The cover story of this month's CFO magazine is What Women Want, and exploration of life-work balance, opportunities, and flexibility. The article balances quotes from leading women in finance with data from a survey of 363 finance professionals (men and women).
Fewer than 10 percent of CFOs in either the Fortune 500 or the Fortune
1,000 are women. Drop down a notch to controller, treasurer, and tax
director, and the numbers increase to about 20 percent of the Fortune 500. From the glass-is-half-full perspective, the 35 female CFOs in the Fortune 500 represent a 350 percent gain from 1995, the first year CFO magazine conducted the survey, when only 10 women held the title.
On the other hand, women have been pouring into the finance pipeline
for decades. For more than 20 years they have outnumbered men in
undergraduate and graduate accounting programs, and comprise the
majority of new hires by public accounting firms. For the past decade,
they have earned 30 to 40 percent of all MBAs. From that perspective,
the drop-off at the top is dramatic.
Whether these statistics prove the existence of a glass ceiling
depends on who you ask. Eighty-three percent of men think it doesn't,
according to CFO's recent survey of finance executives. Only 44
percent of women agree. Virtually no one thinks women lack the skills
or talent for the CFO job. But as Marianne Parrs, CFO of International
Paper, puts it, "There's something going on out there for sure; it's
just not at all clear to me what it is." It's not clear to us either,
but based on both the survey and anecdotal evidence, it seems that
women either choose better balance over a full-on grab for the brass
ring — or have that choice very subtly made for them.
What Women Want
Alix Nyberg Stuart
June 01, 2006