TheAtlantic.com, the website for one of America’s most respected magazines, published an article titled “Why All of the U.S. Treasurers Since 1949 Have Been Women.” The article drew some troubling conclusions, prompting AFP President and CEO Jim Kaitz to write the following letter in response:
I read with great interest Lenika Cruz’s article, “Why All of the U.S. Treasurers Since 1949 Have Been Women.” In it, Ms. Cruz interviews “a feminist economist, a social psychologist, and government scholar.” Interestingly, she failed to reach out to an actual, working treasurer.
Let me help. I am president and CEO of the Association for Financial Professionals, a professional society of 16,000 members in the treasury and finance profession -- slightly more than half of whom are female. Like their male counterparts, female treasury and finance professionals are tasked with roles critical to every organization. They oversee payroll, accounts payable and receivable, short-term investments and short-term borrowing, to name several. In fact, AFP’s chair and vice-chair are women who serve as treasury executives for major American corporations.
Ms. Cruz attributes to “tokenism” the fact that the U.S. Treasurer position has been filled exclusively by women for the past 60 years. Yet she also mentions that the U.S. Treasurer oversees nearly 4,000 employees in two federal regulatory agencies as well as the gold reserves at Fort Knox, and that this presidential appointee advises Treasury and finance officials while simultaneously advocating for economic development.
It sure sounds like the U.S. Treasurer role is a bit more than a “ceremonial position,” Ms. Cruz. And that’s from your own writing.
Current U.S. Treasurer Rosa Gumataotao Rios is a Harvard alum who worked in economic development in the public sector as well as in a private consulting capacity. No doubt working on then-Senator Barack Obama’s presidential campaign brought Ms. Rios to his attention. No doubt, too, President Obama appointed her U.S. Treasurer because she was uniquely qualified for the position.
In fact, Ms. Rios’ elevation to U.S. Treasurer mirrors the transformation of the role of treasurer in the private sector. Many treasurers did not begin their careers in a corporate treasury department; Ms. Rosa began as an underwriter. Treasurers in the past were not viewed by senior management as advisors. After the 2008 financial crisis, however, treasurers are enjoying increased visibility in an advisory capacity—a role the U.S. Treasurer is specifically tasked with. If being an advisor does not sound like a position of influence, Ms. Cruz, I can refer you to hundreds of AFP members who worked side-by-side with their CEOs post-2008 to keep their companies afloat. And they remain by their side today.
Ms. Cruz ends with a quote from one of her experts: “Women [and minorities] need these positions that are kind of earmarked for them.” With all due respect, the U.S. Treasurer and the women who have held this post need not be damned with such faint praise.
As all corporate treasurers can tell you.
President and CEO
Association for Financial Professionals