The number of CFOs who are women hits an all-time high

By Kevin Brewer

Women and racial and ethnic minorities continue their rise to executive roles, although the percentages remain low. The percentage of CFOs who are women hit an all-time high last year, and the number of female CFOs has almost doubled over the past 10 years, according to the Crist Kolder Volatility Report.

Women made up 16% of CFOs last year, which is up from 6.3% in 2004, when Crist Kolder began tracking the data. The executive recruiting firm's annual report analyzes data from more than 650 companies drawn from among the Fortune 500 and S&P 500. In raw numbers, there were 110 companies with female CFOs — up from 63 in 2012 and 35 in 2004. Most of those were in the financial, technology, services, and industrial sectors.

Gender diversity among CEOs is lower. Women make up 8% of chief executives, which is also an all-time high. The number of CEOs who are women increased for the fourth consecutive year, most of them in the financial sector.

For CFOs, promotion to the CEO position is trending up. About 8% of sitting CEOs come directly from a CFO role. That's the same as 2021, but a steady increase over the past decade.

That CFO-to-CEO trajectory is most common in the financial sector. About 26% of CEOs in the financial sector came directly from a CFO position. The industrial, services, and consumer sectors were next (each at 17%).

Other findings of note from the report:

  • Since the beginning of the pandemic, there has been a big drop in the external hiring of CFOs. About 35% of CFOs were recruited from outside the company last year. The number is down from 43.1% in 2020. The historical average is 37.9%.
  • The financial and industrial sectors have the longest-tenured CFOs. The average tenure of a CFO in the financial sector is 5.7 years, followed by the industrial (5.6), retail (5.3), and technology (5.2) sectors.
  • Racial and ethnic diversity among CFOs and CEOs has increased. The percentage of companies with diverse CFOs is about 10%, up from 5.2% in 2014 and 2.9% in 2004. The percentage of companies with diverse CEOs tracks at about the same rate.
  • Public universities produce the majority of sitting CFOs. They produce 54% of CFOs, with Penn State, Virginia, and Indiana topping the list. Penn, Notre Dame, and Duke lead the private universities.
  • CFOs who earn an undergraduate degree in business overwhelmingly major in accounting. Sixty-one percent of CFOs graduated with an undergraduate degree in business, and 45% of those majored in accounting. Other popular majors were economics, finance, and business administration.

— To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact Kevin Brewer at

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