Over the past month, talk about women in the workforce has grown exponentially. March is celebrated as Women’s History Month, and last week, on March 8, we celebrated International Women’s Day. As part of the celebrations, the International Women’s Day organization launched the 2018 campaign, which is focused on increasing gender equality in the workplace and encouraging women to Press for Progress.
In our last female executive post, we discussed how women in sales organizations consistently have higher quota attainment and are paid at higher commission rates than men, but their total compensation is less, which means women are paid a lower base pay than men in the same or similar roles. We also introduced you to two of the Xactly female executives, CMO Micheline Nijmeh and VP of HR Leanne Bernhardt.
In this blog, we’re diving into the world of finance, which is traditionally one of the most male-dominated fields, to uncover where progress has been made, where there’s still room for improvement, and how Xactly is pressing for progress.
The Financial Breakdown
According to the Financial Times, the majority of junior financial staff are women, but only 25 percent of them will reach a senior role. In fact, women outnumber men in many financial services organizations, but they only accounted for 25.5 percent of senior roles in 2016, meaning companies are failing to reach gender equality in senior roles.
Source: Financial Times
In addition, the 2017 annual CFO Index from Spencer Stuart found that 13 percent of Fortune 500 companies (61 companies) had female chief financial officers (CFOs), nearly double the total in 2006 (6.8 percent).
Companies Pressing for Progress
So which companies are leading the way in pressing for progress and equality? Among the 2017 list of top public companies with women in senior roles (created by the National Association for Female Executives, NAFE) are:
- IBM (20 years on the list)
- L’Oréal USA (4 years on the list)
- Marriott International (14 years on list)
- Ernst & Young (5 years on the list)
- Procter & Gamble (18 years on the list)
Since Xacty’s founding, our CEO Chris Cabrera has expressed his passion for diversity, which he has strived to instill into the DNA of the company. In 2018, Xactly added it’s third female executive to the leadership team, CFO Elizabeth Salomon.
Advice from a Female CFO
Xactly CFO Elizabeth Salomon never set out to become a CFO. A self-proclaimed fast tracker, Salomon has always been very driven, graduating high school at 16 years old and earning a degree in accounting at age 20. After graduation, like many top accounting students, she pursued a career at a public accounting firm, eventually joining the Ernst & Young team.
Throughout her career, Salomon says that she has been very fortunate in the opportunities that she’s been able to take advantage of. As a senior manager with Ernst & Young, she was nominated and selected for a competitive fellowship in Washington D.C. with the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), which led her to a role at Bank of America, a key role at a e-commerce startup, and eventually, her CFO roles.
When telling Xactly CEO Chris Cabrera her career story, he admired her willingness to take risks in her career. Salomon says she “never thought about it as taking risks. When presented with certain opportunities, It just seemed like a risk if I didn’t take them –I would miss out.”
For women in the finance industry, Salomon advises that anyone working in finance should “be a business person first and a finance person second. [Finance] leaders have to help the business achieve their goals.”
Salomon also emphasizes the importance of building business relationships with those who will help you do your job well, create a more fulfilling work experience, and will advocate on your behalf. She says, “You never know who [will] call you with an opportunity down the road. That’s what I’ve found in my career when I look back.”
Ultimately, Salomon says young female professionals should not be afraid to take chances that you can learn from and use to broaden your skill set. She recalls a lesson from a mentor at one of her decision points about taking on a new opportunity, “if you’re working with smart people, [and] you’re really contributing [and] learning, then what’s not to like about it?”
Since then that lesson has encouraged her to take on new opportunities. For young women, the most important piece of advice Salomon offers is:
“Have confidence in your abilities and don’t be afraid to try something new. If it doesn’t work, try something new. There’s always another possibility. Once you’ve opened one door, it may lead to three more doors that you didn’t know even existed until you open the first. Take a chance. Don’t be afraid to try new things. Nothing is forever. If you have an opportunity presented to you go for it–take advantage. Take the right opportunities as they come. Get a little out of your comfort zone and broaden your skill set. I would not be here today if I had not done those things.”
Continuing to Press Forward
With leaders like Elizabeth Salomon leading the way, new doors are opening for young female professionals in the traditionally male-dominated industries. The International Women’s Day organization is helping to drive change and bring awareness to inspiring female leaders and executives that are continuing to press for progress. Xactly is striving to be part of the movement, believing that diversity inspires ideas and innovation, regardless of the person filling the role.