Upon further research of successful companies and what values their leaders incorporated, I stumbled upon the CEO of Xerox- Ursula M. Burns. Not only is her work remarkable when it comes to making Xerox both a sustainable and profitable company, but her story is incredible. Nothing was handed to her on a silver platter. Burns was raised by a single mom in a housing project in New York City, both of her parents were Panamanian immigrants. After landing a job as a mechanical engineering intern, worked her way up the rankings and became the first black- American woman to head a Fortune 500 company. By 1990, Xerox became more than just a company. It became a verb used in our daily vocabulary. To copy something wasn’t just referred to as “to copy” anymore– the phrase “to Xerox” was picked up by the masses. In a growing digital age, Burns was faced with adversity: how could a carbonless copy company survive in a world with rapidly advancing technology? Under her leadership, the company rapidly shifted gears into the realm of client services.
Burns also became an advocate for African American woman, who she felt were underrepresented within the workplace. Xerox made it their next mission to, not recruit and retain only a more diverse population of workers, but also to recruit and retain more women. As an Accounting major, a granddaughter of Cuban immigrants, and strong proponent of female power, I really resonated with Burns’ dedication to increasing diversity within the workplace and cultivating an environment that incorporated different backgrounds to promote more stimulating ideas. Within my major, it is a consistent joke that I am one of relatively few girls in a sea of boys. When people ask me what I am majoring in and I respond accounting, I always manage to get the occasional “thats such a dad job!”.
Not only did Burns become the first black-American woman to head a Fortune 500 company, but she also became a leading advocate for gender diversity. Her accomplishments span beyond the profit she has generated for her company, and all of which display her admirable leadership abilities. While researching Burns, I happened to stumble upon this moving quote that I think further illustrates why I consider her an exemplary leader.
“We all need to be more impatient with the status quo. I believe we all need to shift the emphasis in our thinking– from why we can’t create more jobs to how we can create more jobs… from why we can’t compete to how we can compete…. from why hunger and poverty and injustice exist in the world to how they can be eliminated.. In other words we all need to be a little more impatient”.