The “Wilson Rule,” named after Xerox’s first CEO Joe Wilson, covers all management and executive-level positions, much like the “Rooney Rule” that requires one minority candidate be interviewed for every head coaching vacancy in the National Football League.
Xerox — led by Ursula Burns, the first female African-American CEO of a Fortune 500 company — announced the new initiative in conjunction with President Barack Obama and the White House’s first Demo Day, aimed at bringing greater diversity to the tech world.
The White House effort showcased work by more than 30 startup teams of women, minorities and young people — all underrepresented in entrepreneurship. The exhibits ranged from early-stage technology to consumer products. About 3 percent of America’s venture capital-backed startups are led by women; around 1 percent are led by African-Americans. About 4 percent of U.S.-based venture capital investors are women, according to the Whie House.
“Xerox has been in this game a very, very long time,” said Damika Arnold, global diversity and inclusion leader at Xerox. “What we have decided to do as a company is reinvigorate our efforts.”
Outside the U.S., Xerox would require that one woman be included in the final pool of qualified candidates. Not addressed — at least not yet — is whether and how to ensure the diversity of those making the hiring decisions. Arnold said the rule is still evolving. Wilson’s Rule will be implemented beginning in the fourth quarter of this year, Arnold said.
“Our first goal was really to figure out what type of rule would be beneficial to us,” she said. “This is where the real work begins, to figure out how this works in the real world.”
Xerox claims to stack up well nationally when it comes to diversity, with 28 percent of executive-level positions filled by women; 13 percent by minorities. Women account for 41 percent of managers globally, while minorities account for 24 percent of managers in the U.S., Damika said. The Wilson Rule evolved from a companywide project earlier this year, focused on the management and executive ranks, that looked at diversity in hiring. While numbers were not low from an industry standpoint, she said.
“We think people are hiring from small, non-diverse applicant pools,” she said. “Even though diversity numbers are good, comparative to the industry.”
Separately, USA TODAY reported that the National Venture Capital Association pledged concrete steps to increase diversity, from assessing and sharing company diversity, sharing model human resources policies and helping diversify the next generation of entrepreneurs and venture capitalists by participating in career programs that work with diverse populations.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.