How engaging diversity made Xerox a company to copy

Xerox, a $22 billion company, is the first Fortune-500 corporation to have a female CEO. Its commitment to a diverse workforce began in the 1960s, when the founder pledged job opportunities for the African-American community. Economics correspondent Paul Solman explores how the effort to include and amplify multiple points of view has helped it survive and adapt to an ever-morphing market.

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  • GWEN IFILL:

    Next: how a Fortune 500 company changed its approach to corporate diversity, an effort that began more than two decades ago.

    Our economics correspondent, Paul Solman, has the story, part of his reporting on Making Sense of financial news.

  • ACTRESS:

    I can't type. I don't take dictation.

  • PAUL SOLMAN:

    The face of Xerox in the early 1960s, soft-selling the company's first retail copier.

  • ACTRESS:

    My boss calls me indispensable.

  • ACTOR:

    Ms. Jones?

  • ACTRESS:

    Just a minute.

  • ACTOR:

    Will you make a copy of this?

  • ACTRESS:

    Naturally.

  • PAUL SOLMAN:

    Xerox has come a long way. Besides copiers and, increasingly, document services, the CEO is selling something else in this era: diversity.

  • URSULA BURNS, CEO, Xerox:

    You have to have as many people who are capable engaged in a solution. And, if you don't, then — then, you know, shame on you.

  • PAUL SOLMAN:

    A $22 billion company doing business in more than 180 countries with 140,000 employees and hundreds of plants, Xerox has been run by Ursula Burns since 2009. Her predecessor was also a woman. So, how did the company go from this…

  • ACTRESS:

    I make perfect copies for whatever my boss needs by just turning a knob and pushing a button.

  • PAUL SOLMAN:

    … to the first Fortune 500 firm ever to have successive female CEOs? Well, the drive to diversity began not long after the ad. In the summer of 1964, amid race riots near Xerox headquarters in Rochester, New York, founder Joe Wilson met with black leaders.

    DAMIKA ARNOLD, Global Diversity and Inclusion Manager, Xerox: And found out that the reason why they were rioting is because they didn't have access to jobs. So he pledged that the black people of the community would be able to get jobs at Xerox.

  • PAUL SOLMAN:

    By 1991, when we first reported on diversity at Xerox, 9 percent of its top managers were black, compared to a national average of just half-a-percent. The company mandated managers like Kent Amos to fulfill its diversity mission.

  • KENT AMOS, Xerox:

    We're going to trust it, trust you, and empower you to be African-Americans and bring that to the table. And it worked.

  • PAUL SOLMAN:

    In fact, Ursula Burns was recruited by Xerox as part of its summer minority internship program in 1980. But, she says, affirmative action didn't extend to gender.

  • URSULA BURNS:

    We looked up one day and all the African-American men were doing better. I mean, they were leaders of the company. And there were very few women of any — of any race, right? So we said, oh, my God, then we have to do something about women.

  • PAUL SOLMAN:

    For instance, why were there so few female plant managers, a key rung up the ladder?

  • URSULA BURNS:

    It turns out you have to work the shifts in manufacturing. You have to be there from 9:00 to whatever the heck it is, 8:00 to 5:00. And, literally, we would put plant managers in and they would bomb out, women plant managers, primarily because we had zero flexibility.

    These things, we would have never, ever, ever figured out until we realized — a woman in there said, we're not dumb in manufacturing. We just — we need a lot more flexibility than you're allowing us to have.

  • PAUL SOLMAN:

    And so job sharing, or splitting a full-time position into two part-time jobs, was instituted. Still, for years, women were more visible than audible, says 40-year Xerox veteran Diane O'Connor.

  • DIANE O’CONNOR, Vice President, Xerox:

    I'm almost always the last person to speak up. Early on in my career, they never would have gotten to me, because the first three or four guys that said, here's what you have to go do, and they said, yes, we're going to go do it. And I'm still sitting in my chair and they have all gone to the men's room and I'm still sitting there going, oh, well, I guess that's decided.

  • PAUL SOLMAN:

    As a vice president, O'Connor now runs the meetings and is active in the Women's Alliance, a Xerox-sanctioned independent worker group, which advocates, mentors, networks. Corporate speed-dating: Make a contact. Make a pitch.

  • WOMAN:

    Innovative, energetic, results-oriented.

  • WOMAN:

    Right now, I manage one account nationally.

  • PAUL SOLMAN:

    Five minutes, and it's on to the next.

  • WOMAN:

    OK, that's time.

  • PAUL SOLMAN:

    The Women's Alliance is one of several caucus groups that promote women at Xerox offices around the country. There's also the Black Women's Leadership Council.

  • WOMAN:

    You have goals and aspirations. People won't know if you don't share that.

  • PAUL SOLMAN:

    Xerox engineer Marina Tharayil chaired the Women's Innovation Group, which addresses a common malady, shrinking violet syndrome.

  • MARINA THARAYIL, Senior Research Scientist, Xerox:

    I have heard someone say, if it's gold, it will shine. It's not your job to market yourself or to kind of showcase your work, because that's considered immodest.

  • PAUL SOLMAN:

    But it's not just women helping women.

    JEFF JACOBSON, President of Technology, Xerox: You might want to start focusing and saying, what is that ultimate next position and career that I would like to pursue?

  • PAUL SOLMAN:

    President of technology Jeff Jacobson at Xerox's London office.

  • WOMAN:

    A natural fit as I think about where I see my career progressing is to lead one of the business group organizations.

  • PAUL SOLMAN:

    In Rochester, New York, V.P. Rognee Mehtah (ph) is his protege.

  • WOMAN:

    But I wanted to get your feedback on whether you think that that's too ambitious and what are some of the experiences I would need to accrue in order to be an eligible candidate for one of those roles.

  • JEFF JACOBSON:

    So, certainly, never feel anything is too ambitious for you.

  • PAUL SOLMAN:

    Now, not every woman needs pumping up.

    Paul Allaire, CEO in the 1990s, mentored Ursula Burns. Appearing on "The History Makers" with host Gwen Ifill, Allaire recalled that Burns was no wallflower.

  • PAUL ALLAIRE, Former CEO, Xerox:

    We went through a number of fairly high-level meetings. And on the way back from them, I asked her, I said, Ursula, what did you think? And her answer was, I could do this.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • PAUL ALLAIRE:

    I said, what? She says, I could do this. I could do your job. I could be CEO.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • PAUL SOLMAN:

    Now that she is CEO, Burns is one of nine female top executives at Xerox. More than a quarter of the company's corporate leaders are women, compared to just 15 percent at other Fortune 500 companies. And 20 percent of top managers are minorities.

  • URSULA BURNS:

    We approach issues from different perspectives, no doubt about it. If I actually had my leadership team and they were all African-American female from New York City engineer, the conversation would be easy.

  • PAUL SOLMAN:

    And you would trust each other implicitly.

  • URSULA BURNS:

    And we would trust each other implicitly, and your perspective would be excluding a lot of perspectives. So we would feel great in the room. Yes, that was a really efficient meeting, we got it all kind of wrapped up, everything is pretty cool.

    We walk out, and our clients are different, our work force is different from that. It's just — it wouldn't be a good business model.

  • PAUL SOLMAN:

    Burns thinks diversity actually helped save the company. Long threatened by digital imaging, Xerox transformed itself, from machine maker to service provider. E-ZPass, toll collection, and call centers now account for more than half of all revenue. The way to weather change, says Burns:

  • URSULA BURNS:

    Is to engage as much difference, as much breadth as you can, because that gives you little peeks into where some of the big opportunities will be.

  • PAUL SOLMAN:

    And big ideas from new perspectives.

    Moreover, says senior sales vice president Pat Elizondo, diversity in general and women in particular are vital to courting customers for the growing services business.

  • PAT ELIZONDO, Senior Sales Vice President, Xerox:

    Women are better listeners. It takes patience to truly actively listen and understand and walk away from a client discussion understanding, what are they asking us to give them?

  • PAUL SOLMAN:

    As somebody whose profession is to listen, I am taking some umbrage to this comment, I just want you to know.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • PAT ELIZONDO:

    Well, I have repeated a couple of things twice for you, Paul, so…

    (LAUGHTER)

  • PAUL SOLMAN:

    Looking for some reassurance, perhaps, I felt I had to ask Burns, we men aren't in any danger of becoming obsolete, are we?

  • URSULA BURNS:

    Yes, men are useful.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • URSULA BURNS:

    They're more than useful. Obviously, we want men in there.

  • PAUL SOLMAN:

    Men, women, minorities from around the world. Xerox has had a gay and lesbian caucus for more than twenty years. Multiple points of view to adapt to a global, ever-morphing market. The only thing the company doesn't have: the stereotypes of the past.

  • ACTRESS:

    Here, Mr. Smith. I'm going to lunch with mother.

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