The daughter of a single mother, Mellody Hobson grew up in Chicago, Illinois and went on to graduate from Princeton University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Public and International Affairs. The adversities she faced in her childhood as a black woman have helped shaped her into who she is today: one of the most successful financial executives in the country.
In her 2014 TED Talk titled “Color blind or color brave?,” Hobson tackled the issue of racial discrimination and the lack of diversity in corporate America. She shared her own experiences of racial prejudice and the persistent fear in the back of her mind that people will write her off as a “militant black woman” simply for shining a light on the problem. Thoughts of her mother, of all the hardships she had to endure to ensure her children “dreamed the biggest dreams” and achieved them, become a source of strength. Hobson does not shy away from the uncomfortable conversation of race:
“…imagine if I walked you into a room and it was of a major corporation…and every single person around the boardroom were black, you would think that were weird. But if I walked you into a Fortune 500 company, and everyone around the table is a white male, when will it be that we think that’s weird, too?”
This type of questioning is fundamental to ensuring the next generation of dreamers are given the opportunities they deserve.
In addition to her position as president of Ariel Investments, Hobson also serves on the board of directors for DreamWorks Animation, The Estée Lauder Companies Inc. and the Starbucks Corporation. Through her accomplishments, Hobson has been able to establish several positive community outreach programs. Among them is After School Matters, a nonprofit organization that provides beneficial after-school programs to Chicago students.
Hobson will receive the prestigious Horatio Alger Award this spring, in honor of her achievements as a businesswoman and philanthropist.