The recent focus on the gender-wage gap has raised awareness for several young women in my life who are clear that they do not want to be paid less than men for doing the same work. Do you know a young woman who is looking for a career where women make more than men? According to Sarah Skidmore Sell of the Orange County Register there is one: CFO (chief financial officer). The high pay for women CFOs is not due to women outnumbering men in the position—a recent survey found only 60 female CFOs at S&P 500 companies compared to 437 men. Sell reports that “the median pay for female CFOs last year rose 11 percent to $3.32 million. Male CFO pay rose 7 percent to $3.3 million.” Sell also acknowledges that the high median pay for female CFOs is partly a result of their small number and tendency to work for the largest companies, where compensation is higher than at smaller companies. Nonetheless, with all the emphasis these days on encouraging girls and women to consider training for STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) careers, focusing on a finance career is another good option—and why aim for the top as a CFO? The CFO role has risen in importance since the financial crisis, when companies became aware of the need for a high-level role focused on both day-to-day operations and the long-term strategic view as the right-hand person to the CEO and the board. The CFO role is also now considered an excellent training ground for advancement to CEO.
Tips for Becoming a CFOCarol Lippert Gray of the Journal of Accountancy notes that “there is no clear-cut path to the CFO suite,” but you can acquire skills and experiences to become CFO-qualified. Robert Half, of Robert Half Finance and Accounting, recommends the following steps to prepare yourself for a CFO role:
- Become a CPA (certified public accountant) or earn an MBA—or do both. A CPA license will give you training in a wide range of skills, including forensic accounting and compliance. An MBA will increase your understanding of business operations.
- Widen your customer service experience.
- Broaden your understanding of technology.
- Position yourself as a team builder and consensus seeker, which will encourage people to trust your judgment.
- Consider comptroller and treasurer positions, both of which can increase your experience with funding and strategy execution in preparation for CFO duties.