From Intern to CEO to Commerce Secretary? Xerox’s Ursula Burns Is a Possible Nominee

December 20, 2012  |  

Will the Commerce Department be lead by a black woman?

Xerox chairwoman Ursula Burns is rumored to be a potential nominee for the job of Commerce Secretary. This would make her the first black woman and only the second woman to ever hold the position of Commerce Secretary.

Burns is already a sitting member of the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, Bloomberg reports, and has consulted the President on economic matters. (The story also says Amex CEO Kenneth Chenault could be a candidate to replace Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner.) President Obama said during the election — when business know-how became an important character trait for the candidates — that the cabinet needs a “secretary of business.”

She spent three decades working her way up the ladder at Xerox from intern in 1980 to making history as the first African-American woman to be named CEO of a Fortune 500 company in 2009. And she was the first woman to replace another woman as CEO of a company.

As you can figure she has had many naysayers. In an interview with Black Enterprise magazine in 1997 she said, “The fact that I did it faster than others has nothing to do with my race and gender. It was my performance.”

Karen Arena, a Xerox spokeswoman, said Burns “has no plans to leave her leadership position at Xerox.” With no confirmation from the White House and that statement from Arena, we’ll have to wait and see if history is made again by Ursula Burns.

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