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The climb to the top of the corporate ladder for women has been painfully slow at best, or just plain stalled. Just 7% of the CFOs in the Fortune 500 were women in 2007. That figure has crept up to 9% to 10% in the last few years. In 2011, women held 14.1% of Fortune 500 executive officer positions compared to 14.4% in 2010, according to a Catalyst study. Meanwhile, women CFOs, on average, earned $1.3 million in 2010, about 16% less than the $1.5 million paid their male counterparts, according to an analysis of pay packages of 1,900 CFOs (including 150 women) at Russell 3000 Index companies from GMI Ratings, a corporate governance consulting firm. What needs to happen for women to pick up the pace in achieving parity with men in the C-suite?  

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.

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