- Water-tight security in Kano •7 churches, 8 shops razed - Police
- Terror suspect nabbed with N3m •As army uncovers bomb factory
- 2012, deadliest year for journalists - UN
- Court adjourns on missing N12.4bn oil windfall
- Why we cleared Molete under-bridge - Oyo govt
- Court jails courier over $286,400 cash
- Court rejects fridge repairer’s plea to keep Ibori’s bribe money
- Oyo to involve artisans in N.5bn schools rehabilitation contracts
- All set for LG poll today in Benue
- Mrs Braithwaite buried amid encomiums
- Forget presidency, Jonathan’s aide tells ex-military rulers
- FG sends delegation to Onaiyekan’s consecration, Suntai
According to the 2012 Fortune 500 and 1000 lists, Ursula Banks, CEO and chairperson of Xerox, is one of the 3 per cent of women CEO’s who have made an indelible mark in the world of technology. BLESSING EKUM takes a look into the world of the first African-American woman CEO to head a Fortune 500 company, the first woman to succeed another woman as head of a Fortune 500 company and the 2009 Forbes’ 14th Most Powerful Woman in the world.
Growing Up Years
URSULA Burns was born on September 20, 1958, in New York, United States of America. She grew up in the housing projects on Delancey Street in Manhattan with her mother and two siblings. Although her father was not a part of the family, she was able to attend private schools because her mother ran a successful day-care center out of her home while also taking in ironing.
Throughout her schooling, Burns was a math ace. She eventually earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering from the Polytechnic Institute of New York and went on to earn a Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Columbia University a year later. She had a summer internship with Xerox Corporation in 1980 and the company helped pay for part of her tuition. After Burns received her master's, she went to work for Xerox, where she would remain for more than 20 years.
Her Climb Up The Corporate Ladder
Burns began working in various engineering positions in the departments of product development and planning. In 1987 she completed a transition to engineering management, rising through the ranks as the head of several different teams, at one point working as executive assistant to the CEO. For a period of time, Burns worked for Xerox's London offices. She held several high-level positions before becoming corporate vice president in 1999 and then senior vice president of Strategic Services in 2000. Her climb up the corporate ladder continued when she added president of the Document Systems Solutions Group to her already-lengthy history of job titles in 2001. Ursula Burns is now chair of Xerox, a $23 billion global business with almost 140,000 employees. She became CEO in 2009 and company chair the following year, at the tail end of a decade that saw the company restructuring to meet changing needs, moving from photocopying into digital technologies. One of her first moves was the $6.4 billion dollar acquisition of Affiliated Computer Services — the company’s largest purchase.
Brought Xerox Out Of Murky Waters
In the early 2000s Xerox faced financial difficulties. During this time Anne Mulcahy took over as CEO, and Burns was promoted to first president of Xerox's Business Group Operations, becoming the first woman to hold that position. Burns was responsible for the engineering center and five separate divisions; together her group brought in 80 percent of Xerox's profits.
While Mulcahy crisscrossed the country reassuring employees and shareholders and refining a plan to save the company, Burns began implementing the plan and streamlining the company, hiring an outside contractor, Flextronics International, to make many of its products. She successfully negotiated a contract with union workers. Many at the company placed Burns on the list of Mulcahy's potential successors.
With Burns's streamlining and Mulcahy's finesse, Xerox went from a company in trouble to one poised to become the leader in sales in its industry. Though many believed Burns could become the next CEO, others had their doubts. Many believed she needed to learn to strike a balance between micro-managing and undermanaging. She also needed to hone her listening skills, become more visible to investors and others in the industry, and wait until the appropriate time to make decisions rather than relying on initial reports and moving too quickly. Mulcahy told the New York Times, "Every weakness is one she can easily fix" (June 1, 2003).
The Secret To Her Rise
Many felt her quick rise was a result of affirmative action. Burns addressed the issue when speaking with Cassaundra Hayes of Black Enterprise: "The fact that I did it faster than others has nothing to do with my race and gender. It was my performance" (August 1997). Burns accomplished what she did by being smart and fearless in setting goals and moving up the corporate ladder. According to a consultant quoted in the New York Times , "Even in her 30s Burns was a smart, unconventional thinker who'd embrace new ideas even while older executives at the table were rejecting them" (June 1, 2003).
“Ursula’s story is inspirational and epitomizes the true American success story. Her dedication to mentoring, encouragement of girls and women, and her commitment to advocacy are remarkable. Ursula often credits her mother’s influence and belief that education, confidence and hard work can change everything.
This is a message that bears weight in every tech community the world over,” said Carolyn Leighton.
Due to her ascent and undeniable influence at Xerox, Burns was ranked 28th on Fortune magazine's list of the 50 Most Powerful Black Executives in America.
Burns serves on numerous professional and community boards, including American Express, Boston Scientific Corporation, FIRST, National Association of Manufacturers, University of Rochester, the MIT Corporation, the Rochester Business Alliance, the U.S. Olympic Committee and the RUMP Group.
She is a founding board director of Change the Equation, an organisation that seeks to improve the U.S.’s science, technology, engineering and math education.
She was the Commencement speaker at MIT's 2011 Commencement, which is also the conclusion of MIT's 150th anniversary celebration. She also delivered the 2011 Commencement address at the University of Rochester.
She was the 2012 Commencement speaker for Xavier University of Louisiana's May 12th Commencement ceremony, where she also received an honorary degree, one of the institution’s highest honours.
She was adamant about spending her weekends with her family and only working at home after the children had gone to bed or early in the morning before they had woken up. Burns was married to Lloyd Bean, a retired Xerox scientist whom she met at the company. The couple resided in Rochester, New York, with Bean's son, Malcolm, and their daughter, Melissa.
Additional information from http://www.referenceforbusiness.com and http://en.wikipedia.orgShare