Advancing Women to the Boardroom

Forum of Executive Women: 1 in Every 3 Board Openings in Philly Region Went to a Woman

16th Annual Women on Boards Report Reveals Encouraging Trends but Not Enough Change to Alter Overall Picture

PHILADELPHIA – (October 27, 2016) – More companies in the Philadelphia region are capitalizing on the expertise and experience of women leaders by selecting them for their boards of directors, according to The Forum of Executive Women’s annual Women on Boards Report, which is being released today at The Forum’s Annual Leadership Breakfast. The report Forces pushing for progress in the boardroom and C-suite — provides a status on the number of women leaders at public companies, universities and health care systems in the Philadelphia region.

Women on Boards 2016 documents minimal progress in 2015 in bolstering the ranks of corporate women leaders in the region according to an analysis of 2015 year-end SEC filings of the 100 largest public companies in Philadelphia. Women only held 14 percent of board seats (a slight change from last year) and 14 percent of executive positions at these companies (a one percent increase from the year before). Also, of 60 board openings, one third of those went to women (20 positions, for a 33 percent share).

This year’s numbers indicate that, while women’s share of the top decision-making positions is well short of equitable, the forces pushing for progress are beginning to make a difference. In addition, more companies have women on their boards of directors compared to previous years, though progress toward gender parity in the boardroom and C-suite is far from complete. Women are also only slightly better represented on the boards of universities and hospitals.

Data collected from a database of public Form 990 filings for 2014 was also used to show the leadership composition at 18 healthcare systems and 20 colleges and universities in the region. Comparatively, women held 24 percent of board seats in the region’s healthcare systems, and 29 percent of board seats in colleges and universities in the region (down one percent from last year).

This year’s report includes profiles of four individuals who are forces pushing for progress in their respective organizations: Eric J. Foss, CEO, Aramark; William M. Diefenderfer III, chairman, Navient Corp.; Judith M. von Seldeneck, founder and chairman, Diversified Search; and Colleen M. Hanycz, Ph.D., president, La Salle University.

The analysis also found a new data point – that 45 percent of board members were age 65 or older last year, which means that many board seats will be turning over in the next few years as directors retire or move on to other pursuits. Those openings will provide tremendous opportunities for the many women prepared to lead at the highest levels and for companies that want to gain a competitive edge.

Report Findings

For the fourth year, The Forum collaborated with the Philadelphia office of PwC US to conduct the analysis of the 100 largest public companies (by revenue) in the Philadelphia region as defined by the Philadelphia Business Journal. PwC serves as The Forum’s “Women Upfront” annual sponsor and conducts the research behind the report findings.

Key results of the top 100 public companies include:

  • 27 had no women on their boards (a positive trend when compared with 35 in 2014)
  • 46 had no women in their top executive ranks (an improvement from 49 in 2014)
  • Only six were headed by a female CEO (no change from 2014)
  • Of 60 board openings, 20 went to women – a 33 percent share
  • Those with at least 25 percent of their boards made up of women increased from 14 to 19 – a 36-percent improvement

‘Top Earners’ statistics were each up one percentage point from previous year’s figures:  

  • Women comprised only 11 percent of top earners at the 100 public companies
  • Women comprised 21 percent of top earners at healthcare systems
  • Women made up 28 percent of top earners at colleges and universities

Numbers among health systems, four-year colleges and universities are better than public company figures:

  • In 2014 women held 29 percent of board seats and 35 percent of CEO/President positions at four-year colleges and universities
  • In hospitals and health systems, women held 24 percent of board seats and 33 percent of CEO/President positions

In addition to the one-year snapshot, the report includes comparison data for the Philadelphia region’s top 100 public companies in 2009 and 2015. Those numbers show that there has been some progress in increasing the proportion of women in board seats, executive positions and top earners, though in absolute numbers women are still a relatively small group.

From 2009 to 2015:

  • The proportion of board seats held by women increased from 11 percent to 14 percent
  • The proportion of executive positions held by women increased from 11 percent to 14 percent
  • The proportion of female top earners increased from 9 percent to 11 percent

“We need to celebrate that momentum is growing for advancing women to top leadership positions, but we need to stay true to this effort because there is still a lot of work to do,” said Suzanne Mayes, Esq., Chair of Public and Project Finance at the law firm of Cozen O’Connor and President of The Forum of Executive Women. “There is a benefit to a company from having fresh eyes and fresh perspectives,” said Mayes.

“Companies that place women on their boards demonstrate an understanding of the demographics of their customers and shareholders and a willingness to think more broadly in an increasingly competitive global business environment,” said Deanna Byrne, PwC Partner in PwC’s Philadelphia office. ““Having a more diversified leadership team can help drive business and improve the bottom line,” Byrne said.

The full results are available online at

Women on Boards 2016 was released at The Forum’s Annual Leadership Breakfast, which featured special guest Helena B. Foulkes, President, CVS Pharmacy and Executive Vice President, CVS Health.

For support in identifying talented women or for additional information, please contact The Forum at

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