The number of women taking the role of chief financial officer increased 35 percent at big U.S. companies in the past year, putting more female executives in the top ranks of management after decades of slow gains.

There were 54 women serving as CFO among Standard & Poor 500 Index companies as of last month, up from 40 a year earlier, according to data compiled by Bloomberg Rankings. While men still account for almost 90 percent of CFOs in the index, the growth marks progress for female managers at a time when there's been little change at the chief executive officer level.

Women are now overseeing the finances at such high-profile companies as JPMorgan Chase & Co., the largest U.S. bank by assets; the newspaper chain Gannett Co.; and Time Warner Cable Inc., the second-biggest U.S. cable company. The trend comes at a time when the CFO job itself is becoming more critical. The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, which required companies to be more transparent about their finances, thrust CFOs into the limelight and forced them to work more closely with chief executives.

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