After all, if the upside of the “angry black female” stereotype was powerful enough to overcome such hostilities and biases, women in top business leadership positions would not be so scarce. According to Catalyst, black women make up only 3 percent of board seats at Fortune 500 companies. There is only one black female chief executive in the entire Fortune 500 — Ursula Burns, the CEO of Xerox — and when she was named in 2009, she became the nation’s first for companies on that list.
Still it may not be an accident that Burns’ leadership style helps to illustrate our findings. Burns has been described by her colleagues as candid, forthright and exhibiting a no-nonsense approach when communicating with her peers and colleagues. According to The New York Times, in Burns’ speech at her inaugural annual meeting at Xerox in 2010, she described the company’s culture as “terminal niceness” and encouraged her employees to be more frank when exchanging ideas with one another. Fortune has called her “hard-charging and blunt,” quoting Burns talking about her “big mouth” and saying that “patience is not one of my strengths.”