Job applications, loan requests, investment decisions – these important life choices often depend on nowadays algorithms.
However, the removal of human judgment does not mean the removal of bias. Studies show systems dependent on artificial intelligence can exhibit discrimination, often against women and people of color.
Ellevest, an investing platform designed for women, has turned that problem on its head, putting an algorithm to use for the specific needs of female traders.
In a new interview, Ellevest Co-founder and CEO Sallie Krawcheck says the algorithm takes into account financial realities women face, such as the wage gap and career breaks. By factoring in the financial goals of women users, the platform supplies investing advice tailored for their needs.
Many popular investing apps fall short in serving women, Krawcheck said.
“We see it again and again, in business and in our society, that we will say this is for everyone, when in fact, it’s based on research done with men,” she says. “For years, women have died of heart attacks at too high a rate, because the symptoms that doctors were looking for were those that men manifest.”
“So much of the investing industry where, as you know, 98% of mutual fund dollars are managed by men and something like 99% of investment dollars are managed by majority companies owned by white men,” she says.
“They were building something that they thought, ‘This is for everybody,’ [and] what they did is – what we tend to do – build it for themselves, “she says.” So the investing was trading — buy low, sell high – the gamification of it. “
Women make up just 22% of professionals in AI and data science, a study from the Alan Turing Institute found last year. The gender disparity within the field is compounded by a gap among product users.
Women in low- and middle-income countries are 20% less likely to own a smartphone than men, according to data firm GSMA intelligence.
In contrast to apps that target day-trading opportunities to predominantly male investors, Ellevest focuses on the long-term outlooks of women, Krawcheck said.
“What we found at Ellevest is that women are really looking to reach their goals,” she says. “So what we built was an investing algorithm that is 100%, based around getting her to that goal.”
“For example, ‘I want to buy a house in five years,'” she adds. “This is how Ellevest helps her calculate: This is how much you can afford, this is what you need to input. That’s what the investing algorithm does.”
“‘I want to have a baby in X number of years, I want to retire in y number of years,'” she says. “So the inputs in the algorithm tend to say your salary is going to peak sooner.”
Prior to co-founding Ellevest, Krawcheck led the Wealth Management divisions at both Merrill Lynch and Citi. She began her career on Wall Street as a junior analyst at Solomon Brothers in the late 1980s.
Speaking to Yahoo Finance, Krawcheck said attempts to play the market in the short term often lead investors astray.
“We tell our women, ‘Investing should be sort of boring,'” she says “It shouldn’t be all about making the calls.”
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