Sophie Vandebroek
Adding to the ranks of Executive Women
Image courtesy of the Xerox Corporation
In corporate America today, very few executive positions (top level jobs) are held by women. It is a significant achievement for Sophie Vandebroek to be chosen as the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) and President of the Xerox Innovation Group. Xerox Corporation is a multi-billion dollar company that began in 1906 and is a leader in document technologies, products and services. In addition to her career responsibilities, Sophie is a single mother of three.

Born on February 17th, 1962 in Leuven, Belgium, Sophie is one of four children. Her father was an engineer and the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of a brewing company. Her mother is an artist and poet. As a young girl, Sophie watched the moon landing on television and dreamed of becoming an astronaut or scientist.

She worked hard to achieve her goal earning a Masters degree in electromechanical engineering from Katholieke Universiteit in Leuven, Belgium. Her education continued at Cornell University where she earned a PhD in electrical engineering in 1990 (the same school where Anna Comstock taught over 70 years earlier!). Sophie didn't become an astronaut, but instead became an engineer with Xerox.

Sophie worked in research and technology at Xerox for 14 years before becoming the new CTO and President. Along the way, she earned 12 patents and numerous awards from Xerox, IBM, HP, the Belgium National Science Foundation, Semiconductor Research Corporation and Cornell University.

During this time she also faced great hardship. Sophie's husband and best friend, Bart, died at age 34 of a severe asthma attack, leaving her to raise their three children alone. She made the decision to remain in the same house for her entire career, despite many job location changes. While living in Penfield, NY she has commuted to Mississauga, Ontario; Stamford, CT and Hartford, CT.

Today, times are not as hard for her as her children are teenagers and her commute is merely to a nearby town. Sophie plays an active role in the science and engineering community, as a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical & Electronics Engineers (IEEE) as well as an elected member of the IEEE Administrative Committee, a Fulbright Fellow, and a Fellow of the Belgian-American Educational Foundation

Her interests don't end there, however, as she also works to inspire children to aspire to careers in science. Not only are all of her children interested in careers in science, but she brings science to other children by serving as a judge for MIT's Technology Review Young Innovators awards, the Wall Street Journal Innovation awards and the FIRST robotics competition regional awards. She hopes that her involvement in giving back to the community will help bring in a new generation of children, and especially girls, into science and engineering careers.

For More Information:

Xerox Executive Biographies - Sophie V. Vandebroek
BusinessWeek Magazine, March 20, 2006 pp. 84-85.