Episode #13

The CFO Gender Gap: What Will It Take to Close It?

15%. That’s how many women CFOs are at Fortune 500 and S&P 500 companies. What will it take to close this gap? In this episode, we talk to veteran CFO Kristine Lemanski about the challenges and opportunities that women face in this still male-dominated field and what the industry can do to support the advancement of women in finance.

"Find yourself a mentor. There are actually not a lot of women in senior finance and accounting leadership positions. But we are here. Find one of us. And most women who have made their way up here understand, believe, and wholeheartedly want to give back and get other women here as well. Find yourself a mentor. If they have the time, if they can spare it. Most women will say yes to that."

Please note that the transcript is AI-generated and may contain errors. Podcast is not intended as advice and is meant for informational and entertainment purposes only.

Chris Ortega (00:15):

Really excited today to be joined by Kristine Lemanski, CFO at Assured Partners Aerospace as she shares her thoughts on the CFO gender gap, how we can get more women CFOs and why it’s important for allyship, confidence and making sure you create an inclusive environment to help women thrive. Kristine has always been a great advocate, a great mentor. We’ve done a lot of work together on the AICPA side and enabling finance FP&A and CFO professionals. Welcome, Kristine Lemanski.

Kristine Lemanski (00:51):

Thank you, Chris. It is such a pleasure to be here. We’ve been looking forward to this conversation for a while, so I’m happy to be here.

Chris Ortega (00:58):

Yeah, I know we’ve been getting this planned and what spurred this episode for all the listeners is I got a chance to sit with you last year, actually, it was this year at the AICPA Engage Conference. It was talking about the allyship, more women in finance, and you led a tremendous panel of finance leaders. I know Jen Rowley, who’s a great friend and mentor of mine, and this idea of, there needs to be more representation. I don’t think necessarily it’s just from a diversity perspective, but also how there needs to be more women involved in the office of the CFO. So my first question I just want to lead off with is, what do you think are some of those challenges that women face in cracking the office of the CFO?

Kristine Lemanski (01:45):

Absolutely, Chris, that’s such a great question because in order to solve the problem, we need to know what the challenges are.

Chris Ortega (01:51):


Kristine Lemanski (01:51):

While there are a lot of them, and I think it’s not just women in the CFO position, but these challenges are faced by a lot of women in leadership, so I was able to boil them down to a few that I think are really important. Number one is oftentimes, and it’s hard to make sweeping generalizations, but oftentimes, as women are hitting that stride where they might start making CFO, they’re ready to have children. At the same time, they have aging parents that they’re caring for. So many women will step back, and they take a longer time off than their male counterparts, and they step out of the workforce or they’re not raising their hands for those promotions because they have so much going on in their personal life. It’s not that men don’t, it’s just that women have it predominantly. That happens to a lot of women.


Along those same lines, again, if you have children, you get your children out of the house at a certain age and you’re ready to go and you’re ready to focus on your career and menopause hits. Those are very difficult symptoms to deal with sometimes and different symptoms for different women. But it can be a real challenge along those lines that some of those symptoms are visible, so it’s hard to deal with those in the workplace. So I think those are two really major challenges. A third challenge would be, and this is interesting, I was talking to a lot of my colleagues about this, I think women lack confidence. I think as the qualifications are put out there, again, depending on which study you look at, a job announcement will go out there and men will say, “Hey, there’s 10 qualifications. I got three of them. I’m good. I’m going to go ahead and apply.”

Chris Ortega (03:32):

“Let’s go.” Yeah.

Kristine Lemanski (03:32):

Women will say, “Oh, I’m missing that one, I don’t qualify. I’m not going to apply.” That’s one reason for the confidence issues. I think the other reason for the confidence issues is there’s not a lot of women CFOs, and so we wonder why that is and can we do it? We lack the confidence to say, “Oh, I can do that.” There’s not very many of us. There’s not very many women mentor CFOs out there, so it can be a very difficult step to take just from a self-confidence standpoint.

Chris Ortega (04:02):

Yeah. I love the three things that you talked about. I think it’s so important, you talked about when you get into that stage of breaking that glass ceiling and you’re almost there, family, you start to have kids, your parents, and a lot of that family dynamic begin to take on the responsibility of women in that. Then you talked about the menopausal portion of it, which is something I definitely want to explore ’cause I think it’s men… when I sat through your AICPA session, that was by far to me one of the most eye-opening aspects that I just was a blind spot. So I definitely want to talk a little bit more about that.


Then the third one that you mentioned is the lack of confidence, the lack of representation. I think me being a minority growing up in finance, as I grew up in high growth businesses, software companies, the further, Kristine, that I moved up the ladder when I was an individual contributor, then I was a manager, then I was a director, then I was a VP, then I was a fractional CFO, the less that I’ve seen about me. So I can definitely relate to that one. Diving into the first aspect of it, how can men, how can… I think allyship is so important, right? How do you-

Kristine Lemanski (05:13):

Oh, absolutely, Chris.

Chris Ortega (05:13):

… think others, in your first point that you mentioned around how can men and other people be more supportive of making sure that women have that balance, that they want to pursue their careers, but they may have more responsibilities at home or they may take care of their parents? What are some things that people can do in allyship to help support women in that transition that they make?

Kristine Lemanski (05:34):

Again, that’s a great question, Chris, and allyship has become a really important topic in the work world of late. I think one of the most important things that men can do is, one of the things that I admire most about you, ask the question, be interested, want to know. Because again, you can’t make sweeping generalizations. One of them is going to need something different than another woman. But one of the most important keys is flexibility, particularly for women who are caring for aging parents and/or their children because women are pretty flexible and innovative and resilient about getting their job done if they have the flexibility to make that happen.


There’s remote work, there’s flexible work schedules, there’s “Hey, do I really have to get on a plane, or can we handle this over a video conference?” All of those things. When I was thinking about what can be done, I think interest in flexibility. Again, as we said earlier, you can’t solve the problem unless you know what the cause is. Just because someone needs to take time off to go pick up a sick kid from school doesn’t mean she can’t get her job done. It just means she’s going to do it at an odd hour.

Chris Ortega (06:50):

Yeah, I love that. When you talk about flexibility, I think that’s so important, not just for women as they take on the household and their career and they’re juggling all these different things, but just overall professionals, right?

Kristine Lemanski (07:00):


Chris Ortega (07:01):

I’ve always looked at it, and I think where a lot of people struggle in that flexibility is this idea of, “I have to be able to know what this person is doing.” I’ve had the opportunity to work with a lot of women on my team, and I’ve had a lot of great mentors that are women in the finance profession. Your first point about that self-awareness aspect of it, I’ve always taken the gap of saying, “Seek first to understand, then be understood,” and just naturally-

Kristine Lemanski (07:28):


Chris Ortega (07:29):

… coming to it. I think a lot of men, you don’t know how to navigate that ’cause you don’t… If I’m being honest, it’s a really fine line where you’re just like you’re trying to balance it. You don’t want to come across that you’re not being supported, but you also want to understand, but you don’t want to feel attacked. I think for those men that want to create that allyship and be an advocate, it’s just coming in and saying, “Hey, how can I support you? It seems that you’ve got this… how can we help support you in what you’re doing and what you need to take care of?” To me, it always boiled down to-

Kristine Lemanski (07:59):


Chris Ortega (07:59):

… three things. As long as you’re delivering high-quality work, as long as you’re meeting your commitments and you’re being a great partner, I don’t care where you do that in, how you do it. If you do that in Mexico, if you do it at nighttime-

Kristine Lemanski (08:11):


Chris Ortega (08:11):

… if you do it at daytime, it really doesn’t matter. So I think you have to create that environment of being willing to say, “Hey, I want to be flexible to where you are,” and know that these things may come in strides and different cycles of you may… the kids start back to school. I know summertime is a lot different ’cause the kids may be at home and the schedule may change. Then you get in the fall where it’s like, “Hey, I have a little bit more flexibility now because my kid’s in school all day, their kid, most of the day, but I got to leave at 5:00 ’cause I got to pick them up.” I’ve always looked at my teams and said, “Hey, you go take care of what you need to take care of,” ’cause at the end of the day in finance, we’re not doing open heart surgery, right? We’re not doing something-

Kristine Lemanski (08:52):


Chris Ortega (08:52):

… critical like that. It’s, “Hey, go take care of what you need to take care of,” as long as you deliver and take care of what you need to do and have that flexibility in your schedule and your time, and as long as you’re still delivering, it shouldn’t matter.

Kristine Lemanski (09:05):

Absolutely. Chris, that reminds me of the story, this has been a good long time ago. I had a client back when I was an auditor and consultant, and I noticed every morning when I went into the client’s office that there was a whole group of that client’s employees sitting in the downstairs coffee shop. About two minutes to 8:00, they would get on the elevator and go upstairs. I thought, “That’s odd. They’re here early. What are they doing here?” I finally asked someone who I would trust give me the answer, and they said, “We’re required to pick a schedule here, and we don’t all have to have the same schedule, but we have to pick a schedule. We have to stick to that. So if we want to come in 15 minutes early and leave 15 minutes early, we aren’t allowed to do that.” Like it or not-

Chris Ortega (09:47):


Kristine Lemanski (09:47):

… sometimes your leadership style is shaped by that, okay, that is not the result that you want, right?

Chris Ortega (09:55):

That leader is getting a whole different result than what I would want as a leader. Of course, this was when I was quite young in, but that story left an impression on me because those people would sit down there until two minutes before their schedule and then get on the elevator and come 5:00, don’t be standing in the door. You’ll get run over.



Kristine Lemanski (10:14):

Yeah. I have always remembered that particular lesson. In this day and age, women can always do that. There’s too many other things that pull at us.

Chris Ortega (10:30):

Yeah. Yeah, and I think it highlights that flexibility aspect of it.

Kristine Lemanski (10:33):


Chris Ortega (10:34):

I remember growing up, and one of the stories I have is when I was in accounting, and this is when I left public accounting, and I had the opportunity to work with a great controller. She was a woman, and I was just leaving public accounting, and I had my CPA. I was like, “I’m ready to jump into corporate accounting at a high-growth software company.” Her name was Melissa. One of the things I always admired about her was her stance around work-life balance.

Kristine Lemanski (11:03):


Chris Ortega (11:05):

I remember her talking to me about it, and I was just telling her, I was like, “Yeah, I’ve got to travel.” I was living on the west side of town, the business was actually 30 minutes away. One of the things we had to have a conversation about was, “Hey, I know you want me here at 9:00, but that’s really hard for me. I stay late, I do my work.” It was really convincing her where it was like, “Chris, it’s fine. You’ve got that schedule. I leave at 5:00 ’cause I got to go pick my son up from school.” I think what we’re both highlighting is that model behavior.

Kristine Lemanski (11:35):


Chris Ortega (11:35):

I remember earlier on how she was such an advocate for her work-life balance. Even though she’s the controller at this high-growth software company and we’re doing all this fundraising, she always made it a principle for her and the team that I was a part of and just the whole team that was like, “Look, when there’s work, but when there’s personal things, when there’s family things, that trumps that. We can help fill in the gaps. We’re going to help support you, and I want you to know that’s a priority, and I’m living that.” It’s not just one of those talk things, right?

Kristine Lemanski (12:08):


Chris Ortega (12:09):

It’s she lived that in our team, and I always respected her about that because she never compromised, she’s, “Look, when my son has things or my family has things, I’m going to go do those, and that’s just what it’s going to be. I’m going to make sure things are good. We’re going to make sure we have backup plans. We’re going to make sure that there’s those things, but I’m going to get those things done.” I think what you’re talking about and what I’ve-

Kristine Lemanski (12:31):


Chris Ortega (12:31):

… seen with that controller I work with is that model behavior. When you see it in practice and you see it in action, it hits a lot different when it’s just talking about it.

Kristine Lemanski (12:41):

Absolutely. You can talk all you want, but people will pay attention to what you do in all ways.

Chris Ortega (12:47):

Facts. Another point I want to talk about, which I think is hugely important that you mentioned as well is some of those challenges is, that lack of confidence, that lack of ability to be able to look at it, ’cause for me, I’ll tell everybody a story. I remember hiring a tremendous, at the time, she was a junior controller, she was an experienced accounting professional. I remember the hiring process, and I was looking at her skillset, and she was the ultimate candidate for the role. She was great for the role. I remember going back to her and having the salary conversation. I remember asking her, I was like, “Hey, we know at the original conversation, you were looking at this kind of salary,” and the salary that she wanted and that she said, “Yeah, this is what I want. This is what I want to make,” it was $30,000 less than what we were offering for the role. So-

Kristine Lemanski (13:36):


Chris Ortega (13:37):

… she came in-

Kristine Lemanski (13:38):

That’s huge.

Chris Ortega (13:38):

In significantly below what we were prepared to offer for the job, significantly.

Kristine Lemanski (13:45):


Chris Ortega (13:45):

She’s, “Yep, this is the amount that I want. This will make me happy.” I remember being in this opportunity, Kristine, I was like, “I can’t continue to perpetuate this wage gap with women.” She had the skills, she was our top candidate. I know she’s going to produce a lot of value. I remember going back to our senior leader and HR specifically, and I said, “Hey, this is what she’s asking for, but it’s significantly lower than what we’re offering for the role and her value that I know she’s going to bring in the market. So I want to get her to that baseline expect…” The HR person sits across from it. She’s, “Chris, what are you talking about?” I’m like, “I know financially we can save money by doing this, but right now, for her career and for her value and for the impact that she’s going to have for our business, this isn’t the right thing that we should do.”

Kristine Lemanski (14:38):

Yeah, that’s so important there, Chris. You asked about allyship, but you just described allyship, a perfect description of that.

Chris Ortega (14:46):

Yeah, and I remember going through that conversation with HR and the president of the Americans. They was like, “Chris, what…? It was like counterintuitive. It’s like, “Why is the finance guy saying we should…” I’m like, “It doesn’t matter financially what we need to do. This is the right thing we need to do for her.”

Kristine Lemanski (15:03):

The right thing to do. Absolutely.

Chris Ortega (15:05):

“This is the right ethical thing for making sure that we stand by like we are one.” We had company values that we are one, we always innovate. We never settle. We support each other. I’m like-

Kristine Lemanski (15:17):


Chris Ortega (15:17):

… “If we’re going to live and breathe these company values, if I’m going to live and breathe that as a leader, we need to make this decision. It’s the right thing to do.” I remember, Kristine-

Kristine Lemanski (15:26):


Chris Ortega (15:26):

… coming with her and super excited about it, and I gave her the offer. Before we got to the compensation, I said, “Hey, we weren’t able to get you exactly what you wanted. We were able to get you more.” I remember the look on her face and I said, “Here’s what we’re prepared to offer you. Also, I’ve heard through the conversation that getting your CPA is going to be something important to you. So I went the bat for you to say after we look at performance and how things go, we’re going to be willing to invest in you getting your CPA designation.”

Kristine Lemanski (15:55):


Chris Ortega (15:55):

Kristine, the look on her face, she was like, “Chris, I don’t know what to say.”

Kristine Lemanski (16:01):


Chris Ortega (16:02):

I was like, “This is our commitment to you and as a leader, this is what’s the value-

Kristine Lemanski (16:08):


Chris Ortega (16:09):

… you’re going to bring to our team.” That moment for her in her career has spiked. She’s a controller now.

Kristine Lemanski (16:16):

Wow, she’s-

Chris Ortega (16:16):

She’s leading a global business.

Kristine Lemanski (16:17):


Chris Ortega (16:17):

She has blossomed, right?

Kristine Lemanski (16:19):


Chris Ortega (16:20):

I share that because talking back to the confidence side, we have the ability to be able to instill that confidence. I think women traditionally are not the best negotiators. A lot of times like men, we come into the conversation and we’re like, “What’s the best price?” We’re more willing to negotiate, right? I think that-

Kristine Lemanski (16:37):


Chris Ortega (16:38):

… side comes to we got to be able to make the right decisions that’s best for the person, not best always for the business, right?

Kristine Lemanski (16:46):

Right. Absolutely.

Chris Ortega (16:47):

We got to make sure we’re making that. So-

Kristine Lemanski (16:49):

I think it’s so important.

Chris Ortega (16:50):

… thinking about the confidence and lack of confidence in that, what would be some advice? I know I just shared a story about that to the listeners can go do, but what are some other practical strategies or tactics that others can do to help instill that confidence and moving up in the finance organization?

Kristine Lemanski (17:06):

Absolutely. I think there’s a lot of things that we can do to instill confidence for ourselves. One of the things that I tell my team is we’ll say, “I don’t know how to do that.” Amend that self-talk, “I don’t know how to do that yet. I am perfectly capable of learning how to do this. I will never find out unless I try it.” I cannot remember this study, so apologies for not knowing the exact study, but there was a study where men and women were put in a room and asked to solve certain puzzles and that sort of things. The initial results of that study would indicate that women aren’t good at solving puzzles. Digging in that actually wasn’t the problem at all, women are very good about it. They’re great at solving puzzles, but the situation was if they thought they couldn’t do it, they wouldn’t even try.

Chris Ortega (18:03):


Kristine Lemanski (18:04):

So one of the best things you can do for your self-confidence is try. Failure happens. It’s an excellent teacher. Yes-

Chris Ortega (18:13):


Kristine Lemanski (18:14):

… if you try things-

Chris Ortega (18:14):


Kristine Lemanski (18:15):

… if you take a risk, you might fall in your face. I promise two things. You will learn from that, either you will pick yourself up or somebody will be there to help you pick up, and you will learn from that and move on. Next time, I promise you’re going to do it right if you’re diligent about learning why you settle. So I do think it’s really important, the best way to build confidence is to reach out of your comfort zone and do something different. Raise your hand and volunteer for the project. No, maybe you know how to do it and you’re just not giving yourself that credit. Maybe you don’t know how to do it, but you will let into the project, I promise. It’s so important to take that risk. Put yourself out there. It’s hard. I’m not saying it’s easy, but if you want to build confidence, if you want to grow your career, try new things. There’s nothing like doing something new really well to build your confidence.

Chris Ortega (19:12):

Most definitely, and I love your thought process around failure. I have the same thing. I’ve learned early in my life, and I think a lot of it comes from just amateur boxing when I was fighting.

Kristine Lemanski (19:21):

Oh, yeah.

Chris Ortega (19:23):

I’ve always looked at failure and failure’s never a negative thing, you only fail if you don’t learn.

Kristine Lemanski (19:30):


Chris Ortega (19:31):

When I look at things, wins and losses, there is no actual losing in failure.

Kristine Lemanski (19:35):


Chris Ortega (19:35):

There is no.

Kristine Lemanski (19:35):

There is no [inaudible 00:19:36] Yeah.

Chris Ortega (19:36):

You only lose in failure if you don’t learn, right?

Kristine Lemanski (19:39):


Chris Ortega (19:39):

When you look at failure, there’s only two options. You’re either going to win or you’re going to learn. You only lose if you don’t learn, right? I look back over my-

Kristine Lemanski (19:46):


Chris Ortega (19:46):

… career, and some of the biggest learning opportunities and growth moments and comfort zone expansion moments that I’ve had is because I failed on my face. I made that error-

Kristine Lemanski (19:57):

It happens and it happens-

Chris Ortega (19:58):

… but you learn from it. I think that’s great advice to not only the women listeners, but all the listeners, right? Is-

Kristine Lemanski (20:05):

All listeners, try it.

Chris Ortega (20:05):

… developing that mindset to say, “You know what? I’m either going to win or I’m going to learn.” Failure is actually the starting point, right? To me-

Kristine Lemanski (20:14):


Chris Ortega (20:14):

… I’ve always looked at it, that’s where it starts. That’s where the learning process starts-

Kristine Lemanski (20:16):

That’s where is starts, right.

Chris Ortega (20:16):

… ’cause something happened, and-

Kristine Lemanski (20:20):

Look at all great companies, look at all great leaders, I promise you, they’ve been on the brink of bankruptcy. They’ve done some really dumb things somewhere along the line that they had to pick themselves up. They have failed. No one is at the top of their game without having failed. I promise you-

Chris Ortega (20:39):


Kristine Lemanski (20:39):

… there’s not an example out there.

Chris Ortega (20:41):

Yeah, and I love that aspect of it because I think failure being the first starting point and the first step in the right direction, but it all talks about what you just mentioned, right? You got to be willing, the first step, so the action guide for all of those listeners to start building your confidence, the step number one in that is you got to have the willingness to try, right?

Kristine Lemanski (21:01):

Absolutely. You have to try it, and you have to try it with your whole heart. Get out there and give it a shot. What’s the worst that can happen? Yeah, it depends on what you’re trying, right? Don’t go try something that’s going to crush your whole career all at once, right? Learn, build up to that, build up to that risk taking. We used to have a saying back in my old audit day, CEM, career-ending moves. Don’t do that.

Chris Ortega (21:28):

Yeah, career-limiting moves. Don’t do those. Those are ones that-

Kristine Lemanski (21:30):

Don’t do those.

Chris Ortega (21:31):

You know what, Kristine, let’s expand on that because I think I’ve actually, and this is another personal leadership thing that I want to share, is I have seen women and other professionals destroy their career because of one thing, and it’s their ego, right?

Kristine Lemanski (21:53):


Chris Ortega (21:54):

I had a person on my team and it was just like I could just tell, and it was hard because I really invested in this person. I wanted them to succeed. I wanted their opportunities. I wanted so much for them. To see this person just sabotage their career and looking back over it, and I remember that moment, this is maybe five or six years ago, and I’m going through it. This is a person on my team. This is somebody I manage, and I see, I’m like, “Man, the path that you’re going down, the way that you’re going about trying to move your career and force people,” and it was a very confrontational way of career advancement that this young lady was taking. I had a mentor, and this was a difficult time that I was going through. He said to me, he says, “Chris, the thing you can’t control is when a person’s preparing the rope to hang themselves, you can’t stop that, man.”

Kristine Lemanski (22:50):

You can’t.

Chris Ortega (22:50):

Like, “It’s not your job to…” part of me wanted to just have a real conversation with her and say, “Look, the way that you’re going about this right now, I don’t know who’s telling you or what’s driving it or what you think you’re doing, but you’re burning bridges. You’re sabotaging your career right now.” Part of me just wanted to have that not leader to peer, but just a person conversation. I think that’s one thing is there’s ways to go about to navigate and making sure that you’re not making those career limiting moves, ’cause I’ve seen it happen with countless professionals, right?

Kristine Lemanski (23:28):


Chris Ortega (23:28):

Whether it’s ego or whether it’s a sense of, “I deserve this,” or wherever those places are coming from, you severely impact your career. You severely impact your career, you severely impact your network and ability to continue to advance. I think one question I have for you around that calamity, Kristine, you reached the top by… you’re CFO at AssuredPartners Aerospace, right? If you were to go back and look at your career, go way back, what would be those one to three tips that you want to give all of those listeners out there to say, “Hey, these are the three things that got me to where I’m at that I think can help you?”

Kristine Lemanski (24:03):

Absolutely. I’m happy to share it. I’m so glad you asked that question because someone asked me that very recently, and it is, as a division CFO, it is, and plus, I get to work in a really fun field. So it’s a lot of fun. As you look back on your career, and I came to the party a little bit later from wanting to be A CFO. I was accounting all the way. To move and cross that bridge into finance was a little bit different for me. I have a couple pieces of advice. Advice number one, spend your career collecting tools to put in your toolbox.


I tell a lot of people that this job is the culmination of a whole bunch of other jobs and experiences that I gained along the way. I might not have known at the time when I raised my hand and volunteered for a specific project, I might not have known what that was going to give me. Even if I failed at that project, it still gave me skills that I needed. So if you have the opportunity or can take the opportunity to step outside your current role, your current comfort zone, collect tools, put those all in your toolbox.

Chris Ortega (25:15):


Kristine Lemanski (25:15):

If you don’t need them right away, you will someday. That’s a really important thing that everybody needs to do.

Chris Ortega (25:21):

I love that.

Kristine Lemanski (25:22):

Find yourself a mentor. We talked about this a little bit earlier. There’s actually not a lot of women in senior finance and accounting leadership positions, but we are here, find one of us. Most women who have made their W up here understand, believe, and wholeheartedly want to give back and get other women here as well. Find yourself a mentor. If they have the time, if they can spare it, most women will say yes to that. I think advice number three is build your relationships across all the aisles. Find yourself some male allies. I found you.

Chris Ortega (26:03):


Kristine Lemanski (26:05):


Chris Ortega (26:05):

Facts. Facts.

Kristine Lemanski (26:05):

I call you, there are times we don’t talk a lot, but when we do talk, you and I have this relationship that we can honestly bounce things off each other. You mentioned Jen Rowley earlier. One of the things that Jen Rowley says is super important to do is find someone who is willing to tell you the unvarnished truth.

Chris Ortega (26:25):

Yes. Facts.

Kristine Lemanski (26:26):

You were willing to do that for me. You will tell me how I am being perceived or how I’m looking at things maybe not in the best way. You’ll do that for me. Find yourself an advocate who will be honest with you, and the flip side of that is you have to be willing to take it. You asked. You have to be willing to understand that person’s talking to you out of love and caring and act on it. You don’t have to agree with it, but don’t immediately push back. People can see things in us that we can’t see in ourselves, positive and negative. Those are all opportunities to learn and grow.


You cannot do that without building relationships. Right, wrong or indifferent, accountants have the reputation of tearing those relationships down. No, accountant and no seem to be inextricably linked. Undo that perception. Find yourself a relationship and several of them. It takes a lot of people to get here. As I was building my way up into this career, I had so many people. I would not be here without the people who supported me then, who support me now and who I can go to and say, “Oh, my gosh, wait, what am I going to do about this?” It’s okay to say that. It’s okay to say, “I need help.” Find those people who will do that for you.

Chris Ortega (27:57):

I got chills as you were sitting there talking. I was writing this down. I’m just like, Man, that is such incredible advice,” right? Building the tools in your toolkit, right?

Kristine Lemanski (28:05):


Chris Ortega (28:05):

And those tools can be both good learnings and bad learnings, right?

Kristine Lemanski (28:08):

Oh, yeah.

Chris Ortega (28:09):

Tools aren’t always good, right?

Kristine Lemanski (28:10):

They aren’t always good.

Chris Ortega (28:11):

But you’re building. The second point that you mentioned, I can’t understate that enough, mentorship is key. As I’ve gone throughout my career, as I continue to have you as a mentor and as a great partner and as a resource to always bounce ideas off of, and number three, building relationships I think is so important. That’s not just relationships with other women, right?

Kristine Lemanski (28:33):


Chris Ortega (28:33):

That’s across the board.

Kristine Lemanski (28:34):

Across the board, yes.

Chris Ortega (28:36):

Building relationships with people in finance, I build relationships with people in all different kind of disciplines. That to me-

Kristine Lemanski (28:43):

All across the company. Absolutely.

Chris Ortega (28:43):

All across the company-

Kristine Lemanski (28:45):

Across the company, across your peer network, across. Yes.

Chris Ortega (28:50):

One of my great mentors, he’s a great friend of mine and he used to be a CEO that I worked for. He always told me, he was like, “Man, there’s always value that you can take from anybody.” I think mentorship not only goes from high-level people, but I do mentorship. I get advice from people that are younger, right?

Kristine Lemanski (29:07):


Chris Ortega (29:07):

And that they’re just starting their career, so I-

Kristine Lemanski (29:10):

You have wonderful experiences.

Chris Ortega (29:10):

Yeah, it’s not always about getting mentorship looking up. It’s 360 mentorship, right? Like how can you have-

Kristine Lemanski (29:17):

Yes, across the board.

Chris Ortega (29:18):

… somebody fresh in their career, middle of their career, advanced in their career?

Kristine Lemanski (29:21):


Chris Ortega (29:22):

I think that is tremendous advice for all the listeners, and it’s not just for women. I think everybody can take those three practical tips that you mentioned and begin fostering just a great career and a great community of people to help support you in your journey.

Kristine Lemanski (29:37):

It really is so important, and it’s also so important to remember that however far you’ve come, it’s your responsibility to give back. It’s your responsibility to get somebody else there and to speak up. My team and I talk about this a lot, and one of my team members was going through a rough time. Growth is always painful. I’m sorry, that’s just how it is.

Chris Ortega (30:01):

[Inaudible 00:29:56] Yeah. Yeah, it’s-

Kristine Lemanski (30:01):

It’s a [inaudible 00:30:02]

Chris Ortega (30:01):

It’s tough. It’s not sun shining and roses. Typically, the best kind of growth you’re-

Kristine Lemanski (30:05):

It doesn’t [inaudible 00:30:06]

Chris Ortega (30:06):

The typical growth you’re going to have, it’s going to make you feel uncomfortable. It’s going to feel weird. You’re going to-

Kristine Lemanski (30:11):


Chris Ortega (30:11):

… feel different now. But I think the number one advice that you gave, lean into those moments. That’s where you transform.

Kristine Lemanski (30:18):


Chris Ortega (30:18):

That’s where you grow the most.

Kristine Lemanski (30:20):

That is where you transform. I’m not going to sit here and pretend that’s an easy thing to do. It’s not.

Chris Ortega (30:24):


Kristine Lemanski (30:25):

I do think that a lot of times we don’t grow, and we don’t take that next step because we’re terrified of what happens if we do lean into that. It becomes the rewards and the challenges if you do that are so much more than the pain and the whatever else it is. The whole range of emotions that you go through when you’re growing, either by your own choice or somebody else’s choice, it happens. You can’t control all the factors. You could control your reaction. As you look at that, as you go forward, then embrace that. It becomes part of who you are. A lot of people ask me, “Do you regret something? Are there things you regret?” I have to say, my philosophy is I don’t really believe in regrets because what if I could go back and change that? What if that meant I didn’t meet my husband? Or what if that meant I didn’t get that job that allowed me to collect that skill to get this job?

Chris Ortega (31:25):


Kristine Lemanski (31:25):

Really, it just is so important to pay attention to all of those things, and yes, things happen. Life is hard sometimes, and that’s not just for women, that’s everybody. Things happen to us. Good things, bad things, all of those things contribute to who we are and you’re learning and growing. We graduate and we get married and we have kids and we get divorced. Someone we love passes away and all of those things happen to us. Sometimes they’re great. Getting married is a lot fun. Getting married is also-

Chris Ortega (31:57):


Kristine Lemanski (31:57):

… an enormous challenge. Marriage is a lot of work. It’s still worth it. A good marriage is worth all that work that goes into it. I tell people, when people tell me, “I want to be promoted,” or, “I want to be CFO,” my first question is, “Why?”

Chris Ortega (32:10):


Kristine Lemanski (32:10):

You need to know why.

Chris Ortega (32:10):

That’s a great question. You got to have your why, like what-

Kristine Lemanski (32:10):

You have to have your why.

Chris Ortega (32:17):

What’s the motivation? I can tell people, just to expand on that, if that motivation is, “Oh, I want more money,” or, “I want the recognition,” or, “I want the respect,” or, “I want the power,” or I want the…” any of that vanity stuff-

Kristine Lemanski (32:29):

No, that’s a don’t.

Chris Ortega (32:31):

… you’ll get it, and you’ll never be fulfilled. Right? You go to-

Kristine Lemanski (32:31):

You will never be fulfilled.

Chris Ortega (32:35):

I love that point because when I made the transition of leaving, I have two decades building high-growth businesses. When I started Fresh FP&A, I had a really great conversation with my sister. My sister sat down with me, she gave me… I have a twin sister. For those listeners that don’t know, I have a twin sister. She’s my mom and my sister. She’s awesome. When I was really at this really crux in the road in my career, ’cause I’m like, “Man,” she says, “Chris,” she gave me one thing that changed the course of my life.


My sister says, “Chris, when are you going to stop chasing praise and start chasing purpose?” She told me that. It still hits me today. I was like, “Wow. I was chasing all around, I was chasing the recognition, I was chasing this and doing that.” She goes, “Chris, when you start chasing purpose over praise, people over profits, impact over income, when you start really aligning yourself towards, that’s where you’re going to have your highest level of work.” So I love your question about you got to find that why-

Kristine Lemanski (33:41):

So important.

Chris Ortega (33:42):

… man, cause that’s going to drive you in everything. That’s going to drive you in everything.

Kristine Lemanski (33:45):

This is a demanding industry. Finance and accounting, these are tough industries. Leadership is hard. I think when-

Chris Ortega (33:53):


Kristine Lemanski (33:53):

… we’re first starting out, we look at the boss and we think, “Oh, I’m going to get there and life is going to be grand.” Then you get here and some days you think, “Whose idea was this?” Right?

Chris Ortega (34:05):

You’re like, “Man, I’ve watched that movie. This is what I thought leadership was like. It’s a lot different.”

Kristine Lemanski (34:10):

It’s really hard positions to be in.

Chris Ortega (34:14):


Kristine Lemanski (34:14):

You have to know why you want to do it. As you said, if your answer is anything other than because, “I want to serve others in this role,” whatever the purpose is, if your answer is title or money or, “Because my friend down the street got a promotion, I should have one too ’cause we went to college together.” No, none of that is going to make you successful in your role. You have to set all of that aside. It’s an ego thing. Sometimes that’s hard in this society in particular.

Chris Ortega (34:43):

For sure, for sure. Hey, Kristine, I love this topic so far. One last question I have for you is, what’s your number one finance trend and why?

Kristine Lemanski (34:54):

Absolutely. At the risk of being cliche, I’m going to have to say generative AI and its impact-

Chris Ortega (34:59):

Ah, that’s 10 for 10.

Kristine Lemanski (34:59):

… on the finance function. Yep. I’m going to have to say it, and I’m going to date myself here. All right? So I am old enough that I remember when computerized accounting systems started coming out. Those were massive game changers. When I was in college, we did a whole set of books on paper before we were allowed to touch the computer. All right? So that’s the kind of technology advancement that has happened in my career. When we saw each other a few weeks ago, you were laughing at me because I’m like, “I tried ChatGPT.” Chris was like [inaudible 00:35:33]

Chris Ortega (35:33):

Yeah, we did it together. We did it together.

Kristine Lemanski (35:35):

Chris taught me how to use ChatGPT.

Chris Ortega (35:37):

I remember sitting right by you, and you were using it, you were like, “Oh, my God, Chris-

Kristine Lemanski (35:40):

This is all too-

Chris Ortega (35:41):

… what did I just uncover?”

Kristine Lemanski (35:43):

I think that generative AI, the advances in RPA, all of them technology is going to be a massive game changer for our industry, because the ticking and tying, you don’t necessarily need a really smart industrialist human brain to do that. The computer can tell you if number A matches number B. The computer can tell you if have all of these things cleared your bank account. All of a sudden you’re going to have this whole group of people with brains and talent and drive and you can bring them up from all of that tedium and get here. So I think that is going to be one of the hottest trends that that’s not already.

Chris Ortega (36:23):

Love it. Love it. Yeah, generative AI, I ask that to a lot of guests, and I think that’s the recurring theme. It has-

Kristine Lemanski (36:29):

It’s out there.

Chris Ortega (36:30):

… tremendous superpowers, and I think people that can go leverage it and get comfortable with it because it’s not a fad, this is not going away.

Kristine Lemanski (36:38):

No, it is here to stay.

Chris Ortega (36:39):

It’s definitely going to be here for the foresee future, but [inaudible 00:36:40]

Kristine Lemanski (36:42):

I can remember who said it, but somebody said the internet was a fad.

Chris Ortega (36:50):

Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Like, “Yeah, yeah, oh, this internet thing? This isn’t going to go away? Give me my Yellow Pages. Give be my internet. I don’t know. I don’t need this stuff.” Yeah, it’s definitely-

Kristine Lemanski (36:55):


Chris Ortega (36:56):

… not going anywhere. Kristine, I really appreciate your insight. It is always an absolute pleasure to sit down with someone and talk with you, learn from, you’re someone I hold in the highest regard and just respect. I am thankful, appreciative, and humble to be an ally to support you, and all the knowledge and wisdom and insights that you just shared for not only just women that are aspiring to be CFOs or finance leaders or whatever they’re aspiring to be, but just overall professionals. Kristine, if people want to learn more about you, connect with you, connect, learn more, reach out to you, where can they find you? Where could they learn more about you?

Kristine Lemanski (37:30):

Absolutely. They can find me on LinkedIn, so just Google or search me on LinkedIn and send me a note. Send me a connector request. I love to hear from people, and I’d love to hear all about you. That’s the best place to find me.

Chris Ortega (37:42):

Yeah, I would highly recommend to all those listeners, Kristine is an absolute superstar. We must protect Kristine at all costs. Go connect with her, go network with her, tremendous CFO professional. I’m thankful to consider you a great friend, a great colleague, and a great mentor. Kristine, thank you so much for joining CFO TRENDS.

Kristine Lemanski (37:58):

Chris, thank you so much, and back at you. I was definitely blessed the day you walked into my life and every time I get to work with you. Thank you so much for everything, and thank you for this. This was fun.

Chris Ortega (38:10):

Thank you. Thank you so much, Kristine. Thank you.

Kristine Lemanski (38:12):

Have a great day.

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