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Specialist in Asia Pacific, Japan, China, India and South East Asia and Global Emerging Market equities.

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Stewart Investors manage investment portfolios on behalf of our clients over the long term and have held shares in some companies for over 20 years. They launched their first investment strategy in 1988.

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Diversity

Diversity

Why is it important to us?

First Sentier Investors believes that representation matters in business and that diversity goes beyond gender, with factors such as race, religion, socioeconomic background, sexuality and disability being of equal importance. A diverse workplace fosters an environment of informed decisions and stakeholder engagement.

We believe gender diversity is a business issue as well as an ethical one. There is a raft of research demonstrating that gender diversity contributes to better business and economic outcomes. 

This includes:

  • An increase in the share of female ‘top-tier’ managers by 10 percentage points or more led to a 6.6 per cent increase in the market value of ASX-listed companies1.
  • Improving gender equality would lead to an increase in EU (GDP) per capita from 6.1% to 9.6%, which amounts to €1.95 to €3.15 trillion2.

What is First Sentier Investors doing?

We are working to improve female representation within the firm, as well as engaging with companies about their number of women in leadership roles. We have particularly focused on how we can contribute to Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 5.5 and ensure women’s full and effective participation in leadership at all levels of decision-making in the companies in which we invest. This report is primarily focused on our investment activities, however we also publish a Gender Diversity Scorecard, which is designed to track progress in our own organisation and highlight areas for improvement as we work towards attracting and retaining more women.

In 2020, First Sentier Investors joined the 40:40 Vision initiative, with CEO Mark Steinberg appointed to the steering group. Convened by super fund HESTA, the initiative is designed to increase the proportion of women in senior leadership across Australia’s largest listed companies to at least 40% by 2030. This is in addition to our membership of the 30% Club, which advocates for boards to have 30% female representation.

Initiatives such as the 30% Club and 40:40 Vision are part of our firm’s commitment to RI and creating positive change through company engagement.

At a portfolio level, many investment teams are taking a proactive approach to monitoring gender diversity, including it in their investment criteria and engaging with companies they believe to be falling short.

For example, gender diversity is one of the quantitative inputs our Australian equities growth team uses in their investment process. To achieve the maximum score for board diversity, female representation on a company’s board must be between 40-70%. As a result, our flagship strategy, the Wholesale Australian Share Strategy, has a skew to companies with diverse boards: 34% of companies in the portfolio have at least 40% female representation, compared to 22% for the strategy's broader investment universe.

 

Improving gender equality would lead to an increase in EU (GDP) per capita from 6.1% to 9.6%, which amounts to €1.95 to €3.15 trillion

We have focused on Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5.5, seeking to ensure women's full and effective participation in leadership at all levels of decision making in the companies in which we invest.

Reporting on progress

Our diversity scorecard shows some movement of our numbers in both directions. At the end of December 2020, women represented 25% of our investment management roles. This was a 3% increase from the previous year. The female compositions of both our Executive Leadership Team and senior professionals have each increased over the last 12 months by 2%.

As part of our ongoing focus to improve diversity and inclusion within our organisation, during 2020 we:

  • Improved our ability to capture and report on different diversity and inclusion metrics through the implementation of a global HR information system.
  • Participated in the CFA Institute Diversity & Inclusion Experiential Partner Program. Over 12 months, we implemented selected ideas from the CFA Institute guide Driving Change: Diversity & Inclusion in Investment Management, with quarterly check-ins with the CFA to talk through what worked, and what participating firms can learn from each other.
  • Participated in a research initiative in collaboration with the City of London Corporation and Bridge Group, to explore the link between socio-economic background and career progression in Financial Services.
  • Had a strong focus on disability and mental health, particularly in the current environment through our communications, an increased focus on flexibility and support tools and the introduction of Wellness Leave.

Pay equity differential is now 1% with the fixed remuneration compa-ratio of males being 1.03 compared to the comparable roles in the market, with our women at 1.02.

25% women in investment management roles as at the end of 2020.

Source: All company information has come from the Company Report unless otherwise stated

Challenges

It’s clear that, despite the progress that has been made, there is still a large opportunity for investors to help drive change on this issue. Collaboration, innovation and cultural change from the top are all needed to make a significant difference.

Moreover, if this is the case for gender diversity, then the challenges for other types of diversity are even greater. While there is reasonably good information available on gender diversity, companies are reluctant to release information on representation around race, religion, sexuality or disability (noting that there are privacy rights involved). We need to see more data and better transparency in future, to understand the scale of the challenge.

The current approach to improving gender equality is not working fast enough. Research shows that with current growth patterns, we cannot expect to see equal representation of women and men at CEO level until 2100, and similar projections apply for executive leadership.3

Future plans

Despite slow progress we are committed to continuing our focus on gender diversity and are confident we are making progress and moving in the right direction. This year we are also working towards building out our own set of more universal diversity measures, engaging with the companies we invest in and measuring and acting on these issues. As investors, we have an important role to play in driving better disclosure on material issues like this and on signalling their importance.

Responsible investment reports

Read our 13th annual Responsible Investment Report

Download full report

Read our recent Navigating investment in a post-COVID world report

Read each chapter online 
Download full report

https://www.wgea.gov.au/newsroom/media-releases/more-women-at-the-top-proves-better-for-business

https://eige.europa.eu/gender-mainstreaming/policy-areas/economic-and-financial-affairs/economic-benefits-gender-equality

https://bcec.edu.au/publications/gender-equity-insights-2019-breaking-through-the-glass-ceiling/