“A tidal wave is coming,” the first female African American chief executive officer of a Fortune 500 company told a group at the Prism awards luncheon, a fundraiser for New York University’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies and Graphic Communications Management and Technology graduate program.
Burns, 50, who is credited with helping her predecessor save Xerox, said executives would be “silly business people” if they did not draw on the pool of talented women in college.
She added that the most successful corporations would hire women and minorities, according to Huffington Post Business.
Although Burns, who was seventh on Fortune’s list of the 50 most powerful women in business last year, believes women will play an even greater role in the business world, she despaired at the lack of women in high-level executive positions.
“Basically there’s been no progress,” she said. Burns rose to the top role at Xerox after starting as an intern.
Her speech at the luncheon comes amid renewed debate about women’s progress in business.
In March Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg said women were being held back by things that were out of their control.
The author of Lean In added that hard work, help, and ambition could redress the lack of businesswomen in top positions.
Those remarks came as Yahoo! Chief Executive Marissa Mayer banned working from home, even though she has a nursery next to her office to help her balance being a mother and a boss.
Burns reflected on Sandberg’s advice, and encouraged career women to “be the best at what you do and work hard,” adding that young people often believe it will be easy to reach the top of their profession.
“They think you can get to this end just participating nine to five,” she said.
A strong work ethic was instilled in Burns from an early age. She was raised in a housing project in Manhattan by a single mother who worked as a cleaner and ironed clothes to help pay for her daughter’s education,
Her efforts were rewarded when Burns graduated from Columbia with a masters in mechanical engineering…
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