Investment and business magnate extraordinaire Mellody Hobson rose from a financially unstable upbringing to become one of the most respected executives in the finance industry. She shattered every stereotype on her way to success, making her truly worthy of the Global Influencer title.
Mellody Hobson is proof that a woman doesn’t need to have a belligerently “masculine” attitude to make it to the top of the business world. “She has a grace and graciousness about her,” friend and DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg told Vanity Fair. Former head of Time Warner and friend of Hobson Dick Parsons agrees. “Someone once told me that the secret to success is being the person who other people want to see succeed… Mellody is that person.” That’s not to say Hobson is a “people pleaser” either; far from it. Her boardroom etiquette is said to be direct, never leaving anyone wondering what she’s thinking.
Hobson’s graciousness and direct approach have landed her a seat at some of the most coveted boardroom tables: she’s a director at JPMorgan Chase, Estée Lauder Companies, and Starbucks, and is also involved with countless philanthropic organizations.
Although she’s now at the top of her game, from the very beginning Hobson had to rise above the many stereotypes associated with growing up as a minority to a single mother, one of six mouths to feed. Despite the family facing regular evictions in her childhood due to, as she told Yale School of Management, a “mother that was both poor and extravagant at the exact same time,” Hobson committed herself to learning all she could about finance to ensure that she would never be in that position herself as an adult.
The Princeton graduate is now an advocate for financial literacy and making it accessible to all as a regular contributor to CBS News, Black Enterprise magazine, and the Tom Joyner Morning Show. Hobson has also dedicated her life to finance as president of Chicago-based money management and mutual fund firm, Ariel Investments. Impressively, Hobson started as an intern and worked her way up to becoming president of the company at age 31.
These days, Hobson’s popularity has spread thanks in part to her TED Talks on financial literacy and race. Yet she doesn’t just talk about change, she makes it happen; Hobson pushes for diversity on all boards that she’s a part of, as well as within Ariel. She proudly told ABC News that she describes her global team at Ariel, which is 51% female, as “literally a United Nations.”
Not quite having conquered it all, the respected business leader has also managed to tackle perhaps her most challenging role to date: becoming a mom with her husband, Star Wars creator George Lucas. With both committed to giving back, Hobson and Lucas have signed Warren Buffet’s and Bill and Melinda Gates’ Giving Pledge, agreeing to give away half of their fortune. It will ensure that Hobson’s legacy of helping others and being a champion for women and minorities will live on long into the future.
Laura D’Angelo | Contributing Writer