Women have been present in the business world for a while now – but we’re still working on climbing the corporate ladder (not to mention getting paid the same as our male counterparts). I’m sure every woman CEO out there has some pretty incredible stories. Ursula Burns is one of these women. As the first African-American woman CEO of a Fortune 500 company (Xerox), she blazed her own trail to a place no one has gone before or since. For this and many other reasons, Ursula Burns is this week’s Power Monday EDF.
photo via michaelrubottom
Why she kicks butt: First and foremost, she’s never been afraid of being herself on her journey to the top. This year, she’s listed in Forbes as the 27th most powerful woman, a climb of epic proportions during her three-decade tenure (and she’s only 52!) at Xerox. Burns landed a job at Xerox after she was a summer intern in 1980; she joined the company full-time after earning her master’s at Columbia University. In my opinion, one of the coolest things about Ursula is that she loves what she does. Of course, that doesn’t make running a Fortune 500 company a piece of cake – but it sure as heck makes it a lot easier. I was lucky enough to see her speak at MIT Commencement this year, and I can tell you firsthand that she is an absolute inspiration.
- Burns was raised by a single mom in a NYC housing project.
- Her mother scraped together the funds to send her to Catholic school and on to college.
- She is married and has two children.
- Her elder son attends MIT.
- She oversees a staff of 134,000 people (that’s the size of Warren, Michigan).
- She serves on a number of boards, including American Express, Boston Scientific, FIRST, National Association of Manufacturers, University of Rochester, the MIT Corporation, the Rochester Business Alliance and the RUMP Group.
- At a Fortune dinner in 2008, she said, “I’ve had many mentors, but the one that has the most impact was my mother.”
- Along with Anne Mulcahy, Burns “saved Xerox in a historic turnaround” (source). You go, ladies!
- The CEO baton-pass between Mulcahy and Burns was the first ever woman-to-woman CEO succession in the Fortune 500.
- Burns has a sign in her office that reads, “Don’t do anything that wouldn’t make your mom proud!”