When Disney’s Christine McCarthy was promoted this week to chief financial officer, she didn’t just become the company’s first female CFO. She also became its most senior female executive ever, Bloomberg points out.
Disney made the announcement on Wednesday night in a press release, with CEO Bob Iger saying that McCarthy’s “strong leadership and keen financial acumen make her an ideal” CFO. He continued: “She is highly respected in the finance sector, and in this new role she will have even more impact on creating value for Disney shareholders.”
McCarthy has been with the “Mouse House” since 2005, most recently as an executive VP of corporate real estate and alliances, and treasurer. Disney’s statement credits her with having built the company’s finance team. “I am humbled and honored to be entrusted with the role of CFO of this incredibly dynamic company,” McCarthy said in the statement.
This move is a big deal for women in Fortune 500 C-suites, and it’s likely to bring plaudits for Iger and Disney (DIS). Only 24 companies on the Fortune 500 have female CEOs. Facebook (FB) COO Sheryl Sandberg sits on Disney’s board of directors, but it has never had a female CFO, or COO. Disney’s most profitable arm is ESPN, which — as a 2012 Fortune story noted — “is male, while much of Disney skews female.” More recently, the Frozen movie, with its two female heroines, has been a revenue bonanza for Disney — it was the highest-grossing animated film of all time and a sequel is on the way.
Disney and its chief executive have been the subject of two major Fortune print features in the past three years: the first, in 2012, focused on Iger’s stewardship of the company and how he built it into the powerhouse it is today; the second, which was the cover of our January 2015 issue, gave an inside look at Iger’s obsession with technology and his involvement with the new Star Wars franchise.
McCarthy replaces Jay Rasulo. Disney announced earlier this month that Rasulo would resign the role, but did not reveal his successor at that time.
Bob Iger, meanwhile, is set to retire in 2018, and there has been speculation over who will be Disney’s next chief. Reports have indicated that Tom Staggs, the company’s new COO, is the obvious next in line; Bloomberg wrote that Rasulo’s resignation ended an apparent “competition” between the two. But with McCarthy in as CFO, might Disney end up with a female CEO?