Power Struggle

Will the recession short-circuit women's advancement to the top spot in finance?

The roughly 70 million members of Generation Y will bring a new perspective to Corporate America, says DiPietro. “There’s a change in the next generation in terms of how men are viewing the workforce,” she says. “They’ve been in the classroom with women their whole lives and they see women as being on an equal playing field.”

The 20-somethings of Gen Y, who are viewed by many as prioritizing personal fulfillment over traditional corporate ladder-climbing, may insist on a better balance between work and family. While the recession may curb that impulse today, the baby boomers will eventually retire and the demographics of the workforce will shift. “Gen Y is going to force the flextime issue,” predicts Hamilton. “If they are able to push change, then it won’t be so unusual to say, ‘I’m working from home two days a week’ — and one would hope that women would have an equal chance because then it’s not about gender, it’s about lifestyle.”

Until then, the good news for female finance executives is that almost no one doubts anymore whether they can actually do the CFO’s job — or any other job in the C-suite, for that matter. “What I always tell women I mentor is that you have to make a decision,” says Toben, the former Verizon finance chief. “If you make the decision to be dedicated, you can go to the chairman’s job.”

Kate O’Sullivan is a senior writer at CFO.

He Said…She Said…

As part of our survey of nearly 500 finance executives, we offered respondents the opportunity to comment on the relatively small number of women in finance’s senior ranks. Following is a sampling.

She Said… “Men create teams, a network of supporters, whereas women tend to work with their heads down and compete with each other.”

He Said… “Companies do not do a good job of grooming high-potential women for the role.”

She Said… “It’s still a man’s world, with an old-boy network.”

He Said… “More women than men have made the choice that the lifestyle necessary to hold the top finance job is not worth the sacrifice.”

She Said… “Are there that many women who want to go that far in the company?”

He Said… “We may need the boomers to retire to see significant changes.”

She Said… “There is still a glass ceiling for women at the top of many organizations.”

He Said… “The need to balance home life with work life does create a negative in the minds of senior management.”

“We Don’t Want a Free Pass.”
Career-advancement advice from up-and-coming female executives

The pool of executives supporting the top office in finance is replete with talented women. We asked six female finance executives who were recently promoted to more-senior roles, or have continued to expand their responsibilities, for advice on how women can move up the ladder in finance. Here’s what they told us:

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