We Cannot Be Color Blind. We have to Be Color Brave!

Now I know there are people out there who will say that the election of Barack Obama meant that it was the end of racial discrimination for all eternity, right? But I work in the investment business, and we have a saying: The numbers do not lie. And here, there are significant, quantifiable racial disparities that cannot be ignored, in household wealth, household income, job opportunities, healthcare. One example from corporate America: Even though white men make up just 30 percent of the U.S. population, they hold 70 percent of all corporate board seats. Of the Fortune 250, there are only seven CEOs that are minorities,and of the thousands of publicly traded companies today, thousands, only two are chaired by black women, and you’re looking at one of them, the same one who, not too long ago, was nearly mistaken for kitchen help.

Going into Corporate America, many minority students will find that their managing directors or the managing partners look very different from them. Today, minority leaders only represent 3% of Corporate America’s elite. There is no doubt that there is a lack of diversity in the workforce. That’s why big corporations are now increasing their diversity recruiting efforts. However, as well rounded professionals, we should be ” Color Blind,  as Hobson mentions.  We shall not feel uncomfortable when interacting with people who have different backgrounds or ethnicities. Of course, the conversation about race and about differences can often be awkward. But it is incumbent upon the future generation of professionals to transcend these differences to be more effective leaders. In this Ted Talk, Mellody Hobson, a senior leader at Ariel Investments, shares her story about being African-American and a woman in a setting where there aren’t many people like her. Listen and be inspired!

Mellody Hobson handles strategic planning for the Chicago-based Ariel Investments, one of the largest African-American-owned money management firms in the United States. Beyond her work at Ariel, Hobson has become a nationally recognized voice on financial literacy and investor education. She is a regular contributor and analyst on finance, the markets and economic trends for CBS News, contributes weekly money tips on the Tom Joyner Morning Show and writes a column for Black Enterprise magazine. As a passionate advocate for investor education, she is a spokesperson for the Ariel/Hewitt study, 401(k) Plans in Living Color and the Ariel Black Investor Survey, both of which examine investing patterns among minorities. Hobson is chair of the board for DreamWorks Animation. Her community outreach includes serving as chairman of After School Matters, providing Chicago teens with high quality out-of-school-time programs.

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