What If We Changed the Game?

January 22, 2019

Iliana Ortega

Iliana Ortega is an Afro-Latina first-generation college graduate with a dual degree in Communications and English Literature from The City College of New York. Naturally curious about the world around her, Iliana can be found deep in thought about everything from the symbolism in a literary classic to the origin of the latest viral meme. Her curiosity and empathy have made for impactful client work, as well as a personal involvement with social justice movements that fight for the rights of marginalized communities.

A Jr. planner at FCB Global, Iliana works on national and global campaigns for clients across the agency. This has strengthened Iliana’s storytelling and reinforced the importance of creating culturally relevant work, no matter the market. Beyond creating great work, Iliana’s goal is to change how agencies attract talent of color and increase access for those with lower-income backgrounds. She’s driven to create spaces where students without brand name diplomas can succeed and overcome advertising’s entry barriers. As a Multicultural Advertising Internship Program (MAIP) participant and ADCOLOR Futures alum, Iliana knows the importance of initiatives for students of color. So, she uses her voice and story to challenge the status quo.

This year, women made history with the #Time’sUp and #MeToo movements. Looking to further conversations about the hardships women face, we got the chance to hear from someone fighting for equality in an important part of women’s’ lives: finance.
According to Sallie, money is power, and most of it is in the hands of men. There are many categories to describe the deficit of pay faced between men and women: the gender pay gap, gender debt, and the one she would be focusing on for the day, the gender investment gap. For Sallie, equality will only be achieved when both men and women receive equal pay.
She went into detail about the gender investment gap, and how it is costing women an average of one million dollars in their lifetime. This money could have been used for a variety of things in a woman’s life whether it be a new house or getting out of a bad relationship. Her goal is to bridge that gap between men and women by increasing the amount of money that women earn through investing.
Sallie's self-chosen claim to fame is being the only person who has been on the cover of the Wall Street Journal for being fired. Twice. Though she engaged the audience comedically, she gave her credentials. Before becoming an entrepreneur, she was the CEO of Merrill Lynch Wealth Management, Smith Barney, US Trust, Citi Private Bank, and Sanford Bernstein.


“If you take on your boss at the board level, you’re going to lose your job” is the lesson that Sallie wanted everyone to take away from the last time she was fired. Although she said so in a joking manner, it is a lesson many women know to be true. Sallie’s firing is the result of her fighting hard for the reimbursement of the company’s clients. In the end, she won, but at the cost of her job a few months later. Sallie noted to the audience that the man who was let go before her received a $42-million-dollar severance package, yet she received nothing.

Through the loss of this job, Sallie had an epiphany: the retirement crisis is a woman’s problem. She did some research and found out that on average, women live 6-8 years longer than men, 80% of women die single, and 90% of women end up managing their own funds at some point in their life. On average they also receive about 2/3 of the retirement funds than men do.
By closing the wage gap, she argues, we can activate a sort of chain reaction. Bridging the wage gap would help the economy, communities, and even nonprofits. With the additional wealth going into the communities, it would not be too far off to think that the retirement gap could also be bridged by 1/3. Although all of this information was relevant, Sallie couldn’t find much information specifically about the gender investment gap.
In her search for information on the gender investment gap, she discovered some of the reasons why it is believed women don’t invest. The list included reasons such as: women are risk-averse, horrible at math, emotional and therefore, bad investors, they need to have a relationship with investing in order to invest, and that women need more financial education. All of these presumptions are false. Women are not risk-averse, she explained, but risk-aware. Before diving headfirst into anything, women like to understand what they are getting into. This makes women smarter when they are investing. The truth is that both men and women could use financial education courses, but they also have to be presented in a way that is engaging and relevant to the lives of people.
So, Sallie founded Ellevest in order to combat the gender investment gap. Her company is composed of 2/3 women. 50% of the engineering team is comprised of women. 40% of the company consists of people of color. The aim of her company is to get women to invest more. She proposed a scenario: if you made $85,000 a year, and put 20% of that in the bank a year, but waited to invest, you would be losing approximately $100 dollars a day. She compares that to a hole in her purse and said that if it was her, she would get it fixed right away. This was the selling point of the panel: she wanted the women of the audience to understand that they should also be investing. 

The major takeaway from this panel had to be that, we as women, should be investing more in order to bridge the wide gap in front of us and start investing smartly for the future. While this conversation is important, it should be noted that to reach this level of financial freedom is a privilege in this country. And before we consider investments for all women, we must acknowledge the realities of the wage discrepancies among women of color. The fight for closing the gender investment gap must be rooted in fighting for equal pay for women of color across the board.


Disclosure: This post contains an affiliate link. The 3% Movement has teamed up with Ellevest to help close investing gaps for women in the advertising and creative industry. You can support our work by becoming an Ellevest investor. We will receive $5 for each new client, plus up to 3% of their assets under management for their first year with Ellevest.