Ursula Burns is an anomaly. Not necessarily because she’s the first African-American woman to be named president of Xerox Corp., a Fortune 500 company. Really, it’s more because she has constructed her career at the photocopying giant starting from humble beginnings as a summer intern 27 years ago. Today she is a woman with the power to change the direction of the $15.9 billion company, overseeing its development worldwide, including marketing, corporate strategy, human resources and the evolution of Xerox products. In an interview in the New York Beacon, she explained why she made Xerox her home. “I stayed because of the people and to be part of a values-based culture with a passion for innovation and a deep commitment to customers,” she said.
WHAT’S NEXT: Burns plans to continue doing what she does best and boosting Xerox’s numbers through the roof by leading the development of everything from color production to high-tech paper. In 2005, she was responsible for $14 billion of Xerox’s $15.7 billion revenue. Some say her appointment as president last April is a move that will prepare her for the CEO position once Anne M. Mulcahy, the company’s current CEO, retires. When asked in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle about her chances, she said, “I can’t let myself get confused by tomorrow. If I keep focused on what I need to do today, the future will take care of itself.”
HER POWER PRINCIPLE: Accepting an award given by the Women’s Council of the Rochester Business Alliance, Burns concentrates on what she feels is the charge of today’s female executive: “We are amazingly privileged as women. We are at the top one tenth of 1 percent of women with opportunity in the world. It’s incumbent on us to try to give back to the people who have less.”
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