Women have been on the sidelines for a long time when it comes to investing and building wealth, and Ellevest is set to change that.

Created by IVY Thought Leader Sally Krawcheck, Ellevest is a means to help women live better lives by closing the gender investing gap. As a former Wall Street CEO and industry veteran, Sally was concerned that the investment industry consistently defaults to men’s salaries, career paths, preferences, and lifespans. 86% of Investment advisors are men, with an average age of 50+.

With brilliant analysts, entrepreneurs, and engineers on the team, Ellevest is committed to helping women save to achieve their goals.

Sally Krawcheck | Photo by A.E. Fletcher/A.E.Fletcher Photography

Q: What are the biggest lessons you’ve learned in your career — lessons you wished you knew when you were starting out?

Hard work most often leads to success. That’s not necessarily true every day, or even every week. Sometimes not even every year. But I’ve found hard work and success are pretty strongly correlated; and it pays off over the course of your career. Almost without fail — assuming you are smart enough — the people who work the hardest are the people who are most successful. There are a lot of things in business that are completely out of your control, but hard work isn’t one of them.

“Almost without fail, the people who work the hardest are the people who are most successful.”

Q: What inspired you to start Ellevest?

I remember it clearly. I was putting on my mascara one morning, and somewhere between layers one and two I had this “A-ha” moment. I’d worked in financial services for the better part of two decades, and it hit me that the retirement crisis is actually a women’s crisis. Women live longer and earn less than their male counterparts, their salaries peak earlier, and they’re less likely to invest their savings. I started Ellevest as a means to help women live better lives — and to close the retirement savings gap — by closing the “gender investing gap.”

“Women live longer and earn less than their male counterparts, their salaries peak earlier, and they’re less likely to invest their savings.”

Q: What services have been most popular or helpful to your clients?

We don’t invest in the “traditional way” — i.e., trying to outperform the stock market. Almost no one succeeds in consistently outperforming the markets. And by “almost no one,” I mean, seriously, almost no one. So we work instead to help you identify what your big goals in life are (think: start a business, buy a home, retire well, among others) and when you want to achieve them. We calculate how much those goals will cost and which of them you can achieve, and when, through investing. We target getting you to your goals in the significant majority of markets. And, as you invest and things change, if you fall off-track, we alert you and tell you actions you can take to get back on track.

So we believe we’re taking investing from being almost a sport (“Can I beat the market?” “Can I outperform?” “Can I make more money”) to a more practical, more relatable, more concrete undertaking. In the hundreds of hours of research we have done with women before launching Ellevest, this is the type of investing you told us you have been looking for.

Q: How do you think women can best support each other?

Every way we can think of! Cheer for each other, talk each other up, recommend each other for a new job, underscore what another woman said in a meeting, buy from a woman-owned business, vote for a woman, invest in a woman-owned business (if you’re able), mentor each other, sponsor each other, coach each other. And I say we do this even for women whom we don’t particularly like or who are too loud or don’t dress the right way or who seem to be too shy. It’s easy to find those imperfections (hello, embedded gender biases!), but we shouldn’t wait until a woman is “perfect” to support her.

And all these things we can do to support each other? They should go double for women of color, women with disabilities, women who have served in the military. That’s because they start ever further behind the starting line.

Q: What is your biggest professional challenge on a day-to-day basis? In the long-term?

On a day-to-day basis, it’s prioritizing what is important and what is the best use of my time. I get pulled in A LOT of different directions, and so learning to say no, so I can really focus on things that matter, is key for me.

In the longer-term, we are trying to build a world-class business in Ellevest. We start from a place in which almost no one has heard of the “gender investing gap.” And even even fewer have any idea how much that gap can cost them over their lives. (Answer: a lot. A life-changing amount.) So after we educate people on this, we have to make the case for why our solution is better than existing ones; after all, investing is a very crowded space.

“We start from a place in which almost no one has heard of the ‘gender investing gap.’ And even even fewer have any idea how much that gap can cost them over their lives.”

Q: What do you love doing outside work?

I love to walk in Central Park. You’ll find me there for hours — literally hours — at a time on the weekends. I also love to cook. I started because, when my children were young, it felt like such a tangible gift for them. And now I do it because I also find it to be somewhat meditative.

Q: What is your favorite word and why?

Two favorite words: Kitty and Johnathan. They’re the names of my kids.

Q: When you’re feeling discouraged about achieving your goals, what keeps you going?

I am a natural optimist. I find, almost always, that I wake up with ideas about the business. It’s almost as though my subconscious works all night long and presents me with new ideas when I wake up. (The team will tell you I’m always, always coming in the office saying “I had this idea when I woke up…” and sometimes they even like the ideas.…) It’s the energy from the ideas — and the recognition of the positive impact our business can have for women — that keeps me going.

Q: How can the IVY community help support Ellevest?

Well, we’d like to support the IVY community! Here’s what I would suggest you do: go to the Ellevest website and put together a financial plan for yourself. They’re complimentary (even though other firms can charge $1,000+ for them) and they can be done in as little as 20 minutes (most of us think the process will be painful and take hours.) The reason a plan is important is because if you haven’t written it down, if you haven’t thought through the cost and timing to achieve what you want to in life… well, then your chances of achieving those things are pretty low.

At Ellevest, you can build your plan, you can save it, you can come back to it, and you can update it. Of course, you can also invest in order to achieve your plan. But the first step is to HAVE a plan.

IVY is the world’s first Social University. Our mission is to educate and inspire future leaders. To learn more, check out our video and visit IVY.com.