Top 100 Women-Led Business for Sixth Year

ANDOVER, Mass., BERWYN, Pa. and CHARLOTTE, N.C., November 6, 2023 — Rita M. Gardner, President and CEO of Melmark, Inc. has been named among The Women’s Edge’s list of the Top 100 Women-Led Businesses in Massachusetts for 2023. This is the sixth consecutive year Gardner and Melmark have made the list created by The Women’s Edge and published annually in the Women & Power issue of the Globe Magazine. The list includes 100 women power players from across the state of Massachusetts who generated more than $84 billion in total revenue in 2022, demonstrating that women are key drivers of the state’s economy.


Rita M. Gardner, M.P.H., LABA, BCBA, CDE® leads Melmark’s almost $110-million multi-state operations across all of its divisions. Melmark’s programs include premier private special education schools, adult programs, professional development, training and research centers. The organization’s clinically sophisticated, evidence-based programs serve individuals with the diagnosis of autism spectrum disorders, acquired brain injuries, medical fragility and severe challenging behaviors. In 2023 – 2024 Melmark is in the process of 100% enrollment expansion in their day schools across their three state divisions.


Gardner, who is the co-founder of Melmark New England and Melmark Carolinas, is an accomplished legislative advocate, and her work has helped hundreds access their rights to free and appropriate public education (FAPE) and increase access to sophisticated services for individuals diagnosed with autism throughout the United States. One of her most notable accomplishments as an advocate is her work analyzing pay equity in the field of human services and actively working to reduce the wage gap direct support professionals face in direct services


Gardner serves on advisory committees with the Massachusetts Advocates for Children (MAC) and Advocates for Autism of Massachusetts (AFAM). She is a founding Board member of the National Council of Autism Providers (CASP) and is currently serving as vice chair. Ms. Gardner also serves on the Advisory Board of the Virginia Institute of Autism and is a Pennsylvania Advocacy and Resources for Autism and Intellectual Disability (PAR) Board member. She has served as an appointed member of the Governor’s Autism Commission in Massachusetts, and recently received an honorable mention from the Association of Developmental Disabilities Providers for her work focused on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.


“It is a great honor to be recognized with this elite cohort of powerful and accomplished female leaders,” said Gardner. “At Melmark, we serve a vulnerable population and believe that our work and our advocacy is not just a job, but a responsibility to make a positive social impact on the lives of those we serve. We believe that everyone deserves access to quality education, care and support, regardless of their abilities or challenges. I am proud to lead this work alongside my highly skilled colleagues across all of Melmark’s state divisions.”


Gardner received her Master of Public Health degree from Boston University’s School of Public Health in the School of Medicine. Most important she holds the heart of Melmark’s mission at the core of her professional standards. She is dedicated to every child, adult and family served at Melmark, as well as every member of Melmark’s professional staff.


Melmark is a not-for-profit human service organization providing clinically sophisticated evidence-based special education, residential, vocational and therapeutic services for children and adults with autism spectrum disorders, developmental and intellectual disabilities, acquired brain injuries and other neurological and genetic disorders. All specialized special education services are based on the principles of applied behavior analysis (ABA) and are designed based on each student’s individual needs.


Recognized as one of the leading providers in the country, Melmark has a combined staff of over 1,200 at its service divisions in Pennsylvania, New England, and the Carolinas and serves 500 individuals from across the country. To learn more, visit www.melmark.org.  If you would like more information, please contact Karon Mattox at kmattox@melmark.org.