Against the Odds
Ursula Burns is the first African-Amercan woman to head a Fortune 500 company. She is also the first female to take over the company from another woman. Burns started as a summer intern in 1980 and worked her way into a fulltime position after she received her master’s degree from Columbia University a year later. Her work ethic was noticed by many within the company and in 1990 she was appointed assistant to the president of marketing and customer operations. The CEO of a partnering company, Reginald L. Brown Jr. said “Most of them were white males, so to have an African American female in such a position of power, you knew early on she had great potential.” It was said by many that Burns had the potential to become CEO. When Xerox’s business started struggling Burns found ways to improve different parts of the company. She created more effective manufacturing and gave the company “its largest product portfolio in history.” Another factor that lead to Burns’ success in the company is her commitment to diversity. “One-third of Xerox’s 3,819 executives are women and 22% are minorities.” As she moved up in the company, she created programs to recognize her employees (1). Burns was named the CEO position in July 2009 and works hard to maintain the reputation of printer giant, Xerox. She was named the 27th World’s Most Powerful Women by Forbes in August 2011 (2).
Ursula Burns is pure inspiration. Her motivation and persistence got her the recognition she deserved. In a speech that she gave to a YMCA she said “I’m in this job because I believe I earned it through hard work and high performance. Did I get some opportunities early in my career because of my race and gender? Probably.” She then says that the company was looking for diversity (1). What I respect most about Burns is her ability to “outsmart” and woe the company. She showed those who had stereotypes that they were not true. She is setting an example. Us black women have to do this often. I feel like im doing this even from attending Chapman. We are the clear minority at Chapman, but if we were bitter about being discriminated against our whole life what good would that do? We are setting the example at Chapman and I hope to inspire other black young women to come and excel where they are the clear minority. Ursula Burns has set an example for black women across the world. She’s not on the World’s Most Powerl Women list for nothing.
p.s. Her cover story in “Business Week” came out on my birthday 🙂