HESTA:
A diversity statement from our CIO

 
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— Sonya Sawtell-Rickson
CIO, HESTA

We operate in a complex financial system, where policy, economics and markets are changing 24 hours a day around the world.  The only constant is change – which requires us to have talent that is agile, responsive and analytical while at the same time able to step back to assess long term changes. 

It is therefore even more critical in our industry to have an environment that encourages and supports diversity to facilitate and contribute to quality debate on market developments, to challenge the status-quo, and capture the benefit of having investment professionals from diverse disciplines and global perspectives.  

We consider diversity to be much broader than gender. However, given the significant representation of women in our society and the strong research conclusions supporting the benefits of gender diversity on the quality of decision-making, we’ve decided to make gender diversity our initial focus area. This is particularly relevant for investment management, where there is low a representation of women in decision-making or influencing roles.

More than 80% of HESTA’s 850,000 members are women. We believe, through our broad-based advocacy, we can also help improve the future career opportunities and experience for our members.  This may help to address the pervasive gender pay gaps that are still evident, which in turn should help our members achieve a better financial future. 

This involves devoting time to understanding and encouraging diversity in the companies we invest in. HESTA is a strong advocate for more female representation on Boards and in senior leadership roles, which have been traditionally male-dominated. We are a member of the 30% Club, an investor collaboration striving to achieve 30% representation of women on Boards globally. HESTA CEO, Debby Blakey, wrote to the largest 200 companies in Australia encouraging more board diversity and recommending they set targets to increase the number of women in senior leadership roles, and report annually against these.

We believe that diversity adds value to investment decision-making (as supported by research) and that our investment partners should harness the power of diversity in their investment processes.  

This is why we have started a conversation with our investment managers about the diversity of their teams, and the strategies they are undertaking to improve diversity.  

Closer to home, HESTA pursues a number of policies and practices to support women.  For the past two years, HESTA has been recognised as an Employer of Choice for Gender Equality by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA).  Diversity and equal opportunity benefits for HESTA employees include up to 12 months parental leave for men and women, 14 weeks of which are paid.

We are a founding partner of ‘Future IM/Pact’ because we believe part of solving the gender imbalance in finance requires us to convince women that this is an industry aligned with their skills and values; an industry within which they will grow, enjoy and find great satisfaction.  

To change the gender imbalance is going to take courage, grit and determination – and HESTA is standing ready to help drive this change for the betterment of our members’ investment outcomes and the society into which our members live in and will retire into.