By Stephanie Walden, Contributor
Many people are already familiar with the sobering statistics about the racial and gender wealth gaps in the United States: women reportedly earn just over 81 cents for every dollar that men make; Black and Latino employees are typically paid a fraction of their white counterparts’ salaries.
And salary disparities are just the surface layer of the chasm—a lack of access to investments, real estate and generational wealth, financial literacy tools, and credit-building opportunities are among other contributing factors.
As the U.S. faces a nationwide reckoning with the underpinning inequities that have led to these numbers, enterprising young people are finding ways to tackle the issue head-on. Here are three entrepreneurs building innovative technology platforms to help close the gender and racial wealth gaps around the country and the globe.
Jordan Sale, CEO and Founder of 81cents
Creating a dynamic compensation database to help underrepresented job candidates secure competitive salaries.
When Jordan Sale received her first job offer after graduating from college, an uncle suggested she negotiate for a higher salary. It seemed audacious to young Sale at the time, but she took his advice—and was offered another $2,500.
“It was my first experience realizing that there’s this whole way the world works, but you never get taught about it in school,” says Sale. Several years later, she had a very different experience with a tech company that made her feel guilty about asking for more money, even after offering her $10,000 below the salary posted for the job description.
“That was the second key moment where I thought, wow, there has to be a better way to navigate this,” Sale recalls. “It was my first job offer in tech, and I didn’t know how to value things like equity. So I just ignored it. And it turns out that the company went on to do well—so if I had negotiated more, it would have been really meaningful down the line.”
“It was my first job offer in tech, and I didn’t know how to value things like equity. So I just ignored it..”
—Jordan Sale, CEO and Founder of 81cents
To help others avoid similar pitfalls, Sale founded 81cents. The platform supports women and underrepresented individuals throughout the salary and benefits negotiation process. It uses an algorithm to match prospective job candidates with relevant experts, drawing from an advisory network of 3,000 hiring managers and recruiters.
Candidates fill out a questionnaire of 60 different data points, including a qualitative summary of their role and specifics about location, current and desired compensation, equity, and other benefits. Insights from six to 10 advisors are compiled into a 25-30 page report that functions as a playbook for navigating the negotiation process. Candidates also have access to their reviewers for one-on-one consulting.
81cents primarily caters to tech professionals, and about 85 percent of its customers identify as female or non-binary. Around 60 percent of the company’s current user base are people of color. Sale is actively working to expand the organization’s emphasis on inclusivity, in part by launching a scholarship program—a report currently costs $195 without financial aid. However, 81cents’ customers see serious ROI for that cost: the average client obtains a 17 percent pay increase and, in rare cases, candidates have secured as much as a 60 percent jump in salary after working with the platform.
Sale’s long-term goal is to grow 81cents into a dynamic compensation database. “Everyone knows the value of having data, but no one has a great source to get it from,” she explains. “Every recruiter will tell you that [the mainstream job search platforms] are not that helpful. Most of the time, they just extract the open average, and you’re not really sure how they got there.”
Sale hopes 81cents will one day fill this market gap, providing candidates with specific, detailed, and accurate data regarding compensation and other benefits.
“In the future, you might be able to submit your questionnaire and then get the most relevant data points on-demand,” says Sale. “We might use machine learning or a similar technology to give people recommendations based on what advisors have said in the past.”
Michael Broughton, CEO and Co-founder of Perch Credit
Making the credit-building journey more inclusive and accessible.
Perch Credit is a fintech app that helps users build credit off of existing data points from their transaction histories, including on-time payments for subscription services, rent, utilities, and more.
Michael Broughton, the company’s co-founder, grew up in a military family, living overseas from the ages of 8 to 17. When he came back to the U.S., just before entering university, he realized how challenging it can be for low-income people to secure financing for major life milestones—like buying a car or a home, or even getting a loan for college.
“I knew absolutely nothing about how the credit system worked. I quickly realized that I didn’t really have financial access when trying to apply for college. I struggled a lot with trying to cover my first year of tuition and almost did not go to university because of it,” Broughton says.
I knew absolutely nothing about how the credit system worked. I quickly realized that I didn’t really have financial access when trying to apply for college. I struggled a lot with trying to cover my first year of tuition and almost did not go to university because of it..”
—Michael Broughton, CEO and Co-founder of Perch Credit
Perch Credit is free, and it works with all three major credit bureaus. “No matter who you are—an international student living in the U.S. for the first time or a 19-year-old kid looking to build credit—you can spend two minutes onboarding on the app and it tells you action steps that you can take to start building credit immediately,” says Broughton. Even a Netflix or Hulu subscription counts.
Users verify data streams—for instance, uploading a lease agreement to prove rent payments are accurate. This process is fueled by computer vision, which sorts through self-reported data, analyzes it, verifies it, and flags any errors.
“The technology scrapes through users’ bank transactions to find credit opportunities from the data,” says Broughton. “All of this is automated. The app itself is able to self-run and self-regulate to build your credit score over time.”
Broughton notes that one of Perch Credit’s main KPIs is how many lives it can change. The app has already made a huge difference for many individuals. About a year ago, Broughton struck up a casual conversation with his Uber driver, Sam, in Southern California. Sam said that he’d been trying to reunite with his daughter in Michigan, but was unable to get an apartment there due to his low credit score.
“We set Sam up on Perch, and within two weeks, his score went from a 560 to a 714,” Boughton recalls. “He went straight to Michigan, got a new apartment and even got a new job in real estate—his new credit score helped him with that job opportunity, as well.”
“We call these magic moments,” Broughton adds. “Our goal for 2021 is to help 100,000 people find access that they didn’t have before to their first credit card or loan opportunity.”
Philip Michael, Co-founder of NYCE Companies
Helping minority Americans amass generational wealth through property ownership.
The racial wealth gap in the U.S. is well documented, and driven in part by housing segregation and systemic racism. Phillip Michael, NYCE Companies‘ CEO and co-founder, believes that crowdfunding can democratize real-estate investing—a major source of wealth for many Americans. Michael says the firm’s ultimate goal is to help create 100,000 millionaires of color by 2030.
Michael grew up in a biracial family in Denmark—a country renowned for its low level of income inequality. He was disheartened by the wealth gaps he witnessed when he moved to the U.S., particularly those affecting people of color. So he decided to do something about it. After seeing success investing in real estate with his father and nephew, Barcelona soccer star Martin Braithwaite, Michael decided to open up his family’s portfolio to people who don’t typically have access to such resources via inherited assets or generational wealth.
Michael grew up in a biracial family in Denmark—a country renowned for its low level of income equality. He was disheartened by the wealth gaps he witnessed when he moved to the U.S., particularly those affecting people of color. So he decided to do something about it. ..”
—Philip Michael, Co-founder of NYCE Companies
NYCE Companies aims to do to the real estate investing market what Robinhood did for trading stocks—even the playing field to grant more people access. The fintech company owns, operates, and manages properties, which it then opens up to small-scale, private investors via crowdfunding apps. The organization is currently developing about $57 million worth of real estate in the Northeastern U.S. When the company first launched, investors could buy shares of real estate investments for a minimum of $79 on Republic or $500 on Wefunder.
Recently, NYCE Companies partnered with LYND, a Texas-based developer, to offer $500 million in properties to small-time investors. In fall 2020, NYCE rolled out a proprietary app with real-estate crowdfunding company LEX. The firm hopes to ultimately offer shares for as little as $10, as well as expand opportunities for investors to buy into specific properties.
In addition to building NYCE, Michael helps others hone financial literacy skills through his Instagram posts and vlog. He hosts a talk show on his social media account, where he explains the intricacies of real estate investing in layperson’s terms and through the lens of pop culture and hip-hop.
“I feel that this is one small contribution I can make,” he says, “empowering people to take control of their financial futures.”