Posted by Grace Townsley
April 20, 2023 | 4-minute read (826 words)
As of August 4, 2023, Dell Technologies will become the next Fortune 500 company with a high-powered female CFO leading financial operations. She will replace CFO Tom Sweet, the longest-serving CFO in Dell’s history, who has held the role since 2014.
McGill has supported Dell for over 25 years. Now, she’s leading the charge.
McGill joined the Dell team back in 1997 as a finance manager. Since then, she’s held several influential positions within the company, including Chief Accounting Officer, and the CFO and SVP of the Infrastructure Solutions Group. Prior to her CFO promotion, McGill served as Dell’s corporate controller, where she managed tax, treasury and accounting activities, and oversaw investor relationships. There’s no question she brings a sharp financial focus and proven expertise to the CFO role.
McGill’s promotion comes at a time when female CFOs are breaking historic records
According to the Crist Kolder Volatility Report, a detailed market report that reviews the make-up and turnover of C-Suite executives in Fortune 500 and S&P 500 companies, the percentage of female CFOs has been slowly rising since 2004 — and is now at an all-time high.
In 2004, when Crist Kolder first started tracking the demographics of C-Suite executives, females held only 6.3% of CFO positions. Today, they hold 16.3% of CFO positions at the 679 companies included in the report. Their research shows that over the past 10 years alone, the number of female CFOs has nearly doubled.
Women now hold CFO positions in nearly every industry
Of the 110 CFO positions currently held by women, 22 are in the financial services sector. This represents the industry with the largest concentration of women in the role. Technology and professional services come in second and third, with 18 and 16 female CFOs, respectively.
The industries with the lowest number of women in the CFO position are energy (8), healthcare (9) and retail (9). Some research suggests that in these industries, the lack of female representation at the top is a self-feeding problem. Because female leaders are more likely to promote other female leaders, industries with few female leaders are more likely to stay that way.
Take the healthcare industry, for example. Of the over 60 companies that represent the healthcare industry, there were only two, or fewer, female CEOs in the role in any given year between 2004 and 2020. In other words, fewer than 3% of the top healthcare companies in the U.S. had female CEOs. With so little representation, it’s difficult for new female leaders to gain the experience, exposure, and opportunities they need to fill the role in the future.
While an increasing number of women are moving into the CFO position, other C-Suite roles remain elusive
As of 2022, only 12.3% of C-Suite roles (which include CEO, CFO and COO positions) are held by women. And while the number of female CEOs has increased for four consecutive years, women only hold the role at 8.1% of Crist Kolder’s surveyed companies.
When it comes to CEO-CFO teams, the gender gap is even more obvious. Of the 500 largest publically traded companies, there are 43 female CEOs, 78 female CFOs, and only three all-female CEO-CFO teams. That’s compared to 382 companies with males in both the CEO and CFO roles.
What will make the workforce a more equitable place for women leaders? Mentorship, leadership opportunities and professional development.
According to research by Korn Ferry, a global consulting firm, 70% of CEOs surveyed say giving female leaders greater access to development programs and leadership opportunities is one way to empower women to successfully step into C-Suite roles. By preparing them for a C-Suite position earlier on in their careers, today’s high-performing women will have both the skills and confidence needed to reach for, and achieve, these top positions.
Another way to improve female representation at the top is to give women more opportunities to make profit-and-loss decisions. While women tend to pursue and fill functional roles at major companies, P&L decisions offer a clearer path to long-term leadership. It’s through these profit-driving choices that women can prove their acumen, build confidence, and gain the visibility they need to be in consideration for top roles.
Developing greater C-Suite female leadership isn’t just good for women — it’s good for business
Tight control, firm directives and a commanding presence are no longer the key ingredients in successful top-level leadership. Instead, 60% of CEOs surveyed by Korn Ferry say collaborative and empathetic leaders with strong communication skills are the ones who truly stand out. Female leaders tend to bring all three to the table.
Successful, future-focused businesses are increasingly looking to female leaders to create a healthy, diverse, productive workplace culture where both performance and balance are prioritized. There are innumerable highly skilled women who fit the bill — if companies are willing to look for them.