Parsons’ Time

In an exclusive interview, Time Warner Chairman Richard D. Parsons discusses his business accomplishments, his new role, and diversity in corporate America

environments, but that doesn’t mean that something couldn’t happen tomorrow that will cause one to take a slightly different view or favor a slightly different construction of the company. The CEO’s job is to make sure that the company is always where it needs to be to maximize its competitive advantages. I couldn’t tell you if this company is going to be together the way it is for all time, nor can I tell you that the company is going to be broken up going forward.

BE: Under your watch, have you been satisfied with the diversification of the management ranks?

PARSONS: No. We’ve made some progress, over the last five or six years, in terms of diversifying the management of our company at all levels. But it’s still a work in progress. I think we have most of the infrastructure in place. We have people at all levels who are doing the right thing by virtue of this objective. But we’re not where we need to be yet, and we will need to do more things on the structural side as well as on the human side.

BE: Let’s talk about diversity in the boardroom. At the Black Corporate Directors Conference, its founders John Rogers and Charles Tribett presented the Corporate Diversity Call To Action, challenging black directors to make sure the diversity agenda was put on the boardroom table. Should black directors use their positions to push for greater diversity in corporations?

PARSONS: Do I think that somehow we need to come together collectively to validate this initiative? No, because each director’s obligations and responsibilities are to the shareholders of the entity that he or she is serving. I can assure you, having been on half a dozen large, public company boards, the agenda item is on the table and being addressed pretty much across the board. one of the things that I’ve found is that most directors who come from a diverse background, particularly African Americans, introduce other minorities within the entities that they are serving on. When the board is looking to fill some seats, they are the persons it will go to in order to find some good minority directors.

Now are we making progress as fast as we need to? There are always those who argue that we’ve got to move faster, and the dynamic tension that comes from that is good.

BE: So is the pipeline of minority directors expanding?

PARSONS: The scales are shifting. America’s corporate boardrooms are becoming more and more diverse each day, and that is not going to turn around in my judgment. But I think all of these things are incremental. People who are already over the wall play a part by not pulling the ladders up behind them, but instead putting more ladders down. So African Americans, Latinos, Asians, and women who are on boards have the opportunity to reach back and pull some more over the wall. People who are still getting their education have to play a part because nobody hands

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