFM InvestorsMartin FahyPendal GroupWaveStone Capital
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