Senior partner Tiffany Burns named one of the most influential executives in America by Savoy

Savoy Magazine, a leading publication on African American lifestyle, culture, and business, recognized Tiffany Burns on its 2024 list of the most influential executives in corporate America. Composed of 300 Black executives who exemplify exceptional leadership, Savoy’s annual list honors the best in today’s talent from companies across industries, such as Marvin Ellison, chairman and CEO of Lowe’s Companies, and Scott Mills, president and CEO of BET Media Group.

Tiffany joined McKinsey in 2010 and became senior partner and office managing partner for Atlanta in 2022. A leader in the firm’s global Consumer Practice, she serves organizations on broad transformation efforts to significantly increase performance. She has also had a major impact on the firm’s diversity and inclusion work, helping launch programs that have touched thousands.

Here, she reflects on some of the milestones of her career.

On mentorship and sponsorship

Senior partner Tiffany Burns named one of the most influential executives in America by Savoy
Tiffany Burns
Senior partner Tiffany Burns named one of the most influential executives in America by Savoy

I joined the firm in the Atlanta location; Atlanta was one of the most diverse locations in North America but still had no Black partners or senior partners at that time. I was lucky to have people like former Atlanta office managing partner Tom Barkin, who treated me like I really belonged, because without representation, sometimes you look around and you’re not so sure.

There were also other senior partners in the office who sponsored me. They all set a high bar, pushed me to their level, and trusted me to deliver. There’s no better boot camp than working with people who are the best and make you rise to their level.

In my current role, I’ve worked with my colleagues in Atlanta—such as partner Darius Bates, who leads the Atlanta chapter of our affinity group McKinsey Black Network—on ensuring that Black and other underrepresented colleagues have equitable access to mentorship and sponsorship, because it’s not a given. No one comes to the firm knowing how to be a McKinsey consultant, so it’s critical that all colleagues, including our diverse colleagues, have the opportunity to build these networks that will support them and provide good, direct feedback.

When I became a senior partner along with Shelley Stewart III, we committed to keep the same intensity of focus to bring up the next generation of Black senior partners in North America.

On creating the firm’s 10 actions toward racial equity in 2020

When George Floyd was murdered, I was pregnant with my first child. I thought, “This can’t be the world that my child is going to be living in.” My McKinsey colleagues and I knew that it was a moment where we could have an indelible impact on our firm and accelerate our long-held objectives to enhance diversity, equity, and inclusion. It was a challenging and sad context, but our commitment to action was energizing.

Over about two weeks, senior leaders across our firm met daily and asked how McKinsey could make a difference and what bold aspirations would look like for us. We wanted to help build capabilities for Black executives and asked ourselves what a McKinsey-level goal could be. We knew that if our aspiration wasn’t arduous, and if it didn’t make us uncomfortable, then we hadn’t hit the mark.

This mentality led us to our ambitious 10 actions: double our number of Black leaders and colleagues hired, create the Institute for Black Economic Mobility and the Black Leadership Academy, boost our pro bono efforts, and more.

We knew that if our aspiration wasn’t arduous, and if it didn’t make us uncomfortable, then we hadn’t hit the mark.

Tiffany Burns, Senior Partner

At every turn, we had the firm’s support to make this happen, so we could dream big. It was a very fulfilling, once-in-a-lifetime moment. I am still amazed at how our full firm rose to the challenge to make something “only McKinsey” happen from inspiration to execution.

On social change through consulting

Early on, I worked with a Black founder who was sharp, charismatic, and inspiring and had scaled his business to close to a billion-dollar valuation. This made a tremendous impact on me because there aren’t many Black founders that have reached that level. A light bulb went off for me, about how the firm had the potential to make a real difference with these types of organizations.

I’m very grateful that my work in leading transformations with retail and consumer companies has given me a platform to support greater equity for Black founders and Black consumers. Some of the most inspiring work that I’ve done at the firm was helping to architect Next 1B, a no-cost business accelerator that aims to help Black founders build the next generation of Black-owned brands. Making a difference was a true team effort of amazing McKinsey partners and colleagues: Tyler Rose, Pamela Brown, Jon McClain, Alexis Wolfer, John R. Moran, Sara Prince, Shelley Stewart III, Liz Pharis, Brooke Daniels, and Jalen Walker. We were sponsored by Eric Kutcher, Becca Coggins, and Sajal Kohli.

I’ve also been able to work on some of the research and community-building efforts we’ve done in the Black beauty space.

If you would’ve asked me when I started at McKinsey if I would be able to do the types of things I’m doing now, I wouldn’t have thought it was possible. But I’ve truly been able to “make my own McKinsey” over the past few years, both in client service and in helping to support diverse communities. I’m so happy about where I’ve been able to take my work, and the impact it’s made, and I’m excited to continue because there is still so much more to be done.

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