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The Grill: Xerox CEO Anne Mulcahy on making hard choices to bring the company back to life

The Xerox CEO talks about wielding power, making tough decisions and bringing the company back to life.

By Don Tennant
September 1, 2008 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - You've noted that business and government need to work together to solve social problems, and that you'd like to be involved in that. In what way? I do believe that the public-private partnership is the model for solving big issues.

The lack of a pipeline for math and science graduates; the implications of restricted access for doctorates in skills that should be welcomed inside this country; what's happened to government funding of research over the last three decades as a percentage of GDP -- there's a whole laundry list that needs to be addressed here in this country if we're not going to lose our technological dominance.

Government, education and business all have to play together to start to reverse the trend that we're seeing here. That's an opportunity for former CEOs and other business leaders to make a contribution -- use their business skills on behalf of solving some big public-policy challenges.

Where do you stand on the H-1B visa issue? We think that's a missed opportunity right now, and it's far too restrictive. We have great people who are returning to their native countries because of restrictions here, and who could have gone on to be U.S.-based technologists and researchers and contributors. Just at the time when we need to work harder to keep people in this country, we have less access than we've ever had before.

What is your response to unemployed IT workers who resent the H-1B program? You have to look at the jobs that have been created by people who have come into this country. If you look at the pipeline of people graduating from our universities, the majority of these folks in doctoral programs are foreign- based. It matters where jobs get created. These are the kinds of people that can actually create jobs, that aren't responsible for losing them.

Dossier

Anne Mulcahy CEO Xerox Corp
Name: Anne Mulcahy
Title: CEO
Organization: Xerox Corp.
Location: Norwalk, Conn.
Favorite movie of all time: The Shawshank Redemption

Role model: "In business, Warren Buffet."
PC or Mac? PC
In high school, she was "Average."
Ask her to do anything but... "Suck up."
Favorite nonwork pastime: "Spending time with my kids."
Worst vice: "Impatience."
Favorite non-Xerox technology: BlackBerry

How do we reverse the decline of the percentage of women in IT? Focus is hugely important. For example, I just spoke to 200 [Xerox summer] interns, and two out of five are women. But we need a bigger pipeline, in general. So one of the things Xerox focuses on is raising the interest in areas like math and science in secondary schools. We take our engineers out to the classroom and have "invention days." We invest in robotics competitions. Focusing on getting the best talent suggests you ought to be inclusive, and that means not just women, but [also] minorities.



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