Mellody Hobson, black CEO, mistaken for the help

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Meet Mellody Hobson, Princeton graduate and CEO of Ariel Investments, a Chicago based money management firm managing over $10 billion in assets. She started as an intern at Ariel and quickly moved up the corporate ladder, she was Senior Vice President, Director of Marketing, and President of the company. Hobson has a plethora of accomplishments to be proud of, her history with Ariel is only a fraction of what she accomplished.

21695In a speech Hobson talked an experience that a lot of African Americans can relate to. In 2006, her friend Harold Ford called and asked for her help, stating that he desperately needed national press as he would be running for U.S. Senate in Tennessee. She and a friend decided to host an editorial board lunch for Harold. On the day of the event Mellody and Harold arrived at the hotel and told the receptionist they were there for the lunch. Hobson said the receptionist motioned for them to follow her, they walked through a series of corridors, and end up in a “stark room”, where she looked at both of them and asked, “Where are your uniforms?” At that point Hobson’s friend came rushing in the room, furiously. Then she looked at her friend and said, “Now don’t you think we need more than one black person in the U.S. Senate?”

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This story doesn’t surprise me and didn’t surprise her at the time. She was taken back but not surprised. Early in life her mother prepared her for situations like this by letting her know that people would treat her differently solely because of the color of her skin. “Of the thousands of publicly traded companies only two are chaired by black women” and Mrs. Hobson is one of them. Unfortunately most of us expect situations like this to occur in our lives but Mrs. Hobson is a great example of how we can’t let someone else’s perception of us define who we are.

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PUBLIC NOTE: The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not reflect the view of the Urban Intellectuals, affiliates or partners.



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