With First Woman CFO Dhivya Suryadevara, GM Enters Rare Fortune 500 Territory
Suryadevara, who will replace retiring Chuck Stevens, has a few recent notches on her belt: She was integral in GM’s divestiture of German affiliate Opel, its acquisition of self-driving car startup Cruise Automation, and its investment in ride-hailing firm Lyft.
Suryadevara’s “experience and leadership in several key roles throughout our financial operations positions her well to build on the strong business results we’ve delivered over the last several years,” Barra said in a statement.
In taking on the CFO role, Suryadevara joins a class of female chief financial officers that’s grown in recent years. According Fortune data, there are currently 64 CFOs in the Fortune 500, making up 12.8% of all such execs. In 2016, according to Spencer Stuart’s most recent report, 12.5% of Fortune 500 CFOs were women. A decade earlier, they represented 6.8%. By comparison, women represented 4.2% of Fortune 500 CEOs in 2016, and 2% in 2006. (As of May, female CEO ranks stood at 24, or just under 5%.)
Why are women reaching the CFO summit with increasing frequency?
When the Financial Times dug into this trend recently, Noeleen Doherty of the Cranfield School of Management told the paper that working in finance lets women to prove their competence in an objective manner and obtain credibility in a sphere where the stereotype is that “men know numbers and women don’t.”
While Suryadevara’s appointment highlights one positive development, it also underscores a not-so-great one. In having a woman in the CEO and CFO role, GM will join what is currently a group of one. Among Fortune 500 companies, only Hershey Co. has two women—CEO Michele Buck and CFO Patricia Little—in those positions.
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