Ursula Burns: Why I was hesitant to do this interview

Right now, America is facing a critical test. Will the pain, the anger, the protests unfolding on our streets really change anything real change? Is it coming for black people in America, real justice? Is it coming for black people in America, a real equality in the workplace? Will it come Ursula Burns is here she is the former CEO of Xerox.

She was the first black female ever to run a fortune 500 company. She now serves on the boards of uber, Exxon and Nestle and Ursula as a young girl. You were told that you had three strikes against you, that you were poor, you were black and you were a woman and look at all that you have achieved.

This is a moment of reckoning in our country, and one in which you have said. Despite being part of the 1 %, you are scared of the police yeah. I said, and I think the interesting thing is that I was told I was a girl, not even a woman, then, if this was, I guess appropriate.

I think where we are today is that we have many moments of reckoning leading up to today right, we're up to two weeks of dreams go Memorial Day, and I think, for the first time, in a long time, it comes at a time Where people are more willing to listen and to become disgruntled and disgusted with the status quo, so I think that there's a chance here that we can make progress.

It's not going to wipe everything out. We're, not gonna be able to undo 400 years of injustice and just in equality that I think starting the conversation and starting to move forward in the right direction.

This is the first time the long terms I'm, starting to feel a lot more hold hopeful that I did in the past. Why are you still scared of police officers because you've called this the scariest moment of your life.

Yeah I mean we were you know. I was I'm, a black woman. I was raised in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. I have two children, black children and one of the things that's very standard and in black culture.

In the United States is that you raise your kids to be respectful. You know all the things that like and you raised them to be very wary of the police, because history between african-americans and the police is not one that was built on a high level of trust or respect from one side to the other.

And quite honestly, we're, seeing it now come to play, you know with with with cameras and tapes and etc, but it's been going on for a very long time. I told my boy when he was boys. This is a boy who's, a Stanford graduate MIT graduate.

He knows very clearly that when he leaves the house he has to be very careful. If a police person approaches him, he should first shut up and make sure that he is listening carefully and being respected.

This is the way to the rent raised that way paranoia, but because, basically, we're, seeing what some of the the worst case, actions against wayward police are towards black people, but we're raised that way from the beginning.

You were candidly, I've known you for years and covered your career. When we spoke last week, you were hesitant to do this interview and I'm, hoping you can share with people. Why? Because I was so struck by what you said yeah, you know, since this George Floyd and you know the independent macand in the Trump era, the number of calls that black Americans, particularly business black Americans, the gotten from corporate America generally, the white completely exclude by the Way, love and work with you, so this is not down to them.

It has gone through. I could be on the call I could be on the phone all day, speaking to Steve Jones and it's kind of expected. You words kind of like, but and I do it, but I you know every after every call, I feel even a little bit concerned because it's almost like speaking to the slaves who were slaves back then and say.

Can you tell me how to undo slavery? You know they were saying. I can give you some advice here, but I think they should be talking to yourselves. The slave owners, about figuring out a way to go on to say we've, got obviously puppet America.

It's, not slavery. So I don & # 39. T want to get a thousand pieces of email about that. It's, what it's like to the people who are the oppressed and telling asking them to help me not to help me but lead undoing of the oppression.

My point and my concern with you and my point to you was: I love these conversations. I think it's a great time and I welcome them. So please keep calling and keep calling my my african-american peers and social justice and this is etc.

But please also call yourselves because what what you have to do is I only speak to us. You have to speak to yourselves about. You are the architects and you're, the beneficiaries of a system today that you can undo you can help to undo.

You can do it more 10 times 50 times more than we can well. We will lead the way, but you have to be part of the conversation and lead the conversation with your peers and your convictions that are not african-american or not female yeah, and to your point, there are only four, only four black CEOs in the entire fortune: 500 Right now that is unbelievable.

I think it's, women. I know I know so: Darren Walker, who's, a friend of yours and the president. The Ford Foundation said last week that corporate America has failed black America. I know you agree with that sentiment.

What do what is mainly white men empowering these companies now? What do they have to do to make room and not just make the pipeline more diverse, but make the top of companies more diverse and the board's more diverse, now, quotas, part of it is what you said.

One is this: make the boards more diverse? Now I mean this is something that is doable. I mean there are African American men and women African American men and women and women who actually are capable and willing to serve on boards.

They haven't. All been CEOs because, as you can tell, we really only have 15 of those total, including the retired guys, but there are absolutely talented, african-americans and women who can actually help to diversify boards that diversification helps to diversify the thought: diversify the language, diversify the culture, everything About the company so start there go down to the sea.

A large amount of the c-suite is developed internally, but also hired from the outside, diversifying us peacefully, and then there's, a whole bunch of do in the middle. But I also my next thing would be look at your intake, the intake back down how many people do you hire and what what inclusive culture you have in your company to inspire these people to stay and but but Ursula.

You know the the message from many of these leaders is, we are working on it and I know a lot of them and I know genuinely that a number of them are, but is it a? Is it at the point where you & # 39? Ve talked before about you know: Ken corporate America keep policing itself because you used to be very against quotas, mandates for diversity, on boards, etc, and and and high up in companies has your mind changed on that.

Is this the moment where, if we need to see real equality, it's only going to come through actually forcing hands my mind mindset, I used to be dead, set against this idea of quarters because I actually don't believe the Government's combative just a lot better than companies coming.

In any case, it's not near as as well, but I think about this as policing yourself right. We've left it to corporations for a hundred years. Let's, say forty years of real hard work to get to where we are today for African American CEOs.

Very few CEOs very few of our board members very few and poor penetration of women, and we left it to corporations to monitor themselves and do it themselves in America and they sail across the board continuously we fail so the question my question that becomes hmm: do We just leave it to another 50 years of saying they're gonna do their best.

They've tried. We've done in Kanata. I only want to hire from the inside, or do you thence or do you say enough is enough. You've, proven that you're, incapable of doing this. We have proven that we are incapable of diversifying the boards and the leadership structures and just a service structure of corporations.

Do you turn it over to a set of mandates that forces and I don't know yet poppy. If I'm quite for there, but every time I'm in a conversation that there goes like you started yeah trying. Well, I say: okay, no, how many more years do you say to the people who have been excluded just hold on give them ten more years they'll get there, and here another generation kind of just goes by the wayside of people.

Who can we have who can increase shareholder value, who can represent all of the stakeholders and community who can create a more just and balanced set of corporate America and America in general and the globe? How long do you would see this? Okay, we & # 39, ll, give them another ten years, another fifteen years, and we'll end up the same place.

There are fewer women CEOs today than when I was CEO and they are significantly fewer black CEOs than when I was CEO, and so we're, not making a lot of progress here, and I just don't know if it's worth waiting, another 10 or 15 years yeah I can't believe we are where we're.

We still are Ursula burns, you're, your journey and and your story and your rise has been remarkable. Thank you for being a voice and for being with me today, I'm, so happy that I came on board papi. Thank you.

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