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Diversity in the Workplace: Accelerating Change in the Boardroom with Ursula Burns, Senior Adviser of Teneo & Former CEO of Xerox

Ursula Burns, Senior Adviser, Teneo & Former CEO, Xerox joins Washington Post Live on Tuesday, May 18 (Video: The Washington Post)
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She was the first Black woman to be CEO of a Fortune 500 company when she was elevated to that role at Xerox in 2009. On Tuesday, May 18 at 12:00pm ET, Washington Post Live hosted Ursula Burns, currently a senior adviser at Teneo, to discuss ways companies can help facilitate greater gender and ethnic diversity in the boardroom.

She will also assess evolving corporate attitudes on issues such as climate change and social justice here in America and around the world.

Click here for transcript


Ursula Burns, senior adviser of Teneo and the former CEO of Xerox, says progress has been made in increasing gender diversity in the boardrooms of corporate America, but she says “we still have a long way to go in racial diversity.” “Black and Brown people are still very underrepresented both in the boardroom and the C-Suite.” (Video: Washington Post Live)
Ursula Burns says the Board Diversity Action Alliance is asking that corporations in America and around the world have at least one Black or Brown person on their board. “If you do that then basically you can start to sit in their seat, in some ways. You don’t have to go far, you don’t have to reach very far to have a conversation about their ideas, about how progress is happening, their voice, their background, their input on how to make the company a better place.” (Video: Washington Post Live)
Ursula Burns says one of the challenges in diversifying the boardroom is familiarity, explaining that White woman often benefit from how comfortable majority men feel with them versus Black or Brown women. Burns added we have a “huge mountain to climb” to get White or majority men to feel comfortable with minority women. “White women are more familiar and comfortable to the decision makers than any other type of female…That level of familiarity and that level of closeness…makes it easier to make a decision…People hire people who are like them. People hire people that they’re comfortable with.” (Video: Washington Post Live)
Ursula Burns, senior adviser of Teneo and the former CEO of Xerox, says fighting for voting rights is an issue every leader in corporate America should get behind. “This is not a Black person’s problem. This is an American problem. It belongs to all of us. The right to vote belongs to all of us.” (Video: Washington Post Live)

Ursula Burns

Provided by Teneo.

Ursula Burns has extensive international experience in large companies confronting technology change of their industries. In June 2017 she was appointed as Chairman of VEON Ltd. She became Chairman and CEO in December 2018 until June 2020.

Ursula Burns was the Chairman of the Board of the Xerox Corporation from 2010 to 2017 and Chief Executive Officer from 2009 to 2016.

Burns joined Xerox as an intern in 1980 and during her career she has held leadership posts spanning corporate services, manufacturing and product development. She was named president in 2007. During her tenure as chief executive officer, she helped the company transform from a global leader in document technology to the world’s most diversified business services company serving enterprises and governments of all sizes. Shortly after being named CEO in 2009, she spearheaded the largest acquisition in Xerox history, the $6.4 billion purchase of Affiliated Computer Services.

In 2016, she led Xerox through a successful separation into two independent, publicly traded companies – Xerox Corporation, which is comprised of the company’s Document Technology and Document Outsourcing businesses, and Conduent Incorporated, a business process services company.

Ursula, who regularly appears on Fortune’s and Forbes’ list of the world’s most powerful women, is a board director of Exxon Mobil, Nestlé, and Uber. U.S. President Barack Obama appointed Ursula to help lead the White House national program on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) from 2009-2016, and she served as chair of the President’s Export Council from 2015-2016 after service as vice chair 2010-2015.

She provides leadership counsel to several other community, educational and non- profit organizations including the Ford Foundation, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Corporation, Cornell Tech Board of Overseers, the New York City Ballet, and the Mayo Clinic among others. Burns is a member of the National Academy of Engineering, The Royal Academy of Engineering and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

In addition, she is on two Pre-IPO boards - Waystar and IHS Towers.

Ursula holds a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from Columbia University and a bachelor’s in mechanical engineering from Polytechnic Institute of New York University.

Awards: National Academy of Engineering, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Royal Academy of Engineering.