Women and minorities increasingly attain CFO position

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More women and minorities are becoming CFOs at Fortune 500 companies, according to new research.

The annual CFO Index, from the executive recruiting and leadership development firm Spencer Stuart, found that in 2016, slightly less than 13 percent (61) of Fortune 500 CFOs were women, a slight reduction from 2015. But that figure was nearly double the 6.8 percent of CFO ranks in 2006. In terms of the figures for minorities, 6.4 percent (31) were ethnically diverse, or nearly double the amount in 2006.

“While there is still plenty of work to do, women and minorities are making steady progress in reaching senior finance roles,” said Karen Quint, a consultant with Spencer Stuart’s Financial Officer Practice, in a statement. “Looking ahead, we expect these numbers only to increase.”

Women have made the biggest gains in certain industries: consumer goods and services, and technology, media and telecommunications. The sectors in which ethnically diverse CFOs have made the most progress are life sciences and technology, media and telecommunications.

Spencer Stuart also found the average tenure of all CFOs has remained flat over the years and was 5.7 years in 2016. The average CFO turnover rate was 14 percent. The main route to the CFO position is through controllership and divisional finance. The research found 69 percent of CFOs were promoted from within the organization. Overall, 25 percent of the Fortune 500 CFOs had previous public company CFO experience, while 14 percent came from different industries.

A total of 47 percent of CFOs in the Fortune 500 have MBAs, while 36 percent are CPAs. In addition, 28 percent sit on boards, only 9 percent of those boards are Fortune 500 companies.

Separately, Grant Thornton recently released its own research on women business leaders in conjunction with International Women’s Day last week. Grant Thornton surveyed more than 5,500 CEOs, MDs, chairmen and other senior executives in 36 economies around the world. It found that while the pace of advancement of women to senior management roles is still relatively slow (23 percent in the U.S., up from only 20 percent in 2004), the survey indicated the second-most common role held by women in senior management is CFO. In the U.S., 27 percent of human resources directors were women, while 16 percent of CFOs are women, up from 11 percent last year. Globally, 23 percent of human resources directors are women, while 19 percent of CFOs are women, slightly down from 21 percent last year.

“The lack of significant progress to increase the number of women in senior executive roles in recent years is concerning,” said Grant Thornton chief people and culture officer Pamela Harless in a statement. “There’s no shortage of data on the rational business case for increasing women’s representation, but leaders are far more effective when they advance the conversation from a place of real passion and by holding themselves accountable for creating an inclusive and diverse environment.”

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