Ursula Burns in now synonymous with history. When she was named CEO of Xerox, a company at which she had been employed for almost 30 years, she became the first black woman CEO of Fortune 500 company. Forbes named her the 22nd most powerful woman in the world in 2014.
Here are 10 other facts on this record-breaking woman:
1. She is also the first lady to succeed another lady as head of a Fortune 500 company.
Ursula succeeded Anne Mulcahy as CEO of Xerox in 2009.
2. She started her career at Xerox in 1980 as a summer intern.
Ursula was later hired to work (in a few roles) in product development and planning. She studied mechanical engineering in college (NYU) and graduate school (Columbia).
3. She doesn’t think much of all those Forbes-esque Power Lady lists.
Shortly after becoming CEO, Ursula told The New York Times, “What have I done? In the first 30 days, I was named to a list of the most impressive XYZ. The accolades are good for five minutes, but then it takes kind of a shine off the real story. The real story is not Ursula Burns. I just happen to be the person standing up at this point representing Xerox.”
4. She was raised by a single mother in the New York housing projects.
Both her parents are from Panama.
5. She visibly reacted during a meeting when a Xerox employee floated the idea that diversity inclusivity “lowered hiring standards.”
And it got her noticed. A senior executive took a keen interest in her and began mentoring her in 1989.
6. She once thought she was being fired when a senior executive asked to see her in his office.
He actually just wanted to meet with her regularly because he was considering her for a job as his executive assistant.
7. She went to an all-girls Catholic high school in New York City.
Which her mother managed to pay for on a “modest salary.”
8. She didn’t find out how much her company loved her until she was about to quit.
Amid company struggles, Ursula almost quit in 2000, but her bosses and board members told her she was too valuable to lose. She later said, “I think that was the first time I said, ‘Oh, maybe at some point I could actually become the CEO.”
9. She was paid $887,500 in salary while president of the company in 2008.
With a $554,688 bonus and about $4 million in stock. Not bad.
10. One of her mother’s favorite sayings was, “Stuff happens to you, and then there’s stuff that you happen to.”
She has repeated this to Xerox employees in times of strife.