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No more ‘boys’ clubs’: Super funds to vote against directors on boards with no women

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Australia’s peak super investment body will recommend its members vote against the re-election of company directors who sit on boards with no women. 

The Australian Council of Superannuation Investors, which represents $450 billion in assets on behalf of more than 8 million Australian super fund members, says time is up for directors sitting on all-male boards. 

ACSI chief Louise Davidson says male-only boards have had enough time to "get their house in order". ACSI chief Louise Davidson says male-only boards have had enough time to “get their house in order”.  Photo: Jesse Marlow

“We feel as though these companies have had more than adequate notice about our concerns in this area,” ACSI chief executive Louise Davidson told Fairfax Media. 

“They have had more than enough time to get their house in order and have failed to do so.”

ACSI set targets for women on boards two years ago, but says some boards have failed to make progress. ACSI set targets for women on boards two years ago, but says some boards have failed to make progress. Photo: Peter Braig

The group will instruct its members to vote against any incumbent director who sits on an all-male board when investors meet with companies during this year’s annual meeting season in October.

According to ACSI there are 13 companies in the ASX 200 that have no women directors, including telecommunications giant TPG, CIMIC Group (formerly Leighton Holdings), Flight Centre, Investa and Qube Holdings. 

The largest ASX-listed company to be without any women on its board is Marcelino Fernandez Verdes’ $12.2 billion CIMIC Group, followed by the David Teoh-led $5.4 billion TPG. 

A CIMIC spokesperson declined to comment on the move or the company’s efforts to appoint women to the board. 

The CIMIC board (formerly Leighton Holdings) including chairman Marcelino Fernandez Verdes (centre). The CIMIC board (formerly Leighton Holdings) including chairman Marcelino Fernandez Verdes (centre). Photo: Dominic Lorrimer

TPG was also approached for comment. 

ACSI has progressively ramped up its stance on women on boards, vowing to take action to reject the re-election of directors who sit on male-only boards.

“There’s a variety of excuses. Boards have said to us that they’re just really happy with their board, they’ve used the argument that they appoint on merit,” Ms Davidson said. 

“It seems odd to me, if you appoint on merit, that you end up with a whole lot of blokes of a similar age and similar background.”

It seems odd to me, if you appoint on merit, that you end up with a whole lot of blokes of a similar age and similar background.

ACSI set targets for getting more women on boards two years ago requiring all ASX 200 companies to have at least 30 per cent women directors by the end of 2017.

It says all-male boards that face a vote against them have failed to show any progress since it started engaging with them on the issue five years ago. 

“It’s taken some time to refine our policy and we’ve got broad support from our members,” Ms Davidson said. 

ACSI will raise the issue at its annual conference in Melbourne on Thursday, along with issues around climate change risk and corporate culture.

ASX 200 companies that have no women directors on boards:

Australian Agricultural Co.

ARB Corporation

CIMIC Group

Evolution Mining

Flight Centre

Galaxy Resources

Investa Office Fund

Mineral Resources

National Storage REIT

Qube Holdings

Resolute Mining

Reliance Worldwide Corporation

TPG Telecom

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