A little bit about Mary

I confess. I haven't balanced a checkbook in more than a decade.

Sure, it's not the kind of confession that lands you on the Jerry Springer show, but no doubt a few accountant types out there are getting edgy.

I can hear 'em now: "Unwise! Irresponsible! Audit this man!"

But before sentencing me to checkbook prison, let me give you the plus side. I've never bounced a check during that time either.

My secret? Marriage.

Of all the financial decisions big or small, the best one I ever made is finding a spouse who thinks balancing a checkbook is not only fun, but actually looks forward to the bank statement coming in the mail.

Mary does the job with precision and glee. She's the Roberts family's chief financial officer, which leads to a bigger point.

Look right to Shelley Coolidge's article on women CFOs. There's more of them working at Fortune 500 companies than ever before. (See list on page 14.) And take note of their quotes - each gives her recipe for success in this male-dominated arena.

Obviously, their responsibilities range much wider than basic checkonomics, but more important, these women are on the verge of chief executive status.

So far only two women have climbed that rung at top firms: Marion Sandler of Golden West Financial, and Jill Barad at Mattel.

And that leaves plenty of room for improvement. Women account for just 3.8 percent of the top positions in corporate America and earn 68 cents for every dollar earned by men, according to a study by Catalyst, a New York- based women's business group.

Even so, more and more women are dancing on the glass ceiling and the cracks are getting bigger. So expect it to get better.

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