Mellody Hobson one of the influential names in the business world. She is admirable not just because she is the president of a well-respected Chicago money-management firm called Ariel Investments, but she is also an influential person because of her striking work in fighting against racial discrimination.
Because of Hobsons remarkable work, she is adorned by many, “She has a grace and graciousness about her that is singular,” said Jeffrey Katzenberg, the former CEO of Dream Works Animation, who had worked with Hobson, told Vanity Fair in 2015. “She is remarkably unique. She’s a stunning person. I get a little nervous talking about her because the words are so flowery. But it’s truly how I feel about her.”
We see Hobson as a powerful woman who has everything in her hand, but she wasn’t born in a place that made that inevitable, or even likely. Mellody was raised by her single mother and the youngest child in their family. Dorthy Ashley her mother, or Dorth as Hobson sometimes called her, was a hardworking entrepreneur who fixed up and rented out and later sold, condominiums. Despite the dedication and hard work of her mother, she didn’t have a hard enough heart to be a good businesswoman. Hobson mom has the softest heart who couldn’t evict tenants who couldn’t pay their rent, recalls Hobson’s sister Pat Hamel. And when she began selling condos, she was often penalized by redlining. That, plus her own extravagance—both sisters recall their mother buying Easter dresses instead of paying the phone bill—resulted in frequent evictions and moves between Chicago’s relatively wealthier North Side and the grittier South Side, where they’d sometimes heat water for baths on hot plates.
Dorothy Ashley was a strange mixture of “brutal pragmatism and optimism,” says Hobson, who remembers returning at the age of seven from a birthday party where she was the only black child. “How did they treat you?” her mother asked. “Because they won’t always treat you well.” But her mother also instilled in her daughter both confidence and independence. “My mom would say, ‘You have a birthday party to go to? Well, you can’t go unless you’ve planned how to get there and how to get a present.’ She wouldn’t do that for me. I found my own orthodontist, my own high school. I set up interviews and did college trips. Despite her incredible concern and caring, my mom didn’t have the capacity for that. It was outside her experience, and she knew I was on top of it,” says Hobson.
Because of this life events, Hobson made it clear that even though she will never be evicted again, “I am haunted by those times, and still work relentlessly,” Hobson wrote in her chapter in Sandberg’s Lean In for Graduates. “When I think of my career, and why I learned in, it comes down to basic survival.”
Five years ago the Facebook chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg who first met Hobson, where they were both board members at Eve Ensler’s V-Day organization, which combats violence against women, credits a comment Hobson made with inspiring her to write her best-seller, Lean In. “She said she wanted to be unapologetically black and unapologetically a woman,” Sandberg says, recalling that the comment helped her move past trying to make her gender difference fade into the background. “My life was altered by meeting her, and that’s not something I say lightly,” Sandberg adds. “She is such a big part of my path taken. I think she does that for everyone.”
Beyond her work at Ariel Investments, Hobson is a nationally recognized voice on financial literacy and investor education. She has been a financial contributor on Good Morning America, the featured consumer finance expert on Tom Joyner’s Money Mondays radio program, and a regular columnist for Black Enterprise.
With a long line of Hobson’s achievements in life she also well-known to be outspoken about race. “In private settings, people do not talk about differences,” says Sandberg. “She does and always did. She does it in such a way that people are able to hear it, and she does not mince words.”
Even so, some of her friends thought a talk about race wasn’t a wise idea.
But Hobson has always remembered her mother’s question: How did they treat you? And then she read a story about a woman who would always tell her child, “Be brave.” “I had one of those moments where I said, ‘This is it,’ ” she says. She titled her speech “Color Blind or Color Brave?” and she said, “My challenge to you is simply this: Observe your environment. At work. At home. At school. And if you don’t see any diversity, work to change it.” “I am not a one-issue person,” she says. “But it is important to me, and I feel incredibly, uniquely positioned to talk about it. ‘If Mellody is saying it, maybe we need to think about it.”
“What can I say?” says Howard Schultz, the chairman and C.E.O. of Starbucks. “When I think of her, I think of grace. She’s the most unique individual. I love Mellody Hobson.”
Source Vanity Fair