Annual Salute

Billie Jean King Leadership Award Recipient

Ursula Burns

(Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images for FORTUNE)

After an influential career in which she demonstrated a commitment to diversity while breaking down barriers for the next generation of women leaders, Ursula Burns, retired Chairman and CEO of Xerox Corporation and VEON, Ltd., is the 2020 Billie Jean King Leadership Award recipient. The award will be presented at the Women’s Sports Foundation 2020 Salute to Women in Sport event on October 14.

Burns, the first Black woman to head a Fortune 500 company, has spent her extraordinary career breaking down barriers for the next generation of women leaders and advocating for gender and racial diversity in major companies.

Burns joined the Xerox Corporation as an intern in 1980 and spent most of her career with the company, rising to Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer, roles in which she served from 2010-2017 and 2009-2016, respectively. She had held additional leadership roles in the company spanning corporate services, manufacturing and product development. As CEO, Burns led the company’s transformation from a global leader in document technology to the world’s most diversified business services company serving enterprises and governments of all sizes.

Since Burns retired from Xerox in 2016, there have been no other Black women and only four Black men Fortune 500 CEOs – a clear paucity of diversity at the highest echelons of corporate America, and the impetus for Burns’ continued advocacy for more women and Black voices at the table. She also helped launch The WomanMakers initiative, an outgrowth of The HistoryMakers, the nation’s largest African American video oral history collection.

Burns, who regularly appears on Fortune’s and Forbes’ list of the world’s most powerful women, is a board director of Exxon Mobil, Nestlé and Uber. U.S. President Barack Obama appointed her to help lead the White House national program on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) from 2009-2016, and she served as. Chair of the President’s Export Council from 2015-2016 after service as vice chair from 2010-2015. In 2008, Burns was also named to the U.S. Olympic Committee’s Board of Directors.

Applying her knowledge and expertise beyond the C-Suite, Burns also provides leadership counsel to several community, educational and nonprofit organizations including the Ford Foundation, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Corporation, Cornell Tech Board of Overseers, the New York City Ballet, and the Mayo Clinic, among others. She is a member of the National Academy of Engineers and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Burns is the 51st recipient of the Billie Jean King Leadership Award, which recognizes an individual or group who demonstrates outstanding leadership and makes significant contributions to the advancement of women through achievements in sport and the workplace.



2020 Champion For Equality Award Recipient

Bruce Arians

Photo By Kyle Zedaker/Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Under the leadership of head coach Bruce Arians, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers franchise has grown into one of the most inclusive and diverse organizations in the NFL. At its helm, Arians has fostered inclusion not just on the field — where he has assembled the most gender diverse coaching staff in the league — but also at the grassroots level, where he leads the organization in creating opportunities in football for girls in the Tampa Bay area and across the country.

Hired in January 2019 after serving as the Arizona Cardinals head coach from 2013-2017, Arians was quick to bring the same culture he had created in Arizona to Tampa Bay. While with the Cardinals, Arians made history by hiring Dr. Jen Welter, the first woman to coach in the NFL, as a training camp and preseason coaching intern.

With the Buccaneers, Arians has taken his commitment to progress even further. Under his team mentorship and the organization’s leadership, Tampa Bay became the first in NFL history to hire two female coaches in full-time assistant roles — Maral Javadifar and Lori Locust serve as assistant strength and conditioning and assistant defensive line coaches, respectively. Additionally, the Buccaneers recently hired Jacqueline Davidson as director of football research, further diversifying the team’s front office staff.

Throughout his career, Arians has held the belief that everyone deserves a seat at the table, and that it is well past time to dismantle the diversity problem in NFL coaching, which has historically been largely occupied by white men. Case in point, the Buccaneers are the only NFL franchise to have three coordinator positions, as well as the role of assistant head coach, filled by minority coaches.

Arians’ influence also extends to the grassroots level, where he is ensuring that the next generation of girls grow up in a world in which they are welcomed in the traditionally male-dominated sport of football. This year, the Buccaneers hosted the second annual Girls High School Flag Football Preseason Classic, the largest girls flag football competition in the country. The team has also implemented girls flag football curriculum into local communities, including establishing the Jr. Buc’s Girl’s Flag Football League to help grow the game at the youth level.

Arians’ coaching accolades speak for themselves. He is a two-time Associated Press NFL Coach of the Year, earning the award in 2012 (Indianapolis Colts) and in 2014 (Arizona Cardinals). He is the only coach in NFL history to earn the award multiple times in a three-year span with different teams, and is one of only 12 coaches in NFL history to win the award multiple times.

Arians joins John Burke, the president and CEO of Trek Bicycle Corporation, as the two recipients of the Women’s Sports Foundation Champion for Equality award, which began in 2019.