I asked myself this question last week in preparing my blog 5 Most Popular Names for CFOs.
The overwhelming majority of CFOs are male. The sample that I used, with over 1,100 names of CFOs hired and promoted over a ten month period, is significant enough to be considered a close representative of the reality that exists in the CFO World in the United States. (You can follow our weekly edition of CFO Moves by signing up on the CFO Moves Blog page).
In essence, this male domination cuts across most senior executive positions and board roles. CFO roles are not alone in this matter. I’m certain that many of the reasons CEOs and other senior executive roles that are mostly male apply to CFOs as well.
When I look back to my undergraduate years, my classes were well balanced between males and females. Perhaps there were even more women than men at the time.
So what happens between graduation and career success?
Some would say that ‘life’ gets in the way. Some would say that it is more difficult for a woman to have a career and a family than men. Some would say that the “Boys Network” makes it difficult for women to be successful at an executive level. Some would say that women are more interested in work/life balance than men.
I don’t know if these are good reasons to explain the difference or not.
I do know that when I’m looking for a CFO candidate (or any executive candidate) for my client’s search, I’m looking for the best people. Best experience. Best ability. Best skills. Best fit. Period.
I was recently looking at a company’s Management web page. I didn’t know the people or the company well, but at first glance, it was hard to tell the difference in the photographs between the executives. They looked ‘cookie cutter’. I don’t know much about the company, but I got the impression that they were not a diverse crowd. I thought that not only did they look the same, they probably thought the same and may even have had similar backgrounds and experiences.
What is Diversity, and is it Profitable?
A company that is diverse in background and experiences can allow it to be successful. You can read more about how Diversity is Profitable, written by my colleague Robin Adams from Stanton Chase International in Hong Kong.
Diversity at the executive level includes people from different backgrounds and cultures. It also includes having more women.
I always recommend that clients hire the best person for the role they are looking to hire. I also always recommend that clients consider diversity in their search to get the best out of their executive team.
My clients should be hiring the best person for the CFO chair (or any executive position). Sex, color, ethnicity, religion and orientation should never be reasons not to hire the best person.
What do you think?
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Skip Newman says
The current issue of the Atlantic has an interesting story by Anne-Marie Slaughter on the topic of women having it all. The pressures and the sacrifices that women are forced to make to have careers at the highest levels of their organizations.
In addition, there is some limited research on the topic of whether women make better CFO’s vs. men.
The answer is: Yes, to a certain extent, women do make better CFO’s.
Samuel Dergel says
I think this is an important conversation to have. Thanks Skip for your insights and comments.
Lynne Taylor says
The Atlantic article is a great read. Thanks for sharing the link. I also loved the “cookie cutter” paragraph in Samuel’s blog. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked at the “team” page on a company website – as a potential candidate, and NOT as a recruiter – and scrolled through pictures and bios looking for the sole woman or (much less frequently) person of color on the Executive or Management team. If the “team” is too homogeneous I simply don’t bother applying and wouldn’t recommend the company or its products to others. It’s totally biased I know, but there’s just something innately untrustworthy about that in my mind. I suspect I’m not the only one that feels this way . . .
Robin Adams says
It’s interesting to note that the article in CFO magazine discussing the study about women being better CFOs spend most of their time qualifying the research and looking at why the research may not be accurate! I wonder if the fact it was written by a man had anything to do with the slant…..
Samuel Dergel says
Interesting perspective, but it’s hard to say…
Thanks for your work in this area and contributing “Diversity is Profitable”
I can say that as an educated, ambitious woman it is discouraging to look at the Executive and Senior Leadership Team in my company and see all men. Whether it is intended or not, it sends a message to the women who aspire to those positions that we are not wanted because we don’t look like them and may not necessarily think like them. I would challenge that is a good thing though – they should want that diversity as it reflects the make up of the company and the customer base. Companies who want to retain bright, successful women should keep this in mind. If we don’t think we can get ahead then we will leave and go somewhere we can.