She was raised by a single mother, and remembers sometimes heating water for baths on hot plates. She remembers her family getting evicted.
But those struggles in her youth only made Mellody Hobson an unstoppable force in her pursuit of success and financial security, and not just for herself.
In her role as president of Chicago-based Ariel Investments, a fund company with $4.8 billion in mutual fund assets, Hobson has dedicated herself to acting as an advocate of financial literacy and investor education.
As a leader at one of the largest African American-owned money management firms, those in the fund provider industry say she has had a great influence on pushing for diversity in the mutual and ETF industry specifically, and for asset management more broadly. "There are significant, quantifiable racial disparities that cannot be ignored ... At Ariel, we view our diversity as a competitive advantage," Hobson said in a 2014 TED Talk.
She ranked on this year's Time 100 as one of the world's 100 most influential people, and the magazine described her as a "finance whiz."
"Mellody exudes a cheerful confidence that makes people want to follow her," wrote three-time New Jersey Senator Bill Bradley in her profile.
Hobson is responsible for management and strategic planning, overseeing all operations outside of research and portfolio management.
Additionally, she serves as chairman of the board of trustees for Ariel Investment Trust, and on the executive committee of the Investment Company Institute's board of governors.