Mellody Hobson has been named chair of Starbucks’ Board of Directors, making her the first African-American woman to lead a Fortune 500 corporation. Hobson has previously served as vice-president of the board, with her most recent term beginning in March 2021.
According to a statement from the coffee chain, she will succeed Myron Ullman III, who is retiring in March. Hobson said in a statement on Wednesday, “I am happy and privileged to take on the job of chair.”
“I’ve watched the corporation raise and evolve its operations over nearly two decades, reacting to changing market conditions and customer preferences.” I’m excited to work with the board and our great leadership team to accelerate our plan, assist our valued partners, and continue to deliver significant value to all of our stakeholders.”
Hobson was appointed vice-chair in 2018 after joining the board in 2005. In the American business world, the finance executive is a force to be reckoned with. She is the co-CEO of Ariel Investments, a worldwide value-based asset management organization, in addition to serving on the Starbucks board. She is also the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the firm’s publicly traded mutual funds.
Hobson is now a JPMorgan Chase director and previously served on the boards of Estée Lauder Companies and DreamWorks Animation.
Her nomination comes at a time when American businesses are under increasing pressure to diversify their leadership and promote workplace inclusiveness. According to CNN, racially or ethnically diverse directors now make for 6.8% of large-cap corporate boards, up from 13.6 percent in 2015.
According to Bloomberg, among the S&P 500 businesses with a female chair, only 15 have a director who is not also the company CEO. None of those women are African-American. Ursula Burns, who led Xerox’s board from 2010 to 2017, was the first Black female chair before Hobson.
Hobson, a successful entrepreneur, will be the first Black woman to be named to Princeton University’s residential college in the near future. The residential hall at Princeton University, which was previously named after Woodrow Wilson, will now be titled after Black alumnus and significant donor Hobson, according to an announcement made in October.
Princeton said in a statement that Hobson College, named after her, will be built on the site of First College, formerly known as Wilson College. According to the Ivy League school, Hobson and the Hobson/Lucas Family Foundation donated an undisclosed amount of money to help turn Wilson College into Hobson College before the announcement.
In 2015, Hobson was named to Time Magazine’s annual list of the world’s one hundred most important people. This year, she was also named to Forbes’ list of the World’s 100 Most Powerful Women.
Hobson earned his bachelor’s degree in international relations and public policy from Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School. Howard University, St. Mary’s College, the University of Southern California, and Johns Hopkins University have all awarded her honorary doctorates.