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The rate of women taking on board positions is lower than expected in Philadelphia-based companies. Credit: Alex Baxter

While more women have taken on board seats in the top 100 Philadelphia-based public companies, the pace is lower than expected, according to this year's Women in Leadership 2022 report.

For the first time in seven years, the report — released by The Forum of Executive Women last Wednesday — saw an increase across all key metrics. The percentage of female top earners across Philadelphia's top 100 public companies now stands at 15%, female executives at 19%, and female directors at 25%. 

Since the 2013 report, the number of companies with no female board members has decreased from 33 to four, while the number of companies without any female executives also declined from 40 last year to 31 this year. Similarly, the number of companies with only male top earners is down to 43 this year compared to 54 the year before.

However, the increase has been slow and several statistics for gender diversity are still low, according to the report. Only one company, the utility firm American Water, is led by a female CEO, which is an increase from last year. The highest number of female CEOs ever reported in a year was seven. Meanwhile, 5% of companies have a female chairperson.

“The fact that there are still companies without women leaders is surprising and disappointing, but we’re narrowing those numbers and that’s important,” Colleen Crowley, a PwC partner, said in the report.

The public sharing of companies' diversity statistics has also increased, with a jump from 26 to 44 companies voluntarily sharing board diversity data in public filings. The report shows that over 60% of companies disclose racial and ethnic diversity data, policies about diversity, equity, and inclusion, or both.

In 2017, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed a unanimous resolution urging businesses to have at least 30% female directors by 2020. As of this year, only one-third of the top 100 Philadelphia-based companies have 30% or higher female representation on board, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

“The year-over-year changes in the statistics are still single-digits, and the pace can feel daunting. At this rate, it would take a century or more for women to achieve pay equity, and another two decades until the number of women on public boards reaches 50%,” Katherine Kelton, president of The Forum of Executive Women, said in the report.

A September report by the advocacy organization 50/50 Women on Boards also showed rising but slow gains in the number of women on board in the Russell 3000 index of publicly traded companies, according to Fortune

The report said the slower pace is likely a result of companies addressing other competing priorities, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, a fraught economy, and pressure to address other environmental, social, and governance goals.