4. Ursula Burns

top female ceo burns

Ursula Burns has gone from being raised by a single mother in a New York City housing project to becoming the first female African American CEO of a Fortune 500 company.

When she replaced the retiring Anne Mulcahy in 2009, Burns also became the first woman to ever take the reins of a Fortune 500 company from another woman.

Related: Xerox on why she thinks people are oversharing

The two teamed up last decade to steer Xerox away from a bankruptcy filing. Since taking the top job, Burns has returned growth to the technology company. Xerox shares have more than doubled under her leadership.

She's steered the sometimes-rocky transition at Xerox away from an emphasis on paper copiers and printers toward document management, customer care centers and bill processing. Wall Street applauded Xerox's latest strategic move: Unloading a French IT outsourcing business late last year for $1.05 billion.

Related: Can reality TV help tech's diversity problem?

First published March 31, 2015: 9:08 AM ET

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