Fem Boss: Ursula Burns – Chairman & CEO of Xerox Corporation
Ursula Burns was born on September 20th, 1958 in New York City to a single mother living in the Baruch Houses (NYC housing projects). Her parents were immigrants from Panama. Burns attended the Cathedral High School, an all-girl Catholic School later she joined the New York University Polytechnic School of Engineering to undertake a bachelor degree in Mechanical Engineering and obtains her Master Program in Mechanical Engineering from the Columbia University.
Ursula Burns first joined Xerox in 1980, as a summer intern while she was still just holding a bachelor degree in Mechanical Engineering. In 1981, having completed her master’s program she was employed on a permanent basis by Xerox. At this time Xerox was the global leader in the photocopying market. Her duties at the company entailed product development and planning, as the company was fighting to secure its leadership position in the digital document technologies.
In 1992 to 2000, Burns played a key role in spearheading various strategic cooperate maneuvers in the company’s office network printing business and color business. Leading to Burns being promoted to be the Senior Vice President, Corporate Strategies services at Xerox in the year 2000. She was the head of manufacturing and supply chains operations. By then, the CEO of the Xerox was Anne Mulcahy, and together with Burns they restructured Xerox in terms of its turnaround that saw the company become the leader in document services and color technology.
A key development in Xerox turnaround was the intensive research and development program that led to new products and technologies. At this time, Ursula Burns was Xerox’s leader in global research and product development as well as marketing and product delivery. Having demonstrated exemplary leadership and results in her roles, Burns got promoted on the April, 2007 to become the President of Xerox. As the President of Xerox, her job description also entailed spearheading Xerox’s IT department, human resource, corporate strategy, global accounts and corporate marketing. It was during this time, that she also got elected as a member of Xerox’s Board of Directors.
Come July, 2009 Ursula Burns got promoted to become the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Xerox. Thereby breaking the Fem Boss record for being the first African-American woman to be the CEO of a Fortune 500 Company, something that would demand applauds from all the Fem Bosses out there. Shortly after being named the CEO, Burns made the biggest acquisition ever in Xerox history, proving she has the “back-bone” demanded of a CEO. She led Xerox’s purchase of Affiliated Computer Services at a price tag of US$6.4 billion which effectively raised Xerox Company into the $500 billion business services market: and widening Xerox’s reach into diverse market areas of IT and business process outsourcing.
Burns made yet another Fem Boss move on May 20th, 2010 by being promoted to the post of Xerox chairman, thus becoming the leader of about 140,000 staff serving clients in over 160 countries globally. Burns contribution to Xerox’s legacy of innovation, has steered the company into enabling workplaces (both big and small) to simplify how work gets done by focusing on important issues first and foremost.
In addition to her leadership roles at Xerox, Burns is the board director of Exxon Mobil Corporation and American Express Corporation. She also acts as a leadership counsel to educational, community and non-profit organizations such as FIRST among others. She is also among the founding Board Director of Change the Equation, which is an organization that focuses on improving STEM-based education in the United States. In March, 2010, Ursula Burns was appointed as Vice Chair of the President’s Export Council by U.S President Barack Obama.