Former Xerox Chairwoman and CEO Anne Mulcahy, who is often mentioned as a possible high-level appointee in the Obama administration, took a couple of digs today at fellow CEOs Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina, the Republicans running for governor and senator from California, respectively.
“I am the former woman CEO that is not running for public office in California,” Mulcahy said in a speech to the Women’s Foreign Policy Group. She added that there are “a few great women and not so great women running in tomorrow’s election.” But Mulcahy said that her comment did not mean that she opposes CEOs running for office in general, adding that she is “a huge fan” of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Mulcahy, a Democrat who has been mentioned as a possible successor to Lawrence Summers as director of the National Economic Council or for other administration jobs, said Obama administration officials “need to do a better job of listening [to the business community] with an intention to be responsive.” But she added that the business community, which has been critical of Obama, should not be “totally parochial about business.”
Mulcahy said she has not been approached for the NEC job, but that “informally or formally I hope to play a role between government and business.” Mulcahy described the speculation about her becoming director of the NEC as a “media frenzy” prompted by the fact that she is one of the few Democratic women who has been a CEO, and because White House insiders have indicated they want a woman business leader for the post. The administration, she said, can be more responsive to business “but not be blind to the underserved in this country” and not “grant” business all it wants. “It’s jobs, jobs, jobs “¦ but we can’t be naïve about pulling back from our global responsibilities,” she added.
In her role as chairwoman of the international charity Save the Children, Mulcahy said she has learned that so many of the world’s problems, such as poor nutrition and lack of sanitation, are “solvable.” She also noted that she recently returned from Iraq and said that military victories in Iraq and Afghanistan will be short lived if there are not proper schools to educate the next generations in those countries. Such issues cannot be addressed by “silos” separating government and business, she said.
Mulcahy said that business leaders are not increasing investment because they do not see a demand for products, not because they are concerned about health-care reform or other administration policies. “We have learned to get by with less labor,” she said.
It’s a “potentially realistic outcome” for the United States to become “the next Japan” with a long-term slow economy, but to avoid that scenario she suggested that the country has to get used to slower growth over the next few years and focus on restructuring some industries and encouraging environmental and health-care businesses.
Mulcahy described protectionism and outsourcing as “the most misunderstood issues out there.” More than half of Xerox’s revenues are from outside the United States, but less than half its labor is outside the country, she said. She acknowledged that there are “bad actors” with operations in the Cayman Islands and other offshore locations, but urged politicians to “get off this issue” and focus on U.S. problems. “Our country has a heap of problems. It’s unproductive to go into the blame game.”
Mulcahy said she believes China and India are rising not because they have cheap labor rates, but because they are making investments and because their universities are increasing their graduation rates. She said it is important for the United States to “address skill sets in math and science” because “we have lost our way in creating enthusiasm for careers that would generate innovation.”
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