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A woman tops CEO pay ranks for the first time in Australia

Posted by; BBC Migration | Date: December 2, 2019


A woman tops CEO pay ranks for the first time in Australia

Shemara Wikramanayake has created history by being the first female chief executive to bag the title of ‘highest paid CEO’, taking home $18 million during the 2018-19 financial year. Shemara Wikramanayake, chief executive of Macquarie Group, and her family are Sri Lankan descent and immigrated to Australia when Shemara was only 14 years old; with just $200 to their names. In 1987, Shemara started at the investment bank and the Macquarie Group Chief Executive, ascended in higher order to head the Macquarie Group’s asset management in 2008 and then eventually the CEO. It was in July 2018, Wikramanayake was announced as Managing Director and CEO, taking over from Nicholas Moore. Interesting point to be mentioned here is that Shemara Wikramanayake is the first female CEO of the Macquarie Group.

During this time, Shemara has worked in nine cities across six continents and established Macquarie’s corporate advisory offices in New Zealand, Hong Kong and Malaysia.According to the Open Director’s annual CEO pay report, Shemara’s $18 million salary is already $5 million more than the next corporate boss. Shemara Wikramanayake was also named one of Fortune’s ‘Most Powerful Women’ internationally. Wikramanayake, according to Fortune, had very conventionally focused on climate change this year becoming one of handful CEO’s to be named as a commissioner of the World Bank’s Global Commission on Adaption. This initiative aims to accelerate the action to fight climate change; which also includes Bill Gates and UN Secretary – General Ban Ki – moon among its list of commissioners.

It is not just the 57-year-old who has got the success and fame but also her two siblings havefound success since they have arrived the country. Roshana, Shemara’s older sister, is a top lawyer at the NSW Bar Association while her younger brother is employed as a surgeon in rural NSW. Her father, Ranji, a medical graduate, previously told the Australian Financial Review that the family had enjoyed a life of privilege in Sri Lanka, but fell on tough times before they finally settled in Australia. “We lost everything in 1970 and we started life again. And we started everything again when we moved to Sydney”, Ranji told AFR. It is not less than a matter of fact that the Wikramanayake’s come from a long line of highly educated barristers and powerful figures.

Shemara Wikramanayake’s earned basic salary of $722,000 but her remuneration package surged with her performance bonuses and share options. Wikramanayake was one of four women on the list which included Coca – Cola Amatil CEO Alison Watkins, Mirvac Group CEO Susan Lloyd-Hurwit and Fortescue Metals CEO Elizabeth Gaines. Other than Shemara, four other CEO’s have earned over $10 million dollars in the Australian Financial Reviews CEO Pay List. Following Shemara’s more than $18 million pay was Gregory Goodman, CEO of property company Goodman ($12.8 million), biotech company CSL’s CEO Paul Perreault ($11.7 million), Treasury Wine Estate CEO Michael Clarke ($11.4 million) and BHP CEO Andrew Mackenzie ($10.5 million).

It is estimated that she earns more than $346,000 a week – equivalent or more than 211 times an average Australian’s full-time worker’s $85,000 salary leading the investment bank and financial services group, to be dubbed the ‘millionaires’ factory’.