Ursula Burns, CEO of Xerox talking on the 2105 CGI Annual Assembly in New York.
Adam Jeffery | CNBC
Ursula Burns, who was CEO of Xerox from 2009 to 2016 and the primary Black lady to run a Fortune 500 firm, says firms must “change the standards” for administrators to create extra various board rooms.
Burns spoke on CNBC’s “The Path Forward: Race and Opportunity in America” on Tuesday night, anchored by Jon Fortt and Andrew Ross Sorkin. She was joined through the hour-long program by Black leaders, together with Starbucks COO Rosalind Brewer, former Time Warner CEO Richard Parsons, former Oracle co-president Charles Phillips and former Aetna CEO Ron Williams.
The present targeted on the under-representation of Blacks in company management positions and on boards, and explored why some firms and industries are additional alongside than others in altering the equation.
In keeping with Burns, firms must cease screening for individuals who have been CEOs as they construct out their boards, as a result of Blacks have been excluded from these roles. Even at the moment, there are solely 4 Black CEOs within the Fortune 500.
“You possibly can in all probability depend on two fingers the variety of candidates you may get which can be various,” mentioned Burns, who’s at present an Uber director. “It is a fallacy and a structural type of racism and exclusion to say that the one individuals who can truly take part are folks that have this very slim set of expertise.”
Requested whether or not quotas are the precise method, Burns mentioned that “quotas are the results of failure.” The issues which can be gaining resonance at the moment, within the aftermath of the homicide of George Floyd and different situations of police violence in direction of Blacks, have been round for many years.
“Folks get pissed off and so they begin to mandate issues and so they put in place quotas,” Burns mentioned.
Williams, who was CEO of Aetna from 2006 via 2010, agreed that firms must “broaden the applicant pool,” when filling out management roles. The CEO has to steer within the effort, he mentioned, including that the board has to carry the CEO accountable and shareholders have to carry the board accountable.
“Whenever you search for the very best candidates,” Williams mentioned, you discover that rather more typically “it is a lady or particular person of coloration.”
Phillips, who left Oracle in 2010 for software program firm Infor and was CEO there till final 12 months, mentioned he is working to assist his Silicon Valley colleagues attain a wider viewers of expertise. He mentioned he typically hears from enterprise capitalists, who complain about having too few Blacks within the pipeline.
“You reside in a spot the place Black individuals aren’t,” mentioned Phillips. He mentioned he is connecting buyers to his community within the South and elements of the East Coast with greater populations of minorities.