Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

Women breaking into Philly’s boardrooms, C-suites — but ever so slowly

Public companies with no women on their boards? There were still 18 in Philly in 2017.


Philadelphia's public companies are ever so slowly adding women to their boards, with the number of board seats held overall by women rising slightly to 17 percent in 2017, up from 16 percent in 2016, a new report shows.

The Forum of Executive Women on Wednesday released its annual report documenting how many women hold seats on Philadelphia public company boards, as well as how many women count as "top earners" or hold posts in the C-suite.

The report assesses gender composition of the boards of directors and senior executives at the Philadelphia region's top 100 public companies by revenue. This is the forum's 18th annual report, and the sixth year collaborating with the PwC accounting firm, which conducts the research.

"Anecdotally, we can all point to progress we've seen," said Deanna Byrne, PwC's managing partner in Philadelphia. "But this year's Women in Leadership report makes it clear the pace of change on this front is still much too slow."

Four companies that had no women on their boards in 2016 added one woman in 2017: Dorman Products, Genesis Healthcare, Independence Realty Trust, and Universal Health Realty Income Trust.

Philly companies with no women on their boards and no women in the executive suite? Those still exist.

But the number dropped from 41 in 2010, down to 19 in 2016, to eight public companies in 2017 (see table).

On Wednesday, the Forum of Executive Women will hold its annual breakfast at 7:15 a.m. at the Crystal Tea Room, Wanamaker Building, which is expected to attract about 600 Greater Philadelphia female executives. The report — available here — will be showcased at the event.

Although the data document disparities in gender equity, the report also details progress.

Some companies now have 30 percent or more women on their boards, including American Water Works Co., Navient, Axalta Coating Systems, Campbell Soup, Ametek, CubeSmart, SEI Investments, Aramark, AmerisourceBergen, South Jersey Industries, Unisys Corp., and Urban Outfitters.

"We've had a third of our board represented by women for six years now," said Michael Renna, CEO of South Jersey Industries. "It's all about fit and skill sets. We've embraced it. My job as CEO is developing talent, and embracing diversity and inclusion."

Women on Local Boards

Only two of the region’s 100-largest publicly traded companies have women serving on half of its board seats. Women hold 30 percent or more of the board seats on 10 other companies.
Staff Graphic

Margaret "Peggy" McCausland, president of the Forum of Executive Women, said the goal is to boost the number of women to 30 percent of board membership.

"I'm heartened by what's happening in California, although I don't know if it will withstand legal challenges," she said of that state's mandate requiring all companies to have at least one woman on the board by the end of 2019.

"If the goal isn't coming from the top, it doesn't happen," McCausland noted. "When the board says 'This is what we are going to do,' and when the CEO says 'This is what we are going to do,' there will be real progress."

The stagnating numbers of women in CEO and other corporate officer roles "has future implications for board composition because such top executives are the usual ones tapped for board seats," McCausland added.

Year-to-year numbers reflect minimal progress at the board level, and the number and salaries of women in executive ranks remain disappointingly flat. For highlights from the report, here are some quick numbers:

Female representation in the boardroom

  1. From 2016 to 2017, overall board seats held by women grew from 16 percent to 17 percent. The percentage of board seat openings going to women grew from 17 percent to 19 percent.

  2. Out of the 100 Philly companies, 18 did not have a woman on the board.

  3. Twelve companies were recognized as Champions of Board Diversity for having 30 percent or more women on their boards.

Female representation in C-suites and as top earners:

  1. Executive teams

  2. 43 percent of the 100 largest public companies in the region still conduct business with all-male leadership teams — no change from last year's 2016 report.

  3. Out of 625 total executives, only 15 percent were women.

  4. Only five of the region's companies had female CEOs: American Water Works, Campbell Soup (now departed), Destination Maternity, Nutrisystem, and Recro Pharma.

  5. Top earners

  6. Over the last eight years, the percentage of female top earners improved by only 1 percentage point and stands at 10 percent in 2017.

  7. 60 percent of companies reported no female top earners.

Some companies had no women on the board and none in the executive suite: Astea International; Dover Downs Gaming & Entertainment; Dover Motorsports; Dynasil Corp. of America; inTest Corp.; J&J Snack Foods; Lannett Co.; Marlin Business Services; Mistras Group; and RCM Technologies.

"The numbers don't surprise me," said Cathy J. Toner, director of communications and marketing at Villanova School of Business. "There's been very slow movement, and Philly is below the national average" for women on corporate boards.

Local Female Executives

Women held 15 percent of top-level executive positions in the region’s 100-largest publicly traded companies in 2017. In 2010, they held only 10 percent of those positions.
Staff Graphic

Why does the forum compile this report?

"The goal is try to raise awareness, stimulate conversation, and to reach the decision-makers at these companies with the data to inspire change. Since we have started doing this, there's been a groundswell of support for this report. We now have the Champions of Board Diversity that recognizes companies who have female representation in the boardroom," said Julie Kaeli, associate director for the Forum of Executive Women.


The scope of the research included the top 100 public companies (by 2017 revenue) subject to SEC regulation. For each of the public companies, data were drawn from the most recent SEC filings for fiscal years that ended on or before March 31, 2018. Top earners were identified as those who were disclosed in the executive summary compensation table within each company's proxy statement immediately succeeding the Form 10-K filed for the fiscal year that ended on or prior to March 31, 2018.

This article has been updated to remove PREIT from the list of companies with no female board members.