Saturday, June 25, 2011

Women CFOs in Corporate America

As a woman who has served as a CFO for several small to medium companies, I found the article on women CFOs of interest. (

According to the article, Women CFOs: Still at 9%, "When it comes to women in CFO roles at Fortune 500 companies, the faces may change, but the overall number stays essentially constant. As of June 1, there were 45 female finance chiefs in the Fortune 500. That's just one more than in 2010 and 2009, for a percentage of 9%.

Ten women dropped off the list since last year and 11 joined the ranking, either because they were promoted or hired or because their companies made the Fortune 500 this year. Two companies, SuperValu and TIAA-CREF, replaced their departing female CFOs with other women.

Of the 11 women who joined the list, some were internal hires. Others came from outside.

Although women make up 56% of undergraduate accounting majors and almost 62% of accountants and auditors, they rarely make it to high-level finance roles like treasurer, controller, or CFO."

My question: How long have women comprised the majority of undergrad accounting majors and accountants / auditors? It typically takes 15-20 years to crack the ranks of upper level accounting and finance positions in corporate America so of course there will be a lag if, for instance, women have been dominating in those areas for only 10 years. And what about finance majors? The article didn't mention that statistic. How many are women? Some controllers become CFOs but often CFOs in corporate America come from finance-related operating positions. CFOs drive bottom line results. A Controller tracks what has happened in the past and so can be viewed as a staff position not responsible for driving bottom line results. I'm just curious. Women often dominate in staff positions (i.e., look at all the women in HR) but rarely dominate in operating positions. My advice to women who are in accounting and want to be CFO? Pursue a controller position at a small to medium business. SMBs tend to be more focused on taxes and tracking performance and are thus more likely to promote an accounting-focused controller into a CFO position. Then get as versed as you can in strategy and operations.


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