Philadelphia is home to a number of high-profile universities and hospitals that enjoy large endowments and sizable influence in the city. Considering their power in Philadelphia’s philanthropic sector, it is distressing to learn that the boards for these institutions are still plagued by an enormous gender gap.

According to a new report by The Nonprofit Center at La Salle University’s School of Business and the Women’s Nonprofit Leadership Initiative, men comprise 72% of hospital boards and 67% of higher education boards. The low representation of women on hospital boards even falls below the unambitious goal of 30% laid out by the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.

The report found that only 16% of the city’s colleges and universities have reached or exceeded gender parity, all of which are historically women’s schools: Arcadia University, Bryn Mawr College, Cabrini College, and Immaculata University.

The report also collected data regarding the representation of people of color on “eds-and-meds” boards, which languishes at a dismal 13%.

As the authors of the report write, nonprofits should look to corporations for proof that diverse boards generate results:

Stakeholders in the nonprofit meds and eds should be motivated by the same interest that motivates for-profit shareholders…the evidence showing that board diversity benefits corporations by improving governing processes, and bringing important varied perspectives to decision-making and improving outcomes. [sic]

Beyond improving board productivity, focusing on diversity at the top helps organizations remain responsive to the needs of the diverse communities they serve, ultimately making their programs and services more equitable and just.


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