Meet the Aussie woman making $346k a week
Australia's top earning CEO rakes in more than $18 million every single year - the equivalent of over $346,000 a week.
That's according to The Australian Financial Review's annual CEO pay survey, which is prepared by data company OpenDirector taking total pay publicly listed in annual reports.
Macquarie Group boss Shemara Wikramanayake topped the coveted list for 2019 - becoming the first woman in history to do so.
Her salary eclipses that of second placer Gregory Goodman, the founder of property group Goodman, who took home a relatively paltry $12.8 million.
Paul Perreault from CSL was third with $11.71 million, followed by Treasury Wine Estate's Michael Clarke on $11.38 million and WorleyParsons' Andrew Wood on $10.54 million.
There were only four women in total on the list of 50 executives, with Ms Wikramanayake joining fellow female bosses including Coca-Cola Amatil's Alison Watkins, who made $4.1 million, Mirvac Group's Susan Lloyd-Hurwitz on $4.8 million and Fortescue Metals' Elizabeth Gaines on $5 million.
WHO IS SHEMARA WIKRAMANAYAKE?
The 58-year-old was born in England to wealthy Sri Lankan parents, but the family eventually moved to Australia when Ms Wikramanayake was in her teens.
She originally attended Sydney's prestigious Ascham School and went on to study commerce and law at the University of New South Wales.
She worked as a corporate lawyer for Blake Dawson Waldron before joining Macquarie - dubbed the "millionaires' factory" - in 1987.
In July 2018 she took over as managing director and CEO of Macquarie Group from Nicholas Moore, becoming the investment bank's first female CEO.
Earlier this year, she was also named as one of Fortune's Most Powerful Women in a round up of global female business leaders.
"This year, the Australian executive turned her eye to climate change, becoming one of only three global CEOs to be named a commissioner of the World Bank's Global Commission on Adaptation," Fortune writes.
"Leveraging Macquarie's roughly $82 billion infrastructure funds, Wikramanayake is pushing for more investment in environmentally-friendly and resilient development.
"To boot, the CEO spearheaded the move to raise an additional $680 million for investment in renewables and technology, which was completed in August."
According to an in-depth investigation into the Wikramanayake family by the Australian Financial Review in late 2018, while Ms Wikramanayake was born into privilege, her family saw a stunning reverse of fortunes in her youth before managing to rise again.
Her father was a respected doctor and her grandfather a leading lawyer, but according to the publication, the family lost everything when they were forced to flee to London after Ms Wikramanayake's grandfather was almost arrested for an alleged breach of money control laws.
The publication claims the family faced racism in London before moving to Australia "with $200 cash" and eventually rebuilding their careers and fortunes.
However, the family have always remained tight-lipped about their story, with Ms Wikramanayake's father Ranji telling the Australian Financial Review "we are very private people".
CEO PAY BACKLASH
Ms Wikramanayake historic rise to the top of the list was praised by many as a positive step towards equal pay and a sign the glass ceiling might finally be smashed, with many woman's groups in particular taking to social media to applaud the news.
Is the glass ceiling broken?— Dimity Cocker (@CockerDimity) November 18, 2019
The highest-paid CEO in Australia is a woman for the first time ever, as Macquarie Group CEO Shemara Wikramanayake surges to the top #congratulations
However, it also comes at a time when CEO pay is increasingly being scrutinised - and criticised - in Australia, with some Twitter users describing her fat salary as "shameful".
Last year, it was revealed Australia's highest-paid chief executive - Domino's Pizza's Don Meij - earned almost 435 times the average full-time worker's wage at $36.84 million, according to an Australian Council of Superannuation Investors (ACSI) analysis.
The revelation sparked immediate backlash, with Labor MP Ed Husic, former Labor treasurer Wayne Swan and even former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull weighing in.
Last year, Telstra also copped a huge shareholder revolt over its CEO's $4.5 million pay package, and in October, fed-up Aussies around the country took to the streets to protest against outrageous CEO salaries.