ACSI turns up the heat on male only boards

Time is running out for companies without women directors or any plans to improve gender diversity on their boards, says the Australian Council of Superannuation Investors (ACSI).

Indeed, the super fund grouping, whose members own around ten per cent of the average ASX 200 company, plans to start voting against the sitting directors of these companies in 2017.

Believing that diverse boards make for better-governed companies and better returns, ACSI has adopted a target for women to comprise 30 per cent of all ASX 200 boards by the end of 2017.

ACSI CEO Louise Davidson has written to the chairs of the just under ten per cent of the ASX 200 listed companies that still don’t have women on their boards, informing them that its target is now backed by a formal voting policy for company meetings.

In the letter, she states: ‘Where ACSI believes that a company has demonstrated no progress in either changing the make-up of its board, or in presenting a clear plan to achieve that 30 per cent target, it will begin recommending that its members oppose the re-election of existing directors.’

‘This is not an issue we take lightly, and we sincerely hope that by the time of next year’s annual meetings no companies will be in the firing line,’ says Davidson.

According to ACSI, the boards of more than half of ASX 200 companies are made up of at least 25 per cent women. The top 50 companies are a fraction of a percent away from hitting the 30 per cent target.

‘It’s pleasing to finally see that in 2016, more than 40 per cent of all ASX 200 board appointments have been women — a record rate,’ says Davidson.

ACSI’s policy specifies that it will recommend a vote against directors of companies that perform poorly on gender diversity or fail to engage with ACSI by not outlining how they plan to address the issue.

Currently, 17 ASX 200 companies still have no women on their boards, and another 63 have just one female director. On the other hand, 57 companies have reached, or exceeded the target and another 52 are between 25–29 per cent. ACSI hopes to turn these figures around.

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