The Australian Council of Superannuation Investors (ACSI) has stepped up its campaign for more gender diversity on the boards of listed companies, signaling last week that it would be targeting those companies which have made little or no progress in appointing female directors in the coming annual meeting season.
ACSI wrote to the 32 ASX 200 companies which have no female directors and to those which have only one female director reminding them of the 30 per cent target set for 2017.
Louise Davidson, ACSI chief executive, said: “So far in 2015, women represent barely more than one director appointment in every four to ASX 200 boards, which implies that, at best, it will be well into next decade that the 30 per cent level is achieved – and even that assumes a higher attrition rate of male than female directors…
“We are seeking tangible commitments and evidence from these companies that they have strategies for achieving gender diversity at board level in the near term, rather than the sometimes surprisingly vague statements often made to comply with ASX corporate governance principles.
“We have a strong mandate from our members – institutional investors in Australia and across the globe, which represent over $1.6 trillion in retirement investments – to consider recommending a vote against the re-elections of directors at companies that exhibit either no willingness, or progress, in this regard,” she said.
ACSI launched its policy on gender diversity in February this year, with the 30 per cent target for women on the boards of ASX 200 companies by the end of 2017.
Davidson said: “It was encouraging to see that, since our policy launch, the only ASX 100 company without a woman on its board has now appointed two female directors. Many companies appear, however, to be missing the point that boards with no, or low, female presence risk underperforming their competitors – and therefore becoming less attractive investment propositions for our members.
“There is growing evidence of links between gender diversity and financial performance in companies, which suggests that, in more difficult economic climates, boards that do not have more diverse make-ups and skills to draw on may well suffer.”
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