Women are increasingly being hired for CFO roles this year, says an executive search firm president
Over the past year, I’ve had the opportunity to speak with dynamic women in the CFO role. I always ask them if they have advice for other women seeking to reach the C-suite.
“Seek mentors in your industry that are proven leaders who can help you to further your skill set on all fronts,” is part of the advice Christiana Spade, AMC Networks’ CFO and COO who will become CEO next month, recently told me.
I also ask their opinion about diversity in financial leadership roles. “We need more pipelines in finance,” Tracey T. Travis, EVP and CFO at The Estée Lauder Companies once told me. “It’s a great career for women, in general. So, we need more women and certainly more women of color.”
Last year, 15% of CFOs at Fortune 500 and S&P 500 companies were women, an all-time high, according to a report released in January by executive search firm Crist Kolder Associates. Considering how low that percentage is, it indicates we still have a long way to go.
So, now that we’re in the second half of 2022, is there continued progress in appointing women to CFO roles? Shawn Cole, president of Cowen Partners Executive Search, based in Vancouver, Wash., has some insight.
Using publicly available data, Cole says the firm has tracked more than 250 CFO appointments as of July 22 at Fortune 500 and S&P 500 companies, and other companies known to the general public, he says. The analysis includes company finance chiefs, as well as divisional and global CFO positions.
Most CFO hires in 2022 have been white males, but about a third of first-time CFOs and those promoted, have been women, he says of the company’s calculations. And of that total, he also says, 19% have been women of color. The report includes a list of the companies Cowen tracked with new CFOs so far this year, such as Walmart, Pfizer, crypto exchange Binance.US, and tech company Klaviyo.
“I believe the reason we are seeing more female CFOs now is that for years companies have invested in hiring women at levels that allow for leadership development,” Cole tells me. “Now, there is a bench of qualified candidates. We now see more female VPs we and others can pull from. Additionally, internal promotions are a risk on an untested, unproven executive, but companies are taking that risk and they are taking it increasingly on women and people of color – because they have a bench to draw from.” One of the report findings is that women of color were more likely to have earned their first-time CFO positions as a result of internal promotions, Cole says.
He also says the focus on women of color in financial leadership positions is fairly new.