The Conference Board uses cookies to improve our website, enhance your experience, and deliver relevant messages and offers about our products. Detailed information on the use of cookies on this site is provided in our cookie policy. For more information on how The Conference Board collects and uses personal data, please visit our privacy policy. By continuing to use this Site or by clicking "OK", you consent to the use of cookies. 

07 Sep. 2020 | Comments (0)

Richard Parsons, a Senior Advisor at Providence Equity Partners as well as the former Chairman of Citigroup and Chairman and CEO of Time Warner Inc., recently joined our CEO Forum on Building a More Civil & Just Society. In our interview, we discussed the evolving role of public corporations and practical suggestions about how they can make concrete progress in advancing both inclusion and equity in our society.

Key points include:

Companies are responsive entities: “They live in a world where they respond to external inputs and when the external inputs were all about shareholder value, that’s what they were all about. . . Now the inputs are double-bottom line.”

You can only manage what you measure: “Corporations needs to establish an objective. . .you have to say this is what we want to accomplish and then you have to measure it and once you put something in place where it’s managed and measured, then people focus on it. . .It becomes an item for the board to follow, something management has to put resources behind.”

Moral imperative of diversity wasn’t enough: “I pulled all COOs from all the operating divisions together and I had a group of diverse actors, talent agents, their lawyers, and producers. . . and the light that went on was that I’m losing business opportunities because I don’t have a diverse staff."

Corporations are not just citizens: “They’re powerful. . .I decided to stay in the corporate sector because it seemed to me that locus of power in terms of the forces shaping our society was shifting to the private sector and that you can do more running companies.”

On inclusiveness and equity, it’s now up to the private sector: “On the equity side. . .as a country and as a society, we’re still wrestling with how to deal with that. . .we have to find a way to evolve to a better place. . .It’s a toss-up as to whether that’s going to come from the private sector or the public sector, but if I had to bet, it’s the private sector and corporate-led.”

Advice to African American CEOs: “The door is open. . .The expectation in the community is that you’re an advocate for inclusion.”

On the group of African American CEOs in the 90s leading to more diversity: “I thought the few of us who broke through. . . I thought is the beginning, but I was wrong. . . I’m still curious as to why so few persons of color have become CEOs of large companies.”

Not a question of if, but when, companies step up: “Things are changing, it’s just the rate of speed at which they change and that’s going to be the question. . .are corporations going to turn the ship into the wind in the right way in time.”

Watch the interview >> here.

The CEO Forum series features CEOs from across American industry who will focus on actionable insights to address underlying challenges of economic opportunity, childhood education, health care, workforce skills development, workplace equality and corporate governance.

Watch other CEO Forum interviews » here.

  • About the Author:Paul Washington

    Paul Washington

    Paul Washington joined The Conference Board in June 2019 as Executive Director of the ESG Center, a non-profit think tank that focuses on corporate governance, sustainability, and corporate citizenshi…

    Full Bio | More from Paul Washington


0 Comment Comment Policy

Please Sign In to post a comment.

    Subscribe to the Governance Blog







    Support Our Work

    Support our nonpartisan, nonprofit research and insights that help leaders address societal challenges.