leadership

Macquarie boss Shemara Wikramanayake named fifth most powerful woman in the world

Angela Priestley /

Macquarie Shemara Wikramanayake

Macquarie Group's incoming chief executive Shemara Wikramanayake. Source: AAP Image/Dean Lewins

She hasn’t yet started in the top job, but Shemara Wikramanayake is already getting plenty of global attention.

The first female chief executive designate of Macquarie Group has just taken out the fifth spot on the international version of Fortune’s Most Powerful Women list.

Fortune notes that since joining Macquarie in 1987, Wikramanayake has moved from roles in corporate services to heading its prudential function. She has also established infrastructure funds in North America, led the asset management branch, and chaired the group’s philanthropy foundation.

Wikramanayake was appointed chief executive in July 2018. She starts in the role later this year.

“From her new, high-profile platform as CEO of the world’s largest infrastructure asset manager, she says she wants to bring more women into finance and convince girls that it is a compelling career,” writes Fortune.

Fortescue Metals Group chief executive Elizabeth Gaines is the second Australian to appear on the list, in the 35th spot. Gaines was appointed chief executive in November 2017, following a profit dive and fall in decline for iron ore from China. She was previously chief financial officer with Fortescue.

There were no Australians on the list of 50 in 2017.

Number one on the Most Powerful Women list is Emma Walmsley, the chief executive of British pharma firm GlaxoSmithKline, for her ability to bring change to the 300-year-old company in the 17 months she has been there.

In the second spot is Ana Botin from Spain, the executive chair of Banco Santander, the Eurozone’s largest bank according to market capitalisation.

Third on the list is Isabelle Kocher, the chief executive of French energy company Engie, where she’s delivered on a massive plan to reduce reliance on fossil fuels.

And number four is Dong Mingzhu, who has worked herself up from being an air conditioner saleswoman, following the death of her husband at age 30, to now being chairwoman and president of Gree Electric Appliances.

Rounding out the top 10 is: Chua Sock Koong, group chief executive of Singapore Telecommunications; Alison Cooper, chief executive of Imperial Brands; Ho Ching, chief executive of Temasek; Wan Ling Martello, chief executive of Nestle for Asia, Oceania and Sub-Saharan Africa; and Isabel Ge Mahe, managing director of Apple for Greater China.

Read more on Shemara Wikramanayake here.

This article was first published by Women’s Agenda.

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Angela Priestley

Angela Priestley is the publisher and founding editor of Women's Agenda. She's an author, journalist and passionate advocate for workplace gender equality and diversity. Her first book is Women Who Seize the Moment.

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