Ursula Burns is the first African-American to become head of a Fortune 500 company. Her rise to the position of CEO of the Xerox Corporation turned many heads in the financial and global business markets. In 2009, this amazing woman ranked ninth in the list of the 50 Most Powerful Women in Business, according to Fortune Magazine. She was only three places below Oprah Winfrey who was number six on the list. It is important to mention that Ms. Burns is only in her early fifties.
Most people including African-Americans would believe she came from a wealthy family. Surely, an African-American woman could never achieve such success any other way. It surprises many people to know Ms. Burns was raised in a Lower Manhattan housing project by a single mother. Her mother made a living in childcare and ironing clothes.
Ms. Burns not only had to overcome racism because of the color of her skin, she had to overcome gender discrimination as well. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Polytechnic Institute of NYU in mechanical engineering and a master’s from Columbia University. She joined Xerox in 1980 as a summer intern. Her career at Xerox moved quickly and in 2000, she became Senior Vice President of Corporate Strategic Services.
She is a prime example of the ability of African-Americans to earn an education and earn their way to a promising future. Ms. Burns was not given a free ride. She earned her success every step of the way. She has raised the bar for African-Americans and it is important for her community to recognize her achievements.
Even in the most undesirable circumstances, people can succeed if they focus on an education and hard work. Handouts only keep people trapped in a never-ending cycle.