Debby Blakey, HESTA's chief executive, has composed a letter urging S&P/ASX200 companies to set targets and timeframes for the number of women positioned at senior executive level. Blakey said it was crucial that companies are transparent and publish the quotas and timeframes that have been set with annual reports on progress.
'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,' Blakey said.
'Any company not looking closely enough at 50 per cent of the population when identifying its next leaders will not attract the best people, and performance of the organisation will eventually suffer.'
Blakey said that HESTA would vote against the most senior directors up for election in companies with all-male boards.
Bloomberg data as at April 2017 shows that only 10 companies in the S&P/ASX200 have a female chief executive, and women make up around 26 per cent of senior leadership roles. In a 2016 joint analysis of diversity disclosure at listed companies, KPMG and the ASX found few that disclosed numerical diversity targets.
'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.