Ursula Burns, The First Black Woman CEO In The Fortune 500, Details What It's Like To Serve On Various Boards
Photo Credit: AfroTech

Ursula Burns, The First Black Woman CEO In The Fortune 500, Details What It's Like To Serve On Various Boards

Working in corporate America is one thing, but serving as a board member across several corporations is another.

Ursula Burns went from CEO of Xerox to sitting on various boards for companies including Boston Scientific, the University of Rochester, the MIT Corporation, American Express, Exxon Mobil, Uber, Waystar, and more.

During her tenure at Xerox, Burns was the first Black woman to serve as a CEO of a Fortune 500 Company.

For this week’s Black Tech Green Money episode, Burns sits down with Heather Hiles, the Managing Partner at Black Ops Ventures and the founder of  Pathbrite, during AfroTech Executive Brooklyn. The two discuss the new era of Women In The Boardroom and how to navigate your way into those rooms and claim a seat a the table.

Corporate Boards

During the conversation, Burns explains what it was like working across several corporate boards and the answer might shock a couple of folks.

“Fortunately two of them were easy,” said Burns. “One of them was American Express, one of the best-run companies out there. The board was phenomenal and so you could actually do that and you could do another one. That’s not to say that it wasn’t time consuming, but it was an easy time. It was not a crisis. Another company board that I was on had a crisis and it took a lot of time and then the third was in the middle. It’s not the kind of thing you do a lot of, and you don’t get rich and famous from it.”

Managing A Crisis

Not every board is smooth sailing. Burns explains what it has been like working for a brand like Uber, where she still serves on the board today.

“They were in a lot of trouble and it wasn’t because of profitability, you know the story. It was just a crazy place, a crazy culture. Crazy leadership, actually –may be good as individual people — I never got to know them, but together they were definitely not a group of people that you wanted to hang out with a whole lot,” Burns continued.

For more, including how corporate boards work and how to become a part of a corporation’s board listen to the full Black Tech Green Money episode below.