Men still control 73% of board seats of Philly region’s biggest publicly traded companies

There are only three women CEOs at the top 100 publicly traded companies in the Philadelphia region, according to a PwC analysis for the Forum of Executive Women.

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The leadership among the 100 largest publicly traded companies across the Philadelphia region still overwhelmingly remains in the control of men, according to a recent PricewaterhouseCoopers analysis compiled for The Forum of Executive Women, a local advocacy group.

There were 922 board members at publicly traded companies with headquarters in the region in 2022 — 245 of whom were women, according to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filings.

That’s a small increase compared to 2021 when 25% of board seats were held by women. And there’s been a slow but steady increase in the share of women serving on local publicly traded boards — in 2012 just 12% did so.

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It doesn’t mean that there aren’t women executives in Philadelphia or that there aren’t women serving in leadership roles as there are many volunteer board positions.

But publicly traded company board members are paid to attend quarterly meetings, serve on executive committees like hiring, and make key decisions about company management. A board of directors oversees even the company CEO who may earn millions each year.

“Our city should be a place where women professionals thrive, not where we’re stuck behind,” said Meghan Pierce, president and CEO of The Forum of Executive Women.

The organization was founded in 1977 by a handful of local executives and has more than 600 members across the region.

The annual report tracks many different metrics about the representation and access to power — or lack thereof — executive women have at some of the largest companies.

In 2022, the most recent data in the report, four publicly traded companies had zero women on their executive boards.

That included real estate company AMREP Corp., semiconductor manufacturer inTEST Corp., industrial product manufacturer Omega Flex Inc., and commercial bank Quaint Oak Bancorp Inc., records show.

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Since then, there’s been one woman appointed to the board of directors of Quaint Oak Bancorp. In 2023, Susan M. Vettori retired as president of Susan’s Hallmark Shop chain and joined the board in February.

In 2012, there were 33 companies in the area that had no women on their board.

Meanwhile, some companies had more than one-third of their board executives who were women. American Water stood out with more than half of its board members who are women. Susan Hardwick serves as the CEO of American Water.

It’s not a “one-size-fits all” answer as to why women executives in the region are not being promoted to such powerful board seats in droves, said Pierce, of The Forum of Executive Women.

Pierce said one barrier is the disproportionate responsibility women bear for children and aging parents compared to their male counterparts in the field.

“Women take on so much unpaid labor that could be preventing them from rising to these positions,” she said.

Another is lack of mentorship and training for women to be prepared for these top roles. More often, women may earn an MBA or academic degree to get that experience instead of working their way up the ranks of the same company.

Beyond board members, there are very few publicly traded CEOs in the Philadelphia region who are women — 3% in 2022, up from 2% in 2021.

About 21% of all executive officers, the senior management team of a company, were women in 2022.

Yet there were 29 companies out of 100 with zero women executives in 2022, compared to 31 in 2021.

“It is simply not enough to have women represented at the highest levels of leadership and across boards but it is critical for sustained leadership development so that growth and succession involve female representation in periods of transition and change,” said Colleen Crowley, partner at PwC in the report.

For the past three years, the report has included analysis of diversity and inclusion measures.

More than 80% of the 100 publicly traded companies mentioned having policies and shared racial and ethnic diversity data about their boardroom and/or workforce. But only 26% disclose any LGBTQ+ diversity of their board members.

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