Work-life balance issues, which can be more challenging for women than men, should not be a barrier, says Ellen Johnson, treasurer and senior vice president at advertising and marketing company Interpublic Group, and the mother of three youngsters. A supportive partner and the willingness to put in the time, energy and commitment required, as well as to make trade-offs, can help women move forward, Johnson says. “I think things will change,” she says, pointing to Interpublic’s record as one of just six companies in the Fortune 500 with 40% representation of women on its board of directors.
Johnson says attaining a board seat would be a big boost to her career and she is encouraged by the opportunity to network in the office with Interpublic’s women board members. She credits “the tone from the top” for making women directors a priority and says diversity is particularly important for a company in which people are the only asset. “We need to understand our clients, and our clients are completely diverse because we are a global company,” Johnson says. “To have that perspective, you really need to have global inclusiveness at the top.”
Diane Ford, controller and vice president at Integrys Energy Group in Chicago, was the first woman hired at the company almost 37 years ago and started out “at the bottom of the barrel” in accounting. She describes herself as “a barrier-breaker” who has had “opportunities galore.”
Ford believes one of the areas where women excel is relationships, “getting people to play nice together and work together.
“I have done a lot in M&A integration over my career,” she understates. When Ford became controller 20 years ago, “we were one company,” she says. “Now we have 75. We went from $1 billion in assets to $10 billion. We were in one state, now it’s 20-plus.”
For a look at women as corporate directors, see Board Seats Elusive for Women.
For the 2011 Women in Finance list, see Forward, the Only Way to Go.
See the 2012 Women in Finance Slideshow, Part I, here.
Ford sees progress. More male CEOs now “are used to working with women during their careers, so they’re comfortable with bringing them in and perceive them as capable,” she says, while noting that women sometimes cut themselves off from the C-suite. “It’s not that you have a lot of women clamoring to get up there—some take their career off to the side, they have family and other responsibilities,” says Ford, whose two children are now in their 20s. “You have find ways to make it work.”
Integrys has also been active in putting women on its board; the count after the annual meeting this month will stand at five women and eight men.
Tone at the top is all-important, says Marie Hollein, president and CEO of Financial Executives International. While women have made progress, “it’s pretty slow,” she says, noting that 136 companies in the Fortune 500 have no female executive officers at all, according to a Catalyst study.
At a lot of companies, diversity programs don’t extend from the rank and file to the top echelons, Hollein says. “Diversity has to be part of the fabric of the organization, and it has to be tied to the bottom line. The big question is when will companies wake up and take action?”
More mentoring could help propel women to the C-suite, says Maureen O’Connell, CFO and chief administrative officer at New York-based Scholastic. O’Connell, who has been a CFO for 20 years, says her mentors were all men.
Early in her career, she joined a start-up media company, Primedia, as its first employee, working with the three co-founders. “They became my mentors,” she says. “I was in on the ground floor and willing to do whatever it took to get the job done.” O’Connell has served on the board of directors of Beazer Homes USA and agrees that a board seat is a career enhancer.
“Global companies are going to have to have more women representation at the top,” she says. “Particularly if their customer base is female consumers, yet the board is all men, then that’s a problem.” Advice? “Take on the hard projects, get noticed, really try to figure out how to connect to the CFO, what’s important to me, then try to use it as an entrée to form a stronger bond,” she says.
Julie L. Scammahorn
SVP & General Auditor
Since joining the credit card company in 2008, Scammahorn has built a best-in-class internal audit group and assembled dedicated risk, consumer compliance, Basel II and technology audit teams. She has also extended the audit committee’s focus to include both audit and risk.
Finance Director & Managing Director
As head of finance at the U.K.-based oil and gas production company, Brown played a key role in managing its interests in India. Her appointment last year as managing director recognized her broader responsibilities, such as HR, environmental and social responsibility
Treasurer & VP, Investor Relations
At AutoNation, the largest car retailer in the U.S., with franchises in 15 states, Scully recently negotiated the refinancing of the company’s $1.7 billion credit facility. She also led efforts that won the company an upgrade to an investment-grade rating from Standard & Poor’s.
SVP, Investor Relations
Last year, McCorcle enhanced AT&T’s targeting program for both U.S. and international investors, a process that involved more than 1,300 meetings globally. And through her work with investors, she insured the company’s transition to a new CFO, John Stephens, went smoothly.
Patel, finance chief for the U.K. broadcasting company since 2004, played a key role in its negotiations with the U.K. government last year over funding the broadcaster receives from license fees. She also led the reform of the BBC’s pension strategy and oversees its effort to cut costs by 20% by 2017.
SVP, Investor Relations
Curley was involved in Cardinal’s $4 billion spinoff of its CareFusion medical products business in 2009. She also gathered data from investors that contributed to its capital deployment strategy after the spinoff, a plan that included a significant dividend increase.
Cash & Treasury Services Manager, EMEA
In her career at Cargill, Brazier has worked as a senior cash management executive on many company acquisitions and implementations of internal systems. Most recently, she led a project to implement SWIFT across four of the company’s banks in six countries.
Roebuck has worked to build common processes and culture through Bunge’s global accounting and control organizations. She led a project to reduce finance transaction costs and use the savings for more analysis, and continues to focus on bolstering efficiency and data quality.
CFO & Managing Director
As finance chief for the private equity firm, Friedman has refinanced its $500 million term loan and increased the capacity of its revolver from $150 million to $750 million. And then, of course, there’s the IPO Carlyle is preparing to do this year.
CFO, Global Public & Large Enterprise Group, & VP
McGill led the consolidation of Dell’s public and large enterprise segments, which together generated 57% of its revenue last year, and now serves as CFO of the combined unit. She was also responsible for the financial aspects of Dell’s go-to-market and sales transformation.
CFO & SVP
As finance chief since 2008, Washington has presided over a period of significant revenue growth for the biotech company. She played a key role in its strategic use of cash, as well as in the financing for Gilead’s recently announced purchase of Pharmasset.
Niharika Taskar Ramdev
CFO, Global Purchasing & Supply Chain
As CFO of GM’s purchasing group, Ramdev aims to optimize spending on its largest cost—materials and logistics. Earlier, as assistant treasurer from 2008 to 2011, she was involved in establishing GM’s $5 billion secured revolver and played a key role in the company’s restructuring and $23 billion IPO.
Treasurer, South American Operations
Okamura oversees the automaker’s treasury operations in Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Venezuela. Earlier, as treasurer for Ford Brazil, she led an effort to strengthen its balance sheet and increased funding for Ford Credit, a critical part of coping with the credit crisis.
SVP & Group Treasurer
Chilver-Stainer runs a centralized treasury with responsibility for operations in more than 100 countries for the London pharmaceutical giant, overseeing a $23 billion debt portfolio and $9.5 billion in investments. She also set up an in-house bank to facilitate internal cash flows.
VP of Finance, North American Tire
Goodyear Tire & Rubber
Thompson directs finance for the tire company’s biggest business unit, with annual sales of more than $8 billion. Thompson, who previously served as vice president of business development, is also the executive in charge of developing Goodyear’s new headquarters in Akron, Ohio.
CFO, CAO, Treasurer & EVP
As CFO since 2006 for Highmark, a nonprofit health insurer in Pennsylvania, DeTurk is working to integrate the company’s portfolio and liquidity needs with long-term corporate strategy. She also led recent changes to Highmark’s corporate risk management process.
VP, Corporate Development & Global Head of M&A
Under Madden’s leadership, Honeywell has completed more than 70 acquisitions that it credits with adding $8 billion in incremental revenues over the last decade. Madden has also led divestitures that helped the company focus on its core businesses and revamped M&A processes.
Controller & VP
Integrys Energy Group
M&A activity has been a focus for Ford. When Integrys was formed in 2007 by the merger of Wisconsin Public Service and People’s Energy, Ford, as controller of Wisconsin Public Service, worked to integrate the two organizations’ finance and accounting teams.
Treasurer & SVP
Johnson led the advertising and marketing conglomerate’s efforts to strengthen its balance sheet, a move that resulted in its attaining investment-grade ratings recently for the first time since 2005. She negotiated the private sale of about half of the company’s stake in Facebook and developed a framework for returning value to shareholders.
CFO & VP
Dang, CFO for the pipeline company since 2005, is currently working on Kinder Morgan’s acquisition of El Paso Corp., the biggest M&A deal of 2011. The acquisition will create the fourth-largest energy company in North America. Dang also played a key role in the company’s IPO last year, which raised $3.3 billion.
Treasurer & SVP
Matusinec served as vice president of the fast-food retailer’s tax department before she was named treasurer last year. She now oversees the areas of tax and insurance in addition to treasury. Matusinec focuses on ensuring access to capital as McDonald’s and its operators make investments to upgrade the restaurants.
SVP, Global Procurement & Operations Finance
Martin oversees the development of sourcing strategies to make the most of the pharmaceutical company’s $20 billion in spending. Her oversight also includes real estate, facilities management, and corporate services such as fleet and the global travel program.
In her five years with the U.K.-based charity that aims to alleviate child poverty around the world, Moore led the restructuring of its banking arrangements in Africa and Asia and made changes in its foreign exchange practices that resulted in cost savings of about 1.5% of turnover.
CFO & SVP
Resolute Forest Products
Longworth signed on as finance chief at Montreal-based Resolute in the wake of its restructuring and emergence from bankruptcy. She has focused on restructuring its finance operations, extending and amending its $600 million credit facility, and making a tender offer for pulp manufacturer Fibrek.
CFO, CAO & EVP
Since signing on at the publishing company in 2007, O’Connell has made improvements in budgeting, forecasting and capital allocation processes. She also centralized supply chain, purchasing and manufacturing operations, reduced inventory and improved turn times at the company’s distribution centers.
Linda G. Sullivan
CFO & SVP
Southern California Edison
Sullivan, the utility’s first female CFO in its 125-year history, heads a process to optimize its cost structure to better balance reliable power delivery and the rates paid by customers. She recently led the finance components of a company-wide implementation of SAP that replaced more than 200 systems.
CFO & EVP
Since becoming CFO of the grocery chain in 2010, Smith has improved financial reporting, increased transparency and bolstered the company’s competitive position by cutting expenses, including a reduction of $175 million in fiscal 2011 and another reduction of $90 million in the first two quarters of fiscal 2012.
CFO & EVP
Since joining the retirement provider for academics in 2010, Wilson has worked to streamline the company’s financial systems, develop activity-based costing methods and support investment in new products. She also heads TIAA-CREF’s Asset Liability Committee and guided its work through the European debt crisis.
CFO and SVP, Strategy
Smith heads finance and strategy for Walmart’s fastest-growing segment, encompassing more than 5,000 stores in 27 countries outside the U.S. Since her appointment in 2010, she has completed the Massmart acquisition in South Africa as well as some smaller acquisitions and implemented SAP in four countries.
Controller & SVP
After Viacom was spun off from CBS Corp. in 2006, Gill-Charest worked to strengthen the finance group. She’s currently establishing centers of excellence for the international payroll and statutory reporting areas, part of the media company’s finance transformation efforts.