This Women’s History Month, we are marking the progress being made towards UN Sustainable Development Goal 5, Gender Equality by highlighting an emerging theme in LISC’s lending portfolio: Gender Lens Investing. A fast-growing impact investing theme, Gender Lens Investing is a strategy or approach to investing that takes into account gender-based factors across the investment process to advance gender equality and better inform investment decisions. These factors can include investing in women-led organizations and/or enterprises serving women and girls; or investing in organizations that promote workplace equity.

It should come as no surprise that gender inequality is pervasive in the real estate development and construction industries. The Bureau of Labor Statistics puts female employment in the construction industry at a mere 11 percent, with some estimates recording just one woman out of every 100 people in frontline positions on job sites. As part of our work with Impact Frontier’s CDFI Cohort, a peer group of CDFIs working to advance impact measurement and management in our lending, LISC is examining how we can promote gender equity in our portfolio. This process will inform where we succeed and where we fall short, setting the stage for future capacity building or technical assistance programs geared at advancing gender equity in real estate.

As part of this work, LISC is looking at the percentage of our portfolio made up of women-led organizations, based on senior management and board composition. We are also looking at the demographics of an organization’s workforce; the organization’s commitment to providing quality jobs; and its commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion and justice. In addition, we are measuring companies’ hiring and board recruitment policies, in addition to analyzing inclusive procurement practices for a project’s development team (e.g. what portion of architects, construction inspectors, general contractors, etc. are women).

LISC has a history of partnering with women-led developers to build community-serving projects. One example is our partnership with Women's Community Revitalization Project (WCRP) in Philadelphia. Established in 1986 as Philadelphia's first and (then) only women-led community development organization, WCRP serves low-income women and their families while striving to increase equity through the development of affordable housing, supportive services, and robust political advocacy work. LISC Philadelphia provided predevelopment funding to re-syndicate and preserve the affordability of two existing developments: the Karen Donnally and Iris Nydia Brown Townhomes. You can read more about the project here.

Read the full article about investing in gender equality by Anna Smukowski at LISC.