As the Affordable Housing Sector Grows, More Female Leaders Are Entering Leadership Roles

August 3, 2022

At a glance

  • New trends in affordable housing: With women making up more than half of the American workforce, more female leaders and executives are making their way toward the affordable housing space.
  • Be a positive catalyst for DEI: Prioritizing gender diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in your organization not only enriches your culture and boosts your bottom line but also enables you to better serve your community and residents.
  • Next steps: Team up with a qualified, women-led advisory team like Aprio to turn your DEI goals into a tangible action plan.

Schedule a consultation with Aprio today

The full story:

In the United States, women make up almost 50% of the workforce and are the primary or sole breadwinners in 40% of families.[1] Globally speaking, the portion of women in senior management positions is also increasing steadily — according to the Fortune Global 500, there was an all-time high of women CEOs in 2021.[2]

Affordable housing is one of the many industries that is seeing more women ascend to roles in executive leadership and management. Development companies stand to benefit immensely from more female leaders due to the unique perspective and beneficial solutions they can provide.

Women in leadership: the proof is in the numbers

Currently, not many of the sector’s top development firms are headed by women. Citing a study conducted by the Women’s Leadership Initiative, Affordable Housing Finance Magazine recently shared that women make up just 25% of the Urban Land Institute’s (ULI’s) membership, but only 14% of them serve in the role of CEO. Of the small group of women who did serve as CEO, most led firms with less than 100 employees.[3]

There is clear evidence that companies with gender-diverse leadership perform better than their competition — at least 15% better, according to McKinsey & Company.[4] A separate study cited by CNBC showed that women control more than $10 trillion (about 33%) of total US household financial assets.[5] This means women are making most of the financial and household decisions for the families in the communities that development companies serve.

These are a few of the many reasons why investors are more likely to give critical investment dollars to firms with women leaders over others without women leaders. Appointing women leaders also ensures that you capture invaluable perspective on key issues your female residents are facing, while creating an environment that values diverse opinions and needs.

How you can take action

Recognizing the benefits of women in leadership and how they can enrich communities, affordable housing policymakers are creating more incentives and resources to help foster gender diversity among developers — starting with the low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC) program.

For instance, the state of Georgia offers two Qualified Allocation Plan (QAP) points to developers that “engage [certified minority or women-owned businesses] in the development or operation of the proposed property in amounts equal to approximately 5% of total construction hard costs.” Investing in gender diversity can make the difference between securing this funding or not. Contact your local agency to gain more support and tangible tools you can use to start making measurable changes within your organization.

Beyond appointing female leaders, it’s also important to make diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) a top-down commitment in your development company. Investment firms will look at the internal makeup of your company first when deciding whether or not to partner with your organization on development projects. Take proactive, meaningful steps to create more diverse teams, foster greater representation and put different perspectives at the forefront so they can help guide your decision-making all the way down to the community level.

If possible, it can also be beneficial to work with qualified DEI professionals to develop educational toolkits, training and communications plans that help your employees champion diversity and inclusion on a team level. Groups like the Women’s Affordable Housing Network also provide resources organizations like yours can use to elevate and advocate for female affordable housing professionals.

The bottom line

For more than 30 years, affordable housing developers have partnered with Aprio for the comprehensive consulting, assurance and tax services they need to achieve their missions. Our women-led team is here to help you understand and plan for the financial and strategic elements of current and future DEI initiatives, empowering you to create more diverse leadership teams that provide better experiences to the communities you serve.

Schedule a consultation with us today.

Related resources

[1] Pew Social Trends, “Breadwinner Moms,” May 29, 2013,, accessed June 2022.

[2] Emma Hinchliffe, “The number of women running Global 500 businesses soars to an all-time high,” Fortune, August 2, 2021,, accessed July 2022.

[3] Donna Kimura and Christine Serlin, “Affordable Housing’s Influential Women,” Affordable Housing Finance Magazine, March 14, 2016,, accessed June 2022.

[4] Vivian Hunt, Dennis Layton and Sara Prince, “Why diversity matters,” McKinsey & Company, January 1, 2015,, accessed June 2022.

[5] Ted Jenkin, “Women are gaining power when it comes to money – here’s why that’s a big deal,” CNBC, May 3, 2022,, accessed June 2022.

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About the Author

Alison Fossyl

Alison specializes in the audit requirements of the construction and real estate industries, with deep experience in commercial real estate, multifamily housing and affordable housing. She works extensively with corporations, S-corporations and partnerships in the real estate space.

(770) 353-7115