Ursula Burns Proves That Even A Poor Black Girl Could Lead A Fortune 500 Company

As a child, Ursula Burns was told she had three things against her — she was Black, she was a woman and she was poor. Thirty years later, she became the first African American woman to lead a Fortune 500 company. Burns was raised in a public housing project in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Her mom, a constant pillar of support, reminded her that where she was didn’t define who she was. Burns dreamed of being an engineer — and after getting a scholarship to the Polytechnic Institute of New York University [now the New York University Tandon School of Engineering], she got a bachelor’s in mechanical engineering in 1980.


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