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Female Executives Gaining More Power, Finally

Female executives are more prevalent among many corporations.

Assumptions about gender inequality in the workplace are proving false, at least according to two recent studies.

According to Bloomberg, the number of women in CFO positions leaped 35 percent last year, proving not only that these individuals are highly qualified for the positions they take, but also that more people are willing to give them a chance to do the job. The research showed as of January 2013, there were 54 female CFOs among S&P 500 companies, up significantly from the 40 seen the prior year.

While this means women hold the lead finance spot at just over 10 percent of the top 500 companies, the uptick does show progress. And it comes at an opportune time for those women executives who are new to their role: They are assuming the CFO position just as it becomes even more critical to a company's success. Having grown accustomed to various regulations stemming from last decade's corporate scandals and the financial crisis, finance chiefs have been able to branch out away from a narrow focus on financial data to being able to use such information to make major changes in their company's overall strategy. More than any other time, their voices and opinions are being heard and taken seriously in the executive suite and the boardroom. 

This trend of female empowerment in the CFO role doesn't just exist within corporate America. CFO Insight profiled some of the most influential female executives and found women are assuming important positions within companies across the globe. Maria das Graças Silva Foster took on the position of CEO at major energy corporation Petrobas in Brazil, while Jennifer Li has played a critical role as CFO at Baidu, China's largest search engine.

Does the Pay Gap Still Exist?
There's currently much discussion about women in the workplace and how females can "have it all," especially given the recent release of "Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead," by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. Her book explores gender issues within the workplace and how she feels women can overcome obstacles to secure the top spots at their companies.

Playing into this conversation is the hot topic of the gender pay gap, especially as more women move into the top executive positions at their companies and thus expect a larger salary that is on par with what their male counterparts are making. But are women truly making substantially less than men in these roles? Research suggests compensation among the sexes is in fact relatively equal.

A survey from PayScale showed the median annual cash compensation for male CFOs was $138,000 and only $94,400 for females. This 45 percent difference seemed vast, until representatives from the company analyzed the research and determined this significant pay gap was mostly illusionary. PayScale found the average female CFO surveyed worked at a smaller company than the average male, which would account for much of the difference in compensation. When wages were controlled for this variable, the difference in pay was much smaller and women made a median wage of $121,100 - only 14 percent less than their male counterparts.

The same trend was evident among controllers. When researchers examined the raw data, men brought in a median compensation of $84,200, while women made a 19 percent lower median salary of $70,800. Once the controls were put in place, the difference plummeted to 9 percent.

While it's commonly assumed women make less than men because of their reluctance to negotiate a higher salary, the study found that certainly isn't the case. In fact, the research showed that 32 percent of women have asked for a raise over the course of their career, only 29 percent of men have done the same. This indicates females are confident about their value in the workplace and not hesitant to advance their careers.


(Consultant) |

Normally I would not respond to an article like this, but as a female Finance & Accounting Executive, if this article is intended to make me feel all warm and fuzzy because gee, there are now 54 female CFOs (10%) in the Fortune 500 and the pay gap is really not that bad and that I only make 14% less than my male counterparts, I guess the bump on my head from hitting the glass ceiling does not hurt nearly as much as I thought it did. Thanks for helping me start off my day with a good laugh!