Why it matters that Super Fund Managers have Gender Balance

I was listening to the National Press Club discussion about Superannuation today with a panel including John Brogden, former politician and now Chief Exec of the Financial Services Council. Brogden is expected to head up AICD in early 2015 and he said that “looking forward twenty years, when the head of AMP for example has $200 million of super funds to invest, he and others like him, will be listened to”. They will be listened to by the investment market, by ‘mums and dads’ and no doubt by government. With the $ value of managed funds expected to grow, what those companies invest in, or want to invest your super funds in will make a difference. Not just to your super nest egg, but to your life and the lives of your family. These ‘super’ funds will become even greater influencers to government policy, and the market economy than they are now.

If that is not scary enough, now think about who might be the key influencer in that company? No doubt the CEO or Chair of the Board. What is the gender, cultural and age diversity mix of the board and what sort of company culture have they developed? Do they have an interest in sustainability, do they have an interest in gender equity and equality, are they an inclusive company? Or, like many current organisations, the decision makers remain majority male. Yes sure, they may have a great understanding of the benefit of diversity, they may even be pro women, but if board gender diversity numbers of women continue to decline, we could be in for some startling outcomes over the next twenty years as raised by Brogden.

In twenty years our reliance on superannuation to fund our retirement will increase significantly and with larger and larger amounts of the elderly and pre retirement (50-65 year olds) already struggling, the impact could be dire. How will the current lack of women in senior leadership and boards play out in this scenario twenty years into the future?

Are you scared? You should be. Unless we can see more diversity in our top companies, and quickly, then we have the potential to have decisions made that benefit the few with the exclusion of the many. This is why it is vitally important that we encourage our girls and young women to invest now, to understand the investment cycle and plan for their future. Don’t leave the influencing decisions to others.

With rumblings in the Australia Super Industry and government about different ways to structure super and how and what super funds might invest in, it is important that we understand what is going on and what the ramifications might be for the future. For example, some of the rumblings mentioned in todays Press Club Event by Chief Executive of Industry Super Australia, David Whiteley were; investing 5% of super in public infrastructure, or not making super contributions compulsory for low income earners because well, “they will always be on benefits anyway”. Note this is not necessarily Whiteley’s view, he was merely demonstrating the potential issues when large amounts of money are involved and then mixed with value judgements, bias and in some cases downright discrimination or stupidity.

The potential to degrade the lives of others by limiting diverse opinions on some of these boards could be real. The resultant economic impact could be gendered if we don’t do something about the gender pay gap and gap in superannuation savings between men and women now. Think about where the money and influencers are? They are normally heads of state, CEOs or owners of large corporations, the banking and finance industry, or leaders in industry segments all trying to do the best for their shareholders. With the increasing amount of money accumulating in superannuation, we are seeing another major influencer being created.

Thinking forward and looking under the surface of what is happening and pointing out the gendered implications is what Gender Economics is all about. Contact us at The Centre for Gender Economics and Innovation for more information about innovative board strategy, research on economic decision making, and creating a diverse high performance culture.