Ursula M. Burns serves as chairwoman and CEO of Xerox. She is the first African-American woman CEO to head a Fortune 500 company. She is also the first woman to succeed another woman as head of a Fortune 500 company. In 2009, Forbes rated her the 14th most powerful woman in the world.
Burns first worked for Xerox in 1980 as a summer intern and joined a year later after her master’s degree. She worked in various roles in product development and planning throughout her 20s. Her career took an unexpected turn when in January 1990 Wayland Hicks, then a senior executive, offered her a job as his executive assistant. Initially fearing that this would be a dead-end job, she accepted and rose through the ranks becoming executive assistant to then chairman and chief executive, Paul Allaire in June 1991 and eventually becoming vice president for global manufacturing in 1999. In 2000 she was named a senior vice president and began working closely with soon to be CEO Anne Mulcahy in what both women describe as a true partnership. She was named CEO in July 2009 succeeding Mulcahy, who remained as chairwoman until May 2010.