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Halting progress for women on boards, in C-suite in 2020, Forum of Executive Women finds

Philly area's top 100 public firms had more female board members, but fewer female executives. Almost half, or 43, had no female executives at all.

Lisa Detwiler, FS Investments' general counsel
Lisa Detwiler, FS Investments' general counselRead moreFS Investments (custom credit)

For the first time, female board membership at Philadelphia public companies crossed the 20% threshold in 2020, up 3% since 2018, and a 10% gain since 2010, according to the Forum of Executive Women’s latest annual report, released Wednesday.

This year’s Women in Leadership 2020 report found that female representation on boards in Philadelphia rose from 17% in 2017 to 21% in 2020. But the percentage of total female executives actually fell slightly over the last three years.

“The 2020 report shows that companies are making small and painfully slow strides toward gender equity on boards and in the C-suite, as well as with regard to compensation,” said Lisa Detwiler, president of the Forum of Executive Women and general counsel at Navy Yard-based investment firm FS Investments.

Still, there is progress to be made: In 2020, only 17 of the top 100 public companies in the Philadelphia region achieved 30% women on the board of directors.

The complete Women in Leadership 2020 report, available at the Forum’s website (, also included some key findings:

Board membership

  1. 189 of 900 board seats, or 21%, were held by women, up from 18% in 2018.

  2. The number of companies with no women on the board has dropped each year since 2014 (when 35 companies had female board representation), down to eight companies in 2019.


  1. Women comprise only 15% of total executives at Philadelphia’s largest public companies, down from 16% in 2018.

  2. 43% of the area’s top 100 public companies have no female executives.

  3. 2% of company CEOs are female. Those two companies are American Water Works and Recro Pharma.

Top earners and salaries

  1. Women represent 12% of the region’s top earners, up from 10% in 2018.

  2. 55% of companies have no female top earners.

Six public companies added their first female board member ever last year, including Brightview Holdings, CrossAmerica Partners, Gaming & Leisure Properties, Lannett Co., Mistras Group, and RCM Technologies, the report said.

Those companies that still have no women on the board of directors include Advaxis, Dover Motor Sports, Innovative Solutions and Support, Marlin Business Services, and Omega Flex.

Out of the Philadelphia region’s top 100 public companies by revenue, almost half, or 43, had no female executives at all.

However, statistics also didn’t tell the complete story on diversity, a new focus for the Forum of Executive Women’s annual report. In Philadelphia, only 10% of the region’s top 100 public companies disclose both gender and ethnic data of director nominees in their proxy statements.

“Clearly, there is room for improvement in the public disclosure of this critical information,” Detwiler said.

The report was produced by the Forum and PwC using a methodology based on publicly available Securities and Exchange Commission filings.

The scope of the research was the top 100 (by 2019 revenue) public companies that are subject to SEC regulations as listed in the Philadelphia Business Journal 2020 rankings (as of the July 6 print edition). For each of the public companies, data were compiled from SEC filings for fiscal years that ended on or before March 31.