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Chief’s first CFO is finally in the room where it happens

May 10, 2022, 10:36 AM UTC

Good morning,

There’s a new Chief CFO in town. 

During her first day on the job, Coralie Witter told me about her role as the first CFO of Chief, the corporate leadership network for women that’s valued at $1.1 billion. “I’ve never worked in a predominantly female organization,” Witter told me on Monday. “So, it’s exciting. “At the start of my career, I worked in investment management. Even though it’s something that women are quite good at, it’s just been historically male-dominated.”

Chief CFO Coralie Witter.
Courtesy of Chief

Witter is a former sell-side analyst at Goldman Sachs and a buy-side investor at Marsico Capital Management. She went on to become a VP of strategy at Chipotle and most recently, VP of finance at SoFi, an online personal finance company. But finance wasn’t on her radar at a young age.

“I grew up in a restaurant family,” Witter told me. “And like all immigrant restaurant families, the kids work in the restaurant from a very young age. My dad’s French, and my mom’s German. They moved to the U.S. in the late 1960s when they were in their 20s, and I was born in Colorado.” 

Witter discovered finance in college, she says. “I worked in the career services library as one of my work-study jobs,” she explains. “And one of the job descriptions that caught my eye was investment management.” Witter didn’t know at the time her path would lead to becoming a CFO. However, “I knew I wanted to be a decision-maker,” she says. “I wanted to be in the room where the interesting conversations were happening.”

Now, Witter’s first CFO role is at Chief. Launched in 2019 by co-founders Carolyn Childers and Lindsay Kaplan, Chief provides its membership of women leaders access to “a vetted community of peers” for networking and coaching, with the goal of further advancing women in executive leadership. The organization recently raised $100 million Series B round at a $1.1 billion valuation, bringing total funding to $140 million. The round was led by CapitalG, the independent growth fund of Google parent company Alphabet.

Chief’s over 15,000 senior executive members represent more than 8,500 companies including Goldman Sachs, Chobani, Pfizer, and Apple, to name a few. At the VP level, the annual membership is $5,800, and for women in C-suite positions, the fee is $7,900. Seventy percent of members are sponsored by their employers, according to Chief. 

‘Every decision is backed by data’

At SoFi, Witter upgraded the corporate and strategic finance functions to support the company’s transition to the public markets. She also built a financial planning and analysis team for Galileo Financial Technologies, an independently run company owned by SoFi.

What’s a top priority for the finance organization at Chief?: “Ensuring that we are a strategic-thought partner in every decision that is being made; and that every decision is backed by data as well as insights,” she told me. This will include “looking for efficiency and automation opportunities so that the team is freed up to do the intellectually rewarding work,” she says. “Because with the pace at which we’re growing, it’s important that the finance function is set up in a very efficient, scalable way to support that growth,” Witter says. She’s also going to be hiring, adding to the half a dozen on the team, she says. 

Research published in January by Crist Kolder Associates analyzed the percentage of women who are CEOs and CFOs at Fortune 500 and S&P 500 companies. In 2021, women comprised 6.9% of 693 sitting CEOs and 15.1% of 678 sitting CFOs, both hit an all-time high, according to the report. But despite positive gender diversity trends, underrepresentation persists. Men account for 88.8% of C-suite positions at 682 companies. 

I asked Witter how CFOs can play a role in the advancement of women into leadership positions. “When you’re hiring, I think it’s important to look at what skills someone has more so than actual experience,” she says. If you’re only looking for candidates who’ve previously worked in the role you’re trying to fill, “then it’s hard to get more women into those positions if they haven’t done it before,” she says. “If you can assess people for adjacent skills that can translate to your needs, that’s a way to open the door for more types of candidates.”


See you tomorrow.

Sheryl Estrada
sheryl.estrada@fortune.com

Quick note: Join me for a LinkedIn Live event on May 16 at 12:30 p.m. ET where I will talk with Michele Tam, expert and associate partner at McKinsey & Company, about building the most effective team to support a CFO. Click here to register.

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