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74. Ursula Burns: From Poverty to the Fortune 500
Ursula Burns was raised by her single mother
the notorious Baruch housing projects on the lower
side of New York City. Her parents were
Panamanian descent who moved to the United States
search of a better life. What they found
drugs, gang violence, and impoverished living conditions. She
told the New York Times that she lived
Baruch, "when it was really bad, when the
were there, when the drug addicts were there."
these humble beginnings, Burns has risen to become
first African-American woman to head a Fortune 500
Despite not having much money, Burns' mother insisted
get a good education and somehow managed to
her to a private Catholic School. She attended
High School, and hoped to study mechanical engineering.
, when she went to college, she felt out
place, and intimidated. Her mother told her that
could not let where she came from define
she is, and Burns followed that advice her
life. She said people told her from early
in life that she had three strikes against
. She was Black, poor, and female, but that
't deter her. She credits her mother for being
driving force behind her success.
Burns first worked
Xerox Corporation as a summer intern in 1980.
the years, she has worked her way up
corporate ladder to become the company's Chair, and
Executive Officer. She became CEO in 2009, and
her tenure she transformed the company from a
copy paper, and copy machine company, to a
-rounded, full-service company. It has, not only survived, but
in a world that is quickly becoming paperless.
has been listed by Forbes several times as
of the most powerful women in the world,
No. 22 in 2014.