Jonathan C. Hughley
Education: JD cum laude, University of Illinois College of Law–Urbana-Champaign; BS, mechanical engineering, University of Illinois–Urbana-Champaign
Company Name: Marshall, Gerstein & Borun LLP
Industry: Law (Intellectual Property)
Company CEO: Jeffrey S. Sharp, Managing Partner
Company Headquarters Location: Chicago, Illinois
Number of Employees: 200
Words you live by: I strive to be a positive example for others in everything I do.
Who is your personal hero? My father, Coleman Hughley
What book are you reading? I’m revisiting The 1619 Project published by the New York Times
What was your first job: I was a garment bagger at my neighborhood cleaners. I rode my bike uphill both ways!
Favorite charity: Lupus Foundation of America. My late mother lived with this illness for many years, but remained positive throughout.
Interests: Serving at my church, cooking for my family, collecting vintage vinyl records, and (mostly unsuccessful) fishing trips
Family: I am incredibly grateful to have the support of my wife who, along with my son, makes me a better person.
How I Succeed in Spite of Workplace Bias
Unconscious bias in the workplace ensures that minority candidates are subjected to heightened scrutiny, in hiring, promotions, business development opportunities, and more. It is not uncommon for Black lawyers to have their work reviewed unnecessarily rigorously. Another form of bias that I have experienced in the workplace is microaggression. Though I’ve been the recipient of unwarranted and unprofessional berating on far too many occasions, I was always taught growing up to have a thick skin and not let it get to me.
Instead, I try to focus on the advice of my father—to exceed expectations by always putting in twice the effort. Being committed to doing at least twice as much as I am asked has allowed me to go farther than even my own expectations. I genuinely believe this was the best advice I ever received and helped me to quickly accelerate in my career. That said, this advice now extends into my personal life as well, where I’ve learned that I also need to work twice as hard at prioritizing and being present with my family.
However, while having a thick skin and a strong work ethic can help us overcome challenges on an individual basis, we must still work together to combat systemic racism and eradicate unconscious bias and microaggressions from our workplace. If we do not, people will continue to not be hired, promoted, or even considered for opportunities simply because of the color of their skin. This behavior negatively affects the ratio of minority employees in companies, not only because of low hiring numbers, but also because people feel undervalued and ultimately leave the company.
Looking towards the future, I hope one day we won’t need to recognize Black Leaders Worth Watching separately from others. The reason these awards are necessary is because, historically, Black leaders haven’t been recognized for their accomplishments. I hope our society can get to a point where any group of minority leaders are recognized alongside the majority for their accomplishments. To that end, I am grateful for this honor and would like to use this opportunity as a springboard to continue to help others achieve their goals. I invite young professionals to connect with me on LinkedIn or reach out in other ways if sharing my experiences will be helpful to them.