Mellody Hobson: Color Brave in Business

Today’s article is about a working field that is most certainly associated with men in suits: the financial sector. We want to introduce to you one of the highest profile women in American Finance: Mellody Hobson.📝

What if the financial situation in which you grow up has not always been stable? Mellody Hobson is the living example of the so-called “self-made woman”. Being used to being looked at as the outsider, Hobson strived in making the world a better place for all, especially for black women in corporate businesses. Hobson connects the dots by mentioning diversity and financial security for women in the same conversation. By doing so Hobson shines a very authentic and interesting perspective on the diversity-discussion. 💼

Read more about her impactful work in the field in the article below. And make sure to check out one of her TedTalks, we added a link at the end of this article to the one on being color brave!

Mellody Hobson | *03-04-1969 | USA | Businesswoman

Making money is her specialty, it is numbers she trusts. I’m talking about Mellody Hobson. As the president and co-CEO of Chicago-based firm Ariel Investments Hudson she takes part in boards of huge multinationals such as Starbucks, where she’s often the only and first woman of African American origin. Hobson currently is the chair of Starbucks Corporation and chair of their board of directors as well. Until 2016, she held that position at the board of DreamWorks Animation as well. According to Times Magazine, she was one of the 100 most influential people of 2015 and Forbes named her one of the 100 most influential women of 2020. With her current position she is one of the highest profile African American directors and the first Black woman to be a chairperson of S&P 500 (american stock market index). But Hobson has not always been a successful businesswoman. 

Mellody Hobson was born the youngest of six children. She often felt like she didn’t belong because of her older siblings telling her she wasn’t planned at all. At times they would even tell her they found her on the doorstep. Her mother was a single mom and although she was working really hard, the family was sometimes struggling to make ends meet. It was Hobson’s mother who made her aware of her skin colour from a very young age. Her mother told Hobson that people wouldn’t always treat her right, but she also assured her daughter she could become anything she wanted in life.

As a child, Hobson was desperate to understand money. She wanted to know how it worked so that she would have enough to live and to make good financial decisions as well. For her, money is about security: to be able to afford food and a place to live and to be able to go to school. Those things were really challenging for her as a child, and therefore very important for her as an adult. 

After getting into Princeton University, she got to meet John W. Rogers Jr, who founded Ariel Investments. She first did an internship at Rogers’ firm and returned in her senior year. Hobson started from the bottom and got all the way up to the top. As she rose up within the organization, she became able to set the agenda and push initiatives. She got more control.

Hobson uses her ability to set the agenda to fight for more diversity in corporate business. She knows how it feels like to be discriminated against because of skin colour, but that is not the only reason she deems this topic important. According to her, everyone would be better off with more diversity. With diversity there come  different perspectives that everyone brings to the table. She says that we would all think that it is weird to walk into a board room and see only black people, but when there’s a board room with only white men, we are not surprised at all. She believes we should change that and think of that as weird as well and that we should stop being “colour blind.” Instead, we should be COLOUR BRAVE: daring to talk about the uncomfortable topic of race.

She speaks about these topics in interviews and TEDTalks, but also dares to talk about them in her work at Ariel and as a board member. Another topic that she finds very important is financial literacy. It is ridiculous that schools in America give kids the opportunity to take classes in woodshop but not in investing, she believes. She finds it important to share her knowledge on investing and the industry with others, so they can get a better financial situation.

It is Hobson’s goal to make the world a better place, especially for future generations, such as the generation of her daughter Everest. Hobson’s work surely impacted the world for the better and hopefully Hobson will continue to speak out for a lot more years to come. 

Here is the link to her TEDTalk on being color brave, check it out to learn more about Mellody Hobson and her work: 


Author: Marlijn Metzlar
Image: Joi Ito

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