Iranian-Americans at the Forefront of Success

09/07/2017 04:48 pm ET Updated Sep 09, 2017

After a nine-week hunt for a CEO, Uber announced the appointment of Iranian-American, Dara Khosrowshahi, a former executive at Expedia where he had the distinction of being the highest paid CEO in the US. Honoring a long-held family tradition of valuing education above all else, he earned a B.A. in Electrical Engineering from Brown University.

Khosrawshahi is among a long list of Iranian CEOs and successful Iranian-Americans whose remarkable achievements are recognized internationally. His own family is an incubator of sorts for high achievers, as many of Khosrowshahi's family members are Silicon Valley executives and investors.

Khosrawshahi is certainly not the exception when it comes to Iranian-Americans achieving success. A report by the Iranian Studies Group at MIT reveals that per capita average income for Iranian-Americans is 50% higher than that of the rest of the nation. Iranian-Americans living in homes valued at over $1 Million exceeds the national average by ten times.

The list of Iranians in high-powered tech positions is extensive, some examples of which include Shervin Pishevar, co-founder of Sherpa Capital, Pierre Omidyar, founder of Ebay, and Sean Rad & Justin Mateen, co-founders of Tinder.

Iranian-Americans have also attained top positions in financial markets. One example is Sharmin Mossavar-Rahmani, a rare woman in the male-dominated field of finance, serving as the CIO of Private Wealth Management at Goldman Sachs.

The list of Iranian-American physicians, scientists and academics is extensive, with one example being the late Maryam Mirzhakhani, who received the Fields Medal in 2014, the highest honor in Mathematics.

Most Iranian immigrants did not have access to capital when they first arrived in the U.S. in the late 70s and early 80s, so what is it that makes this relatively small group of immigrants so financially successful?

The answer is: Education. Education has always been a pillar of Iranian culture, both in Iran and within the Iranian immigrant population. Statistically, Iranians are the most highly educated immigrant group in the United States. They tend to excel in math and the sciences, fields in which American students typically struggle.

Some 57% of Iranian Americans hold a bachelors degree, compared to 24% of the US population, and the percentage of Iranians who hold graduate degrees is three times the national average. One can easily see how a vast playing field of opportunities becomes available to those who are equipped with the knowledge and expertise to compete in various industries.

I had the pleasure of catching up with David Nazarian, an Iranian-born businessman and founder of Nimes Capital. Like many fellow Iranian-Americans, Nazarian believes education is the leading factor in achieving success within any culture or community.

“We have been taught as immigrants that the only asset that no one can take away from you is education. From early on, Iranian families have ingrained this value in their kids.”

Nazarian’s commitment to helping provide all students access to an excellent education, regardless of background and financial standing, inspired a charitable contribution to The CSUN school of Business and Economics, which is now named The David Nazarian College of Business and Economics in his honor.

“I want to make sure that all underprivileged communities have equal opportunities for quality education so that they have the right access to pursue their professional aspirations”. Says Nazarian.

Like Nazarian, most Iranians place tremendous value on education, helping others achieve career success. Consequently, a significant number of Iranians have contributed to the education systems here in the US. A few other examples include the Paul Merage School of Business at UC Irvine, which is named in Paul Merage’s honor after a substantial donation.

Another example is Hadi and Ali Partovi, who co-founded code.org, a non-profit organization that provides computer science education to 20% of US students.

At a time when immigrant populations are being marginalized in the US, the Iranian-American community is a notable example of how immigrant populations with access to education can truly create a better life for themselves and the society they in which they live.

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