The picture that says everything about the top paid CEOs in Australia

The picture that tells you everything about the best paid CEOs in Australia

The Australian Council of Superannuation Investors’ annual survey of CEO pay reveals the 10 highest paid CEOs in the ASX200 and a single picture, published by Fairfax Media, says it all.

Ten CEOs of listed companies took home total pay packets between $11.1million and $26.3million in 2016 and ten of them were men. The image is jarring but there is something worse.

“I asked my team to do a piece in this research about how the women stack up against the men to see if there is a gender pay gap,” ACSI CEO Louise Davidson tells Women’s Agenda. “But the number of women CEOs was so small that there wasn’t enough data to be statistically meaningful.”

The fact there aren’t enough women in the pack to be counted is rather revealing about the gap between men and women running big business.

In FY2016 there were nine female CEOs in the top 200 companies: five in the ASX100 and four in the ASX 101-200. Of them the pay realised ranged from a little under $600K a year for Sue Channon, to $5.6 million a year for Laura McBain.

The highest paid female CEO, McBain, took home almost exactly half the pay that the 10th best paid CEO, Mark McInnes, earned.

Company NameFirst nameLast nameRealised pay
Bellamy’s Australia LimitedLauraMcBain 5,806,716
Coca-Cola Amatil LimitedAlisonWatkins 3,808,368
Mirvac GroupSusanLloyd-Hurwitz 3,565,517
Sydney AirportKerrieMather 2,844,510
Blackmores LimitedChristineHolgate 1,958,946
Genworth Mortgage Insurance Australia LimitedGeorgetteNicholas 1,902,757
REA Group LtdTraceyFellows 1,460,384
Ardent Leisure GroupDeborahThomas 710,000
Virtus Health LimitedSueChannon 572,144

Source: ACSI

Three of these women, Laura McBain, Kerrie Mather and Deborah Thomas have subsequently vacated their CEO position or marked their intention to do so.

Davidson says the underrepresentation of women in the CEOs ranks is extremely disappointing and needs to shift.

“ACSI has been running a strong campaign to get more women on boards for several years and we have now started advising members to vote against incumbent directors when there aren’t any women on the boards,” she says.

This accords with the Financial Review’s report on Thursday that HESTA, a $40 billion super fund, will vote against companies without women on their boards.

HESTA’s CEO Debby Blakey told the newspaper that gender diversity is too important to overlook, which is why they had already voted against the all-male board at Australian Agriculture Company, and have Flight Centre and TPG Telecom in it sights.

Davidson’s hope, in actively promoting gender diversity as critical to commercial performance, is that by getting more women on boards, more women will be supported and promoted into the leadership ranks.

“Anecdotally this seems to be true of what happen once women reach a critical mass on a board but there isn’t any empirical evidence of that here yet.”

The annual survey showed the median realised pay for ASX100 CEOs was $3.78million in 2016, which was slightly less than it was in 2015 and 20114.

Worryingly, however, 86% of ASX100 CEOs received a bonus and where bonuses were paid, the median payout was 69% of maximum.

“The prevalence of CEO bonuses at consistently high levels raises serious questions about the way performance hurdles are being designed and applied. The fact that only 18 CEOs received bonuses below 50% of maximum indicates that they bear little relation to performance in many companies,” Davidson says. “We welcome recent examples of the use of board discretion to reduce bonuses. However, we can’t help wondering why these executives would have qualified for any payments in the first place.”

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