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Women CFOs Holding Steady

In a year of slow CFO turnover, the number of female CFOs at large companies stayed the same, with a few new faces.
Alix StuartJuly 13, 2010

A recent count of women holding CFO positions at the nation’s largest companies shows that — drumroll, please — almost nothing has changed since last year. There are currently 44 female CFOs among the Fortune 500 companies, the same number as counted in 2009 but a slight improvement over the 38 counted in 2008 (see chart below).

What’s different this year? Nine women are gone, either because they left their company or because their company left the list. That’s not all bad news, of course. Margaret Dorman, CFO of Smith International for 10 years, retired at the end of 2009. Irene Esteves, formerly finance chief of Regions Financial, left to take the same position at XL Capital Group, which didn’t make Fortune‘s cut this year.

Others moved on to other titles. Holly Koeppel left American Electric Power to become co-head of Citi’s infrastructure investment group, while Lizabeth Zlatkus, once CFO of The Hartford Financial Services Group, is now chief risk officer for the insurer.

At the same time, nine new women joined the list, as a result of their recent appointment or their company’s growth in the past year. Morgan Stanley, for example, appointed company veteran Ruth Porat as CFO in a management reshuffle earlier this year. Among those at other large companies, Annmarie Hagan became CFO at insurance giant Cigna and Lynn Good took the top finance spot at Duke Energy.

Contrary to the notion that there are proportionally more women CFOs among smaller companies, the percentage of female finance chiefs in the Fortune 500 — 8.8% — is almost exactly the same as in the CFO Midcap 1500, a separate index of midsize public companies with revenues from $100 million to $1 billion. (For more on women in finance, see “The Perils of Flextime” in the upcoming July/August issue of CFO magazine.)

What are the prospects for women breaking the 10% barrier? At least some are hopeful the numbers will climb in coming years, albeit not dramatically. “Anecdotally, I am seeing a next generation of female finance leaders who can and want to rise to the CFO role,” says Lorraine Hack, executive recruiter with Heidrick and Struggles. She adds, “I have seen a lot of companies becoming more cognizant of diversity, or the lack thereof, and making a conscious effort to recruit, retain, and grow such talent.”

Women CFOs