Former Xerox CEO Ursula Burns told CNBC on Tuesday that rethinking criteria can help companies improve the gender and racial diversity of their boards.

In an interview on "Closing Bell," Burns — the first Black woman to become CEO of a Fortune 500 company — said the notion that there's a shortage of qualified board candidates who are female, people of color or both is "small minded."

"The specifications are biased, not that people are incapable. Some people are, but this is not what we're talking about here," said Burns, who serves on the boards of Uber and Exxon Mobil.

"They spec'd it in such a way that only 5 people or 10 people could possibly fit the specification, and every one of those guys are boarded up. Some of them are getting too old to serve," she said.

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