Ex-Xerox CEO Ursula Burns says firms should ‘change the standards’ to create numerous boards

Ursula Burns, CEO of Xerox talking on the 2105 CGI Annual Meeting 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 need to “change the standards” for administrators to create extra numerous 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.

According to Burns, firms need to 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 this time, there are solely 4 Black CEOs within the Fortune 500.

“You can most likely depend on two palms the variety of candidates you will get which can be numerous,” stated Burns, who’s at present an Uber director. “It’s a fallacy and a structural type of racism and exclusion to say that the one individuals who can really take part are people who have this very slender set of expertise.”

Asked whether or not quotas are the fitting strategy, Burns stated that “quotas are the results of failure.” The issues which can be gaining resonance at this time, 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. 

“People get pissed off and so they begin to mandate issues and so they put in place quotas,” Burns stated.

Williams, who was CEO of Aetna from 2006 via 2010, agreed that firms have to “broaden the applicant pool,” when filling out management roles. The CEO has to guide within the effort, he stated, including that the board has to carry the CEO accountable and shareholders have to carry the board accountable.

“When you search for the very best candidates,” Williams stated, you discover that rather more typically “it is a lady or individual of coloration.”

Phillips, who left Oracle in 2010 for software program firm Infor and was CEO there till final 12 months, stated he is working to assist his Silicon Valley colleagues attain a wider viewers of expertise. He stated he typically hears from enterprise capitalists, who complain about having too few Blacks within the pipeline.

“You reside in a spot the place Black folks aren’t,” stated Phillips. He stated he is connecting buyers to his community within the South and elements of the East Coast with greater populations of minorities.

WATCH: How companies can diversity boardrooms

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