Quora Question: Is It Possible to Be as Successful as Elon Musk as a Black Man in America?

Tesla founder Elon Musk arrives for the the annual Allen and Co. media conference in Sun Valley, Idaho July 7. Mike Blake/Reuters

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Answer from Justine Musk

Here's an oft-asked question: Where is the female Mark Zuckerberg? She's out there, but a lot of things have to come together for her to take the throne: talent, exposure to the right skillset when she's a kid so she starts developing it early, the focus and commitment to develop it early (being unpopular helps), education, mentors, the relentless thick-skinned personality and wild delusional optimism of a trailblazer, access, relationships (most startups are founded by people who were friends in high school or college, where birds of a feather...etc.), enough social savvy to navigate male-dominated networks, and being in the right place and time in the right historical moment.

(China is ahead of us: @ Meet Zhang Xin, a Chinese real estate mogul who's richer than Oprah - CNN.com)

So it's possible, but the odds will be against it until the day they aren't. (How many people would have predicted the rise of Oprah, when she was rising right in front of their eyes?) It's likely we'll see a black Jobs or Gates or Musk before a female version, just like we achieved our first black president before our first female president.

Then again, women won the vote less than 100 years ago, in 1920, about 50 years after Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. So both groups have gone from slavery at worst and "coddled children" at best to winning/almost winning the White House in the space of a few generations. Racism and sexism are still rampant, of course—if sometimes more subtle and underground/unconscious than in the past—but hey, we're trending.

You don't seem to consider Obama as successful as Jobs or Gates or Musk, so I assume you mean money. Guys like that, in industries that enable such demented crazy wealth, have grown up as white, Western, male, affluent while still being odd and different enough to be outsiders (these are not the guys voted Homecoming King, which left them some alone-time to develop superpowers). They combine insider privilege with a visionary's perspective. They're born inside the game but play it differently. A woman or person of color is born outside it altogether, and we won't know what rules allow them to win until they themselves invent them—as they go along.

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Quora Question: Is It Possible to Be as Successful as Elon Musk as a Black Man in America? | Business