Australia’s highest-paid CEO is a woman for the first time ever – and she’s making some SERIOUS cash – but still short of Alan Joyce’s mouthwatering $24million


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  • Macquarie Group chief Shemara Wikramanayake was named highest paid CEO
  • Ms Wikramanayake became the first woman in Australia to take out the title
  • She made history by being named the first female CEO for the business

A woman has been named the highest paid CEO in Australia for the first time in history.

Macquarie Group chief executive Shemara Wikramanayake earned $18million during the 2018/19 financial year – $5million more than the next corporate boss.

The 57-year-old daughter of Sri Lankan migrants was one of just four women to make the top 50 in OpenDirector’s annual CEO pay report for the Australian Financial Review.

The former corporate lawyer earned a base salary of $722,000 but her remuneration package swelled with performance bonuses and share options.

She earns more than $346,000 a week or more than 211 times an average Australian full-time worker’s $85,000 salary leading the investment bank and financial services group, dubbed the ‘millionaires’ factory’.

The English-born banking veteran last year became Macquarie Group’s first-ever female managing director.

She had previously worked for the company in nine cities across the globe, and was first hired in 1987.

In 2019 she was also named one of Fortune’s ‘Most Powerful Women’ for her work on climate change and role with the World Bank’s Global Commission on Adaptation.

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce fell to 18th spot on the list this year with earnings of $6.6million, when his base salary was added to his short and long-term incentives.

He was ranked the highest paid CEO 2017/18 when the true value of share options were included, taking his earning to $23,876,351, according to a separate report by the Australian Council of Superannuation Investors.

He was marginally ahead of Ms Wikramanayake’s predecessor Nicholas Moore, who earned $23,855,580 under that same criteria.

Other women to make the top 50 list included Coca-Cola Amatil CEO Alison Watkins, who earned $4.1million, Mirvac Group’s Susan Lloyd-Hurwitz on $4.8million and Fortescue Metals boss Elizabeth Gaines on $5million.

Only five CEOs in Australia earned over $10million in the salary rankings.

Gregory Goodman, CEO of property company Goodman came in second with a total pay packet of $12.8million.

Third place went to biotech company CSL’s CEO Paul Perreault with $11.7million, while fourth was Treasury Wine Estate CEO Michael Clarke, with $11.4 million.

Rounding out the five highest paid CEO’s list was BHP’s Andrew Mackenzie with $10.5 million.

Australia’s highest paid women in the public service

The below figures are base salaries, not including short term incentives and bonuses throughout the year.

  • Christine Holgate, Australia Post chief executive: $2.6million
  • Frances Adamson, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade secretary: $864,580
  • Rosemary Huxtable, Department of Finance secretary: $820,240
  • Glenys Beauchamp, Department of Health secretary: $820,240
  • Heather Smith, Department of Industry, Innovation and Science secretary: $775,910
  • Kathryn Campbell, Department of Social Services secretary: $775,910
  • Renee Leon, Department of Human Services secretary: $775,910
  • Michele Bruniges, Department of Education secretary: $775,910
  • Kerri Hartland, Department of Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business secretary: $748,210
  • Elizabeth Cosson, Department of Veterans Affairs secretary: $720,480

Sources: Salaries as outlined by the Remuneration Tribunal and in annual reports


The Indian Telegraph
Established in 2007, The Indian Telegraph is a multi award winning digital media company based in Australia.

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