Anne M. Mulcahy

Anne M. Mulcahy
"My experience at Xerox has taught me that crisis is a very powerful motivator. It forces you to make choices that you probably wouldn’t have made otherwise. It intensifies your focus, your competitiveness, your relentless desire to attain best-in-class status."
- Anne Mulcahy, 2004

Induction Category:
Business & Labor

Born: 1952

Inducted: 2010

Town: Norwalk

In 2000, Anne Mulcahy was offered the biggest promotion of her career at Stamford-based Xerox Corporation. The young businesswoman who began her Xerox career as a field sales representative 24 years earlier was being asked to step in as President and Chief Operating Officer, with the intent of moving into the Chief Executive Officer position by 2001. But, when asked about this promotion, Mulcahy told the Families and Work Institute, “To be very honest, this was less like being promoted than it was being drafted into the war, because we had some very serious issues.” This was no exaggeration. By the time she stepped into the CEO chair, the company was $17.1 billion in debt, its stock was quickly losing value, and bankruptcy seemed imminent. But Mulcahy, armed with experience, motivation, and the self-confidence needed to lead what seemed like an uphill battle, took the job. Upon acceptance, she became only one of six female CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. Today, Mulcahy is credited with orchestrating the dramatic turnaround and positive transformation of Xerox during her decade at the helm.

Anne Marie Dolan was born in Rockville Centre, N.Y., on October 21, 1952, the only girl in a family of five children. Her father was a writer and editor working in publishing and her mother a stay-at-home mom whom her daughter remembers as her father’s equal on all accounts. The Dolans raised their daughter to believe that gender was a non-issue. Traditionally female-centered chores were never strictly hers, she was always invited to go play ball with her brothers, and she was never exempt from engaging in rigorous dinner table debates. Like her brothers, she was expected to pursue an education, set career goals, and reach them despite what hurdles might arise. She did just that, receiving a degree in English and Journalism from Fordham University in 1974.

In 1976, upon entering the Xerox fold in a sales position, she had found her calling. She excelled in sales and was aware that in a male-dominate workforce, sales allowed her to provide results that could not be disputed. Soon after beginning work at Xerox, she met and married Joe Mulcahy, who also worked in the sales department. Although Xerox was ahead of the curve in hiring women, it was no utopia and Mulcahy began to have questions regarding work/home, career/mom balances, knowing that long-range she deserved and wanted both. She recognized that many women probably shared these feelings and hesitations and knew that if Xerox wanted to keep talented women on board, they needed to create a space in which to navigate these concerns. Working with six other women, Mulcahy initiated what is now known as The Women’s Alliance.

Mulcahy was able to assume increasingly responsible sales and senior management positions throughout her years at Xerox. By 2000, when she became President and COO, she had gained firsthand insight into how different sectors within the company operated and developed the relationships she needed to turn Xerox’s dismal fate around. Mulcahy is known for being a hands-on, highly accessible leader with outstanding communication skills. She gained her employees trust and respect by being open and honest with them, including them in strategy sessions, and making some hard decisions that resulted in some job losses. In 2001 she was named CEO and, in 2002, added Chairman to her title. Those who were once skeptics were forced to become believers. Since 2004, Mulcahy has consistently made Forbes Magazine’s annual list of the 100 Most Powerful Women in the World. In 2008, she was named one of America’s Best Leaders by U.S. News and World Report, and Chief Executive Magazine dubbed her CEO of the Year.

Mulcahy retired from her CEO position in July 2009 and stepped down from the Board of Directors in May 2010. She left the company on secure footing and handed her title over to a team member she had long admired for her guts and business foresight. In 2009, Mulcahy made history again by becoming the first female CEO of a Fortune 500 company to give her title to another woman, Ursula Burns.

Anne Mulcahy now serves as Chairman of the Board for Save the Children in Westport, Conn.

During This Time
1966 - Today: Struggle for Justice