Power Struggle

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

Make a commitment. “The desire and drive to get to the next level has to be there,” says Lisa Papageorge, vice president and treasurer at Dr Pepper Snapple Group. “I’m where I am because I’ve earned it and not because the [company] wants to get points for diversity.” Sacrifices and trade-offs are inevitable, she says, but “we don’t want a free pass because we’re women.”

Don’t sweat job titles. “Focus [more] on your skill set and what you need to develop and less on title,” advises Talia Griep, vice president and controller at Honeywell, who has moved among a number of finance positions and industries. “Just go for the learning.”

Broaden your skills. “I believe in taking opportunities that are lateral if they can provide a broadened knowledge base,” says Laurie Meissner, who was recently promoted to senior vice president and global controller at Aon Corp. “When you show you can succeed in a multitude of roles and industries, it opens up possibilities,” adds Linda Harty, executive vice president and treasurer at Cardinal Health. Elizabeth O’Farrell, who is responsible for divisional CFOs as senior vice president of finance at Eli Lilly and Co., says a previous post as divisional CFO for Lilly’s Canadian affiliate was crucial to her grasp of financial leadership.

Deepen your skills. “I’ve always thought success is dependent on a deep technical mastery that you translate into business impact,” says Teri List, who was promoted earlier this year to senior vice president and treasurer at Procter & Gamble. “The breadth of skills helps, but the depth of skills is equally important.”

Strive for balance. “Finding the right balance in how you operate is very important,” says Papageorge. “I use the Goldilocks analogy: don’t be too aggressive, don’t be too nice. It’s important to have a stable mind-set, to have ownership of the facts and not be reactionary.” Jane Coulter

Male and female executives have different views on the opportunities for women in finance. For a look at their opinions, click here.

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