past event
Employment and Jobs

Finding Steady Ground: A Conversation on Work and Wealth

The central tenet of the American dream is that if you work hard, you will be able to support yourself and your family, save for retirement, and invest in your children’s future.

But in today’s economy, hard work does not guarantee economic stability. Working people are faced with lower and less stable earnings, anemic benefits, and a frayed social safety net, making it difficult for them to save and guard against economic risks. Working people and their families are struggling to find steady ground, let alone ladders to climb.

On the eve of the Aspen Summit on Inequality and Opportunity, the Economic Opportunities Program and the Financial Security Program hosted a discussion on work, wealth, and the dissolving link between the two.

Featured speakers included: 

Elliot Gerson
Executive Vice President of Policy and Public Programs and International Partners, The Aspen Institute @AspenInstitute

Elliot Gerson is an executive vice president at the Aspen Institute, responsible for its more than 30 Policy Programs focused on both domestic and international issues, its Public Programs including the Aspen Ideas Festival and many smaller programs across the country, and its relations with international partners in the Czech Republic, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Romania, and Spain. Gerson also administers the US Rhodes Scholarships. He was a Rhodes Scholar, a US Supreme Court clerk, practiced law in government and privately, held executive positions in state and federal government and on a presidential campaign, and was president of start-ups in health care and education, and of two leading national insurance and health-care companies.


Lata Reddy @latareddy
Vice President, Corporate Social Responsibility, Prudential Financial @Prudential
President, The Prudential Foundation

Lata N. Reddy is the head of Prudential Financial’s Office of Corporate Social Responsibility, which sets the vision and strategy for the company’s impact investment, philanthropic, corporate contribution, and employee engagement activities. Under Lata’s leadership, Prudential has pledged to build an impact investment portfolio of $1 billion by 2020 with more than $500 million in assets under management as of 2016. Additionally, she oversees a yearly budget of $50 million through The Prudential Foundation. Lata has a B.A. in economics from the University of Michigan and a law degree from Emory University School of Law and is admitted to the bar in the state of New York.


Juan Salgado
President and CEO, Instituto del Progreso Latino @Instituto1977

Juan Salgado has been an influential voice locally and nationally for his work on the educational, political, and economic advancement of the Latina/o community. Since 2001, Juan has led Instituto del Progreso Latino through a period of national award winning recognition and historic organizational growth establishing best-practice educational and workforce models. In 2011 the White House recognized Juan as one of 13 people nationally serving as Champions of Change for social innovation in their communities. Most recently, Juan was selected to join the prestigious MacArthur Fellows class of 2015, recognizing his strong community leadership and innovative approach to education in the Latino immigrant community. Juan holds a master’s in urban planning from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a bachelor’s in economics from Illinois Wesleyan University.


Jared Bernstein @EconJared
Senior Fellow, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities @CenterOnBudget

Jared Bernstein joined the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in May 2011 as a Senior Fellow. From 2009 to 2011, Bernstein was the Chief Economist and Economic Adviser to Vice President Joe Biden, executive director of the White House Task Force on the Middle Class, and a member of President Obama’s economic team. Bernstein’s areas of expertise include federal and state economic and fiscal policies, income inequality and mobility, trends in employment and earnings, international comparisons, and the analysis of financial and housing markets. Prior to joining the Obama administration, Bernstein was a senior economist and the director of the Living Standards Program at the Economic Policy Institute in Washington, D.C. Bernstein has published extensively in various venues, including The New York Times, Washington Post, Financial Times, and Research in Economics and Statistics. He is an on-air commentator for the cable stations CNBC and MSNBC and hosts the popular economics blog “”. Bernstein holds a PhD in Social Welfare from Columbia University.


Justine Zinkin
Chief Executive Officer, Neighborhood Trust @NTFP_Official

Justine Zinkin is CEO of Neighborhood Trust Financial Partners and Neighborhood Trust Federal Credit Union and has overseen the dramatic growth of both organizations since 2002. She has more than 15 years of experience in nonprofit and community development work. She previously served as Director of Economic Independence Programs at the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development, and as Director of Workforce Development at Common Ground Community HDFC. Justine holds an M.B.A. from Columbia Business School, an M.S. in Population Studies from Harvard University’s School of Public Health, and a B.A. from Brown University.


Tom Shapiro @tmshapiro
Pokross Professor of Law and Social Policy, Brandeis University @BrandeisU
Director, Institute on Assets and Social Policy @IASP_Heller

Professor Thomas Shapiro’s primary interest is in racial inequality and public policy. He is a leader in the asset development field with a particular focus on closing the racial wealth gap. He has written numerous books, including co-authoring a groundbreaking study, The Roots of the Widening Racial Wealth Gap: Explaining the Black-White Economic Divide. In 2011, he was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to study the wealth gap in South Africa. Tom’s widely anticipated book, Toxic Inequality: How America’s Wealth Gap Destroys Mobility, Deepens the Racial Divide, and Threatens Our Future, will be launched in March 2017. Tom received his Ph.D. from Washington University.

And the conversation was moderated by:


Melanie Trottman @MelanieTrottman
Freelance Reporter

Melanie Trottman, a longtime Wall Street Journal reporter, is a freelance writer and moderator in Washington, DC. A 20-year veteran of The Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones Newswires, she most recently covered labor and economics from WSJ’s Washington bureau where she focused on workplace regulation, unions, and overall workplace trends during President Barack Obama’s administration. Ms. Trottman has written about wages, workplace discrimination and safety, union politics and organizing, and the changing nature of work and regulation. She began her career as a reporting assistant at Dow Jones Newswires in New York, eventually covering the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries. She joined WSJ in its Dallas bureau to cover airlines and travel, chronicling the overhaul of these industries after the 2001 terrorist attacks on the U.S. In Washington, she also covered consumer-product safety and transportation regulation. Ms. Trottman is a graduate of Northwestern University.

Revisit the event on Twitter with the hashtag #workandwealth, and follow FSP on Twitter at @Aspen_FSP, EOP’s Workforce Strategies Initiative at @AspenWorkforce, and EOP’s FIELD at @AspenMicro.

We are grateful to the Prudential Foundation for supporting this event. The partnership between the Prudential Foundation and the Aspen Institute brings together leaders from across sectors so they can learn from each other and collaborate to find ways to create opportunities for all Americans to earn a living and build assets. Our collective goal is to advance this dialogue by making the case for broader reforms in both labor and financial markets, allowing working people to move from financial fragility toward resilience, stability, mobility, and prosperity, as we aim to make “reconnecting work and wealth” a key tenet of the national economic agenda.

Event information
Wed Mar 15, 2017
5:00pm - 7:00pm EDT
The Aspen Institute
One Dupont Circle NW
Washington DC