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Meet Our OppU Achiever: Melanie Uno

Melanie Uno


Loyola Marymount University




Melanie is a trailblazer who secured a seat at the table to champion gender equality.

We’re thrilled to announce the latest recipient of the $2,500 OppU Achievers Scholarship, Melanie Uno — a senior studying finance at Loyola Marymount University who has a passion for gender equality.

Melanie was born in the United States, but grew up in Japan, where she noticed a huge gap between women and men in senior leadership roles. This was the catalyst she needed to educate herself, her peers, and her community on what it means to have gender equality.

In response, Melanie founded two grassroots organizations: SAGE, an education and entrepreneurship effort that raises university scholarships for women, and Invisible People, which began as a research project to address homelessness in Japan.

The hardest part of Melanie’s journey was getting a seat at the table, which required tenacity and resilience. Luckily her cold calling and networking paid off for a rewarding experience — to sit and learn from senior leaders and be a part of the discussion.

This is what led Melanie to study finance; to equip herself with quantitative skills so that she could make a business case for diversity. Her post-graduation plans are to stay open-minded to where she can best apply her passion for helping minorities and apply her quantitative finance and analytical skills.

When asked what advice she had for her peers, Melanie said, “It is possible to fight for what you believe in. You don’t have to be rich and super successful in order to make a difference. You can make an impact right where you are.” She credits champions of women like her mentors for empowering her to get involved, and urges her peers to pay it forward, no matter what they achieve.

You can read more about Melanie’s organizations and her work in her essay below. Congrats, Melanie!

Melanie’s Essay

I founded two organizations, Students Advocating for Gender Equality (SAGE), which raises university scholarships for women, and Invisible People, a homelessness transition foundation to help homeless people rebuild their lives. I realized that living a life of privileges included the responsibility of accountability for women who do not have the same privileges [as myself] to education and opportunity.

Achieving gender equality requires addressing both grassroots solutions through awareness and trickle-down solutions through corporate reform. Unsatisfied with the slow pace towards parity, I founded Students Advocating for Gender Equality (SAGE). Through SAGE — a grassroots movement founded to educate and work in solidarity with the Japanese and international community to nurture education and equality — students fundraised for women’s scholarships worldwide to foster global education. In three years, SAGE led efforts to fund many university scholarships for women and became one of the largest student organizations on campus. SAGE expanded to the United States to foster male champions of change in universities and workplaces.

I also founded Invisible People, a foundation working to mobilize homeless people to fully transition into society by providing temporary/permanent housing, job training, health care, and food security. We partnered up with community leaders and companies for mentorship and financial sponsorship.

To address the trickle-down, I confronted corporations on their diversity and inclusion initiatives. My educational and professional aspirations are to equip myself with hard skills of financial knowledge and apply them to make a difference through grassroots and trickle-down efforts. By understanding finance—particularly how businesses act as the movers and drivers of the economy and affect societal norms through changing corporate culture — I want to reform society through trickle-down efforts, improving corporate culture to affect every area of the organization to become more diverse and inclusive.

Simultaneously, I have been using my knowledge of business, finance, and economics to build business cases for diversity, demonstrating that maximizing shareholder value and promoting greater equality are not mutually exclusive. I wrote a white paper on best policies and worked with executives of international companies to implement these ideas, eventually becoming an advisor to their diversity initiatives. This passion for learning and the growth of SAGE led to promoting gender equality on a global stage through the political realm and financial institutions..

Through the different internships at international companies, I initiated multiple women’s professional and personal development investments, including International Women’s Day, revitalizing the business resource group for women, and setting a senior leadership commitment for the organization to reach 30% women in leadership by 2020. I also worked with the public sector to commit corporate accountability with ambitious goals to commit 30% women in leadership. It was essential for me to work on advancing broader university recruitment and the inclusion of LGBTQ, female, and minority students; I was able to lead a Women’s Network, where we continue to provide mentorship and advice to each other to this day.

I am starting my career in management consulting, where I will be able to work with multiple organizations and corporations through mergers and acquisitions to shift the landscape of the industry and set cultural norms. Simultaneously, I will continue my grassroots organizing through involvement with the 2020 Presidential campaigns.

Could you or someone you know use $2,500 for tuition? To apply, submit a short essay through our web portal.

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