We founded Ellevest, in part, because the existing investing and money industries haven’t worked well for a lot of people. The industry was built mostly by men, and — perhaps not surprisingly — has done a better job for (cisgender) men. For the rest of us — whether it was because of the swarm of jargon, or lack of diversity (86% of financial advisors and 90% of mutual fund managers are men), or the high investment account minimums (which are inherently exclusionary) — many people have felt excluded.
Even the language that the traditional investing industry uses to describe itself underscores this: What you often hear is language that is more about being “exclusive” than inclusive, and phrases like “It’s a privilege to serve you.”
Where’s the butler?
One of the consequences of this “exclusivity” is the gender investing gap. Historically, women have invested less than men — which can cost a literal fortune over a lifetime.
And for those who thought that the newer wave of investing and neo-bank apps would close these gender gaps: Sadly, there is no evidence that this is the case, with most of them having strongly majority-male user bases. And, probably not a surprise, last week there was an article that the industry that is fueling this new innovation — technology — is leaving women behind.
So the issue of “exclusivity, not inclusivity” perpetuates itself.
As true as all of this is for women, it is also true — arguably more true — for non-binary people, who are often left out not only of the traditional financial industry, but also from the conversations about the gender gaps within it. This was a topic of discussion when I was on the “Getting Curious with Jonathan Van Ness” podcast last week.
At Ellevest, we’re always looking for ways to be more inclusive. A couple of actions we’ve taken:
We added “non-binary” as an option for gender identity when you sign up for an account at Ellevest, and we build your investment portfolio around this information.
You may remember that we’re the only investing platform (that we know of) that takes gender into account in building your investment account. Cis white men’s salaries are higher and peak later than other people’s; they also have shorter lifespans than women. So if your investing firm defaults to “an average” in calculating your salary or lifespan, then it may assume that you earn more than you do and die sooner.
OK … not good for determining how much money you’ll need in retirement. And by “not good,” I mean potentially dangerous to your financial health.
When you start using Ellevest, you input a range of information about yourself and your goals, which our algorithm uses to build you a highly personalized investment portfolio. That information includes your gender: whether you identify as a man, woman, or non-binary individual. Investment portfolios we recommend for women+ (aka women and non-binary people) assume that we earn less, that our salaries peak sooner, and that we live longer.
We do this because we believe two things: First, that nobody should feel forced to misgender themself to use our product. And second: While we don’t have the full data yet available on the financial realities of non-binary and gender non-conforming people’s lives, they don’t typically experience the same privileges and advantages in the workplace that cisgender men do — and that should be taken into account in investing and planning for their financial futures.
So if you select the non-binary option, we default to using data around women’s salary curves to make recommendations to you, anticipating that your salary will also tend to peak and flatten out around age 40. This provides a more conservative plan for you — which, to our mind, is the better way to go.
Hundreds of people have selected the non-binary option on sign up since we launched it, and the growth rate of it is accelerating.
At the same time, we are also working to better support non-binary and trans people who work at Ellevest.
Our new-employee welcome survey asks new hires for basic information like name and birthday. It also includes their pronouns, which we then include in our company directory and introductions.
We’re also working to include more voices, videos, and language across our messaging and also who we celebrate and talk about. Visibility is important.
You’ll be hearing more from us during 2020 on how we’re working to make Ellevest even more inclusive and able to help more people — for whom the financial industry hasn’t worked well — work toward financial control.
As we like to say here at Ellevest: Nothing bad happens when you get more money in the hands of women. I would amend this to add that nothing bad happens when you get more money in the hands of women+.
Describes a person whose gender identity matches cultural expectations for the sex they were assigned at birth.
Those whose gender identity is neither man nor woman, or a blend of both.
Short for cisgender.
Short for transgender. Describes a person whose gender identity or expression is different from cultural expectations for the sex they were assigned at birth. A transgender person may or may not take steps to medically transition to another gender.
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