Diversity continues to rise among CFOs and CEOs, survey shows

By Neil Amato

The number of women who are CFOs and CEOs at large U.S. companies is at an all-time high, according to new survey data from executive recruiting firm Crist | Kolder Associates.

Of 682 companies in the executive recruiting firm's report, 101 now have a woman as CFO. In 2012, 63 finance chiefs were women. In that same time span, the number of CEOs who are women has increased from 23 to 47.

Crist | Kolder has annually examined data from Fortune 500 and S&P 500 companies for more than 15 years. It tracks CEO and CFO career paths, educational and work background, and more.

Ethnic and racial diversity among CFOs is also the highest it has been, at nearly 11%. The increase in the past 12 months is driven by the hiring of Black CFOs, up from 12 in 2020 to 20 in 2021, according to the survey data. Women now make up 15% of the CFO population among the surveyed companies.

"I'm not at all surprised to see the steady increase over the past 10 years in the percentage of female CFOs, as there is no doubt that the talent is out there," Scott Simmons, Crist | Kolder's co-managing partner, said. "Companies are getting smarter and more proactive about investing in the best and brightest diversity talent. I expect this trend to continue."

Overall, 11% of C-suite roles (CEO, CFO, and chief operating officer in the survey) are held by women.

The survey also found that:

  • The average age of CFOs when hired is 48. The most common age among current CFOs is 51, followed by 50.
  • Nearly one-fourth of CEOs in the financial sector previously held the role of CFO.
  • The top undergraduate major among CFOs is accounting. Among the 652 CFOs with known educational backgrounds in the survey, 162 majored in accounting.
  • 44% of CFOs are CPAs; MBAs make up 60.5% of the CFO population (10.4% are both CPAs and MBAs).
  • The University of Pennsylvania has the most alumni as CFOs (19) and CEOs (13).

— To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact Neil Amato at Neil.Amato@aicpa-cima.com.

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