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Ariel Investments Co-CEO Mellody Hobson Says the Pandemic’s Economic Hardships Can Make Us ‘Smarter About the Future’

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As the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic continues to unfold, businesswoman Mellody Hobson says the best way to prevent further financial turmoil is for lawmakers to act and get more money into the hands of average Americans. The Ariel Investments President and Co-CEO spoke to TIME Senior Editor Emma Barker Bonomo for a TIME100 Talks conversation, and also noted that it makes sense to provide additional unemployment benefits to lower-income workers in the midst of this unprecedented time.

“Confidence is the name of the game when it comes to the economy,” Hobson argues. “You don’t want that consumer confidence to fall off a cliff because the consumer is so important to the gross domestic product in this country.”

Hobson acknowledges that there is no quick fix during a pandemic, but emphasized that this may be a great time for people to recognize the value of a financial safety net. “We can internalize what this period feels like and have it make us smarter about the future. It will be a horrible experience that will ultimately pay dividends later.”

Nonetheless, Hobson urges consumers to be proactive and ask for help if needed—even if it feels uncomfortable.

“If you don’t ask, you can’t get the relief you need,” she says. “[Companies] are trying to do the best that they can for their customers.”

Hobson also talks about how corporations have a social responsibility in the wake of racial injustice protests and must be committed to making change. “CEOs are now on the hot seat, whether they like it or not,” Hobson adds. “I think right now is the civil rights in corporate America.”

As America reels from a racial reckoning, Hobson says she would ask that corporations step up to elevate and hire a diverse workforce once the economy begins to ascend. “The machine will start to move again and when it moves again, how intentional can we be with making sure that everyone gets a chance,” she says. “Trying in the area is not good enough.”

Despite the economic contractions during this pandemic, Hobson remains optimistic about the future. “I get hope that the sun will rise tomorrow, and another day gives me another opportunity, gives all of us another opportunity to do better and to solve what wasn’t working.”

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Write to Nadia Suleman at nadia.suleman@time.com