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Why Does “for Women” Still Mean “Not as Good”?

Why Does “for Women” Still Mean “Not as Good”?

As we’ve been working to #disruptmoney — pulling together resources to help us buy from other women, invest in other women, work to make the workplace better for all women (and men) — we’ve been thinking a lot about the messages that society gives us about money. That money is not something that we are supposed to talk about, that the money industries are the domain of men, that men are “better at math.” (That last one’s simply not true.)

Another one: We’ve been socialized to believe that “for women” is the lesser.

For products, this has meant that you take a regular old product, “pink it and shrink it,” maybe dumb it down ... and then charge more. In the realm of money, this has meant investing initiatives for women that were borderline infantilizing (or not even that borderline): “Don’t buy those shoes; invest that money instead.” “Learn your money personality!” “You are invited to an evening of facials and investing.” (Seriously; this was a thing.)

We faced a choice when we launched Ellevest: Our messaging could have been gender-neutral (both women and men can use Ellevest; you’ll note that when you put together your investing plan, you tell us your gender, and we build your investing plan based off the expected earnings trajectory and lifespan for either a woman or a man).

Or we could speak directly to women. Since we didn’t see many others (in some cases, anyone) addressing the real issues that women face around money in a truly useful way — like the real cost of a career break or what you need to know as a freelancer in the gig economy or how to stand up for equal pay and equal opportunity at work — we identified that as the real need.

So we owned it. Our tagline, then and now, is “Invest Like a Woman.”

Some people liked it. And some people didn’t. I mean, really didn’t.

“That’s sexist.” “I don’t need some dumbed-down investing service.” “Seriously? Invest like a woman? That’s so patronizing.”

This despite the research that shows that women are better investors than men, in general, at both the professional and individual investor levels. This despite the fact that women are under-invested compared to men, which can cost us a fortune over our lives ... which means that something has not been working for us in traditional investing.

Then something interesting happened, which could only happen in this day and age. A conversation started on social media about what “investing like a woman” can mean, its level of sophistication, how it is whatever-the-opposite-of-sexist-is.

Not surprising, but worth noting nonetheless: I didn’t see a single — not one single — comment that “Invest Like a Woman” might be better (even from those who applauded the overall concept).

Or that a product built around women could be more sophisticated than the others out there. Not one single one, from even one single woman.

That’s how we’ve been socialized. That “for women” must be the lesser ... regardless of what the facts show.

Here’s the thing: You told us, in our Ellevest Money Census, that investing is the #1 driver of confidence for you in achieving your financial goals.

So this ingrained view can keep us from achieving those goals.

And that’s why all of us coming together to #disruptmoney — to recognize and remediate the way society holds us back from fully owning our and our daughters’ financial futures — is so important.

This article was originally published in Ellevest's newsletter, What The Elle. You can learn more here.

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