Tuesday, December 8, 2009

FirstFemale CEO Ellen Kullman has Streamlined DuPont Company

Ellen Kullman learned she would be the 19th top executive at the DuPont Co. in late September 2008, as storied financial institutions were crumbling and American capitalism itself seemed to be under siege.

It was not how the Wilmington native envisioned taking over her hometown company after 20 years of steadily rising through the ranks of management.
"Everything I thought about the possibility of this happening, and everything I thought about what I would want to do in becoming the CEO of this company, I had to set aside," Kullman said in a recent interview at DuPont headquarters in downtown Wilmington. "It was not relevant to the environment. We had to start over. I had to start over my thinking around it."
In the nearly 15 months since Kullman was named as the first woman to lead DuPont, she has helped guide the company through the worst global recession in decades. Kullman, 53, has won praise from the investment community for cutting costs and putting DuPont on a course for growth.
"She will be very focused on efficiency and effectiveness, and that will flow through to the bottom line," said Gene Pisasale, a financial adviser with Wells Fargo Advisors in Greenville who has followed DuPont since the mid-1990s.
Protecting the bottom line, though, has come at a cost: about 4,500 jobs lost across the company, along with thousands of contract workers. Not all support Kullman's choices.
"There was a dire situation, but the reaction to it was shortsighted and counterproductive," said Kenneth Henley, general counsel for the International Brotherhood of DuPont Workers, which represents DuPont employees at sites in five states.
Kullman was born Ellen Jamison, the youngest of four siblings in a close-knit Irish-American family. She grew up in the subdivision of Fairfax Farms off Concord Pike, attending St. Mary Magdalen School and then Tower Hill School.
After graduating from Tufts University with a degree in mechanical engineering, she worked in technical service and sales for Westinghouse, got her MBA from Northwestern University and moved on to General Electric in 1983. DuPont hired her five years later as a marketing manager.(Use the link below to access the rest of the story)
Andrew Eder
Business reporter
The News Journal
E-mail: aeder@delawareonline.com

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