Congrats to Ursula Burns!
- CEO Ursula Burns
In a widely expected move that is nonetheless remarkable, Xerox on May 21 named Ursula Burns its next chief executive. Not only is Burns one of the very few female CEOs, she is also the first African American woman to head a public company as sizable as copier maker Xerox, which had sales of $17.6 billion last year. And to have one woman, outgoing CEO Anne Mulcahy, handing the reins of one of the largest U.S. companies to another woman is unprecedented.
The promotion of Burns, 50, was a long time in the making. Like General Electric and Johnson & Johnson, Xerox is known for an emphasis on executive development. “It’s about meritocracy and meritocracy writ large,” says Ilene H. Lang, president and CEO of Catalyst, an advocacy group for women in business. “Here is a company that over decades has been able to see talent wherever it is, even in nontraditional places. That takes work and care and attention.”
Burns’ engineering capability and her experience in a range of Xerox businesses, including supply-chain management, will no doubt serve her well as she navigates in a recession that’s cutting into sales. Having a nontraditional background may also help Burns better develop the next generation of leadership at Xerox, analysts say.
As a former “Xeroid” myself, and engineer – Ms. Burns, you make us proud!