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A curiously small club--women CEOs for major tech firms--just got a little bigger. Xerox Corp.'s board has named Anne Mulcahy president and CEO. It's been quite a climb for Mulcahy, who began her career as a field sales rep at the office-equipment maker 25 years ago. She'll become Xerox's first woman chief executive on Aug. 1. CEO Paul Allaire will step aside, serving as chairman until he retires later this year.
Of course, Mulcahy's climb is far from over. She takes over a struggling company encumbered by about $14.6 billion in debt. Earlier this week, Xerox reported a second-quarter loss of $281 million and took a $196 million charge related to the closing of its small-office and home-office line of desktops and printers. Among the sticky situations that Mulcahy must manage are the sale of unprofitable businesses--like Xerox's equipment leasing and financing services--and the company's aggressive cost-cutting.
In its goal to trim $1 billion of operating expenses, Xerox laid off 8,600 employees. It even eliminated free coffee and the plant-watering service that had quenched the numerous plants that adorn Xerox office buildings.
Mulcahy should embrace being a role model to other women and girls, says Carolyn Leighton, founder and CEO of Women In Technology International. "Carly Fiorina didn't want to be identified as a woman CEO, which was not a good business move for her or Hewlett-Packard," Leighton says. "If she had positioned herself as a woman CEO, she could've used the opportunity to build herself as a role model and a lot more women would be buying HP products." Leighton adds, "I hope the Xerox CEO does not make the same mistake."
Read more about Xerox atQ & A: Xerox Turns To Services
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