A powerful lobby is preparing a voting campaign against all-male ASX200 boards in Australia

Cesar Manso/AFP/Getty Images

A powerful superannuation fund lobby will use its power to vote against all-male boards of ASX200 companies not making an effort to appoint women directors.

The Australian Council of Superannuation Investors (ACSI) says companies which haven’t taken steps to address a lack of female directors will face votes against sitting directors in 2017.

The council last year adopted a target for women to make up 30% of all ASX200 boards by the end of 2017.

That policy is now backed with a formal voting strategy for company annual general meetings.

There are 17 ASX 200 companies with no women on their boards. Another 63 have just one female director. However, 57 companies have reached, or exceeded, the target and another 52 are between 25% and 29%.

Council CEO Louise Davidson has written to the chairs of those companies, informing them there is now a formal voting policy for company meetings.

The letter says: “(If) 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% target, it will begin recommending that its members oppose the re-election of existing directors.”

The ACSI currently has 29 Australian superannuation fund members collectively managing $480 billion in assets on behalf of 8 million Australian fund members and retirees.

“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.

More than half the companies in the ASX200 now have boards with at least 25% women. The top 50 companies are a fraction of a percent away from hitting the 30% target.

“It’s pleasing to finally see that in 2016, more than 40% of all ASX 200 board appointments have been women – a record rate,” says Davidson.

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