Women Leaders at Mercy Housing

When Mercy Housing hired its first CEO in 1981, Sister Mary Terese Tracy, there were few companies led by women in the United States. Over the past 35 years, three successive women presidents have grown Mercy Housing into one of the largest affordable housing developers in the country. This record of women’s leadership remains the exception among larger nonprofits. At Mercy Housing, both nationally and here in California, over half of the senior leadership are women, which is a much higher rate than the national average. Even though women make up 75% of the nonprofit workforce, only 21% of the leadership roles are held by women in nonprofits with budgets of $25 million or more.*

To learn more about how the Mercy Housing organizational culture encourages women to lead, let’s hear from the women themselves:

“As a young woman early in my career, Mercy Housing was 100% supportive of allowing me to pursue both my career goals in affordable housing development and my personal goals as a mother by allowing me the flexibility critical to working moms. This was at a time when very very very few employers were receptive to the needs of working mothers….”

Barbara Gualco, Regional Real Estate Director, Mercy Housing California

“In October 1998, I made the decision to work for Mercy Housing at a new senior community in Marin County. I had been impressed for some time with what I consider to be some of the best theological thinking of the last 50 years coming out of Women Religious communities.”

“It was a privilege to then have the opportunity to experience in action the practical application of such brilliance and to work in the realm of affordable housing under the strong, clear, and visionary leadership of the Sisters of Mercy. It was also a position where I had the chance to engage with people in unique and meaningful ways, and I considered it an opportunity worthy of my long-term commitment. I appreciate how Mercy Housing attracts, nurtures and cultivates diverse leaders and values women in authority in a way that is extraordinarily impactful.”

Jacquie Hoffman, Regional Vice President of Property Operations, Mercy Housing Management Group

“Why have I stayed?  Where else could I find leadership that’s as strong and humble, wise and courageous, transparent and egoless as that at Mercy?  It is the leadership that instills a culture of trust, teamwork, respect and confident humility. They lead by example and get the work done, even when a task is unpleasant or something that would be tempting to avoid.  No questions asked — this is why I choose to stay to learn from and grow with them.”

Yelena Zilberfayn, Associate Director, Asset Management, Mercy Housing

“I came to Mercy Housing for its reputation as a top-notch nonprofit affordable housing developer, and I stay at Mercy Housing because I enjoy working at a company that promotes leadership opportunities for women at all levels and because of the amazing women I work with on a daily basis who encourage and support me.”

Erika Villablanca, Associate Director, Real Estate Development, Mercy Housing California

“Mercy Housing has supported my leadership growth as well as the opportunity to balance the needs of my family.”

Jennifer Dolin, Vice President of Operations, Mercy Housing California

*Source: The Women’s College of the University of Denver and The White House Project