The "old boys network" that makes up the committees which set executive pay must end, a think tank says.
The High Pay Centre said research has discovered about half of the committees which set salaries and bonus structures for top bosses were made up of former executives.
It said research of FTSE 100 firms found of 366 people who sit on top firm's remuneration committees only 10% were not from the business community and only 16% were women, the Press Association reports.
HPC spokeswoman Deborah Hargreaves said: "In the UK we have a system designed and run by people with an apparent vested interest. They fall victim to ‘group think', setting ever higher packages based on what they know is paid in the other top companies creating a ratcheting effect on top pay.
"We know that top pay is completely out of step with public opinion. The committee which sets this top pay is, in effect, a closed shop."
She added remuneration committees must be opened up to broader membership to restore "some common sense" decision making on top pay.
View from the front row
Project Libra unveiled
Including SJP and investment trusts
Spent two years at Sanlam
Will also assess FCA's actions