In the fall of 2018, the composition of the total number of undergraduate students at Eastern University was 68% female and 32% male. This number isn’t surprising to anyone who spends time on Eastern’s campus. What is surprising, though, are the results from a new study done by La Salle University in partnership with The Women’s Nonprofit Leadership Initiative stating that among local higher education boards in Philadelphia, Eastern University ranks the lowest in percentage of women on their board. With a board totaling 24 members, only two of them are women. The college above Eastern in the ranking has a board that is 12% female, a significant amount higher than Eastern’s 8%. The article detailing the study, published by the Philadelphia Inquirer, reported that out of 25 local universities, Eastern ranked last. Bryn Mawr College, a women’s liberal arts school, had the highest percentage of women on their board. The study also investigated the makeup of boards of local Health-Care centers. Men outnumbered women in every case with the exception of Doylestown Hospital. The report also found that women of color were especially underrepresented. The state recommends boards be made of at least 30% women and half of the institutions included in this study do not make the cut, according to the article. One of the goals of the study was to raise awareness about the gender gap that exists on nonprofit boards.
When it comes to faculty, Eastern’s population is better represented as far as sex goes, with 64 female full-time faculty and 52 male full-time faculty, according to the 2018-2019 fact book. But representation on the board matters just as much as representation in the classroom. I was not aware of the lack of gender diversity on Eastern’s board and the boards of many local non-profits. Reading this article opened my eyes to just how few women are board members not only on our campus but on non-profit boards throughout the area. It was interesting to see that universities that are currently women’s colleges, such as Bryn Mawr College, or were at one point women’s colleges, such as Cabrini, Immaculata and Arcadia University, have the highest number of women on their board. As far as medical institutions go, Doylestown Hospital, which was founded by a women’s organization, has the highest number of women on their board.
What does this mean for Eastern University? Non-profit boards should adequately represent the population that they serve. Having a diverse group of women at the table contributing to discussions and plans about Eastern’s future would better serve the community that calls Eastern University home.
If you are interested in gender equality and want to get involved or get more informed, stop by a SAGE meeting at 7 p.m. in HHC 106.
Sources: Inquirer, Philadelphia Inquirer