Ann Gugino’s appointment Monday as chief financial officer at pizza giant Papa John’s International Inc. adds to the record number of women now holding the top finance jobs at large U.S. companies. Gugino, who was hired from Target Corp., follows appointments of female CFOs in the past few months at Harley-Davidson Inc., Smith & Wesson Brands Inc. andWW International Inc., among others. If history is any guide, the promotion to CFO gets women into the C-suite, but it doesn’t often lead to promotion to chief executive officer.
“We’re sitting at an all time high now,” said Tom Kolder, president of executive recruiter Crist Kolder Associates, which counted 90 women in the CFO role at S&P 500 and Fortune 500 companies as of Aug. 1. That’s already more than in any other entire year.
A sustained focus on gender parity by investors such as BlackRock Inc. and Vanguard Group Inc. is partly responsible for the gains. Women held more than a quarter of the board seats at S&P 500 companies for the first time last year. State Street Global Advisors said Monday that 789 companies appointed their first female director during the past three years. There now are 32 women leading S&P 500 companies, according to Catalyst.
Still, only about 6% to 7% of sitting CEOs came directly from the CFO role during the past eight years, the Crist Kolder data show, meaning the finance job isn’t on the traditional path that leads to running a company, said Kolder, whose firm focuses on hiring executives for top finance jobs. Women are winning the CFO job as the competition for finance executives forces companies to search for talent deeper in the corporate hierarchy, where more women are present, he said. The final 2020 numbers for women CFOs will be released in January.
CFOs are increasingly likely to also hold operational responsibilities, as more companies eliminate chief operating officers and assign those duties to CFOs. While this will benefit women on balance, it’s not all positive, said Beau Lambert, who specializes in finance executive hiring at recruiter Korn Ferry. That’s because companies have fewer women in operational roles, so this creates another obstacle to getting a job in the C-suite. Even so, the growing numbers will still help women, he said.
“There’s no question there is an uptick in the appointment of women CFOs,” Lambert said in an interview. And more often than in the past “there’s a through-line from the CFO role to the CEO role.”
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