HBCU Alumna, Roz Brewer, Named Next Walgreens CEO, Becoming The First Black Woman To Lead The Fortune 500 Company


January 28, 2021

Sprinkling Black girl magic across boardrooms!

Rosalind Brewer was just named as the next Walgreens CEO, making history as the only Black woman currently leading a Fortune 500 company, CNBC reports.


Brewer got her start working for Kimberly-Clark, eventually becoming CEO of Sam’s Club. She then joined Starbucks’ board in 2017. She became the coffee giant’s COO later that year, making history as the first Black woman to hold the title for the company and the first to head a division at a big-box retailer. The Spelman alumna was originally expected to be the successor to Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson. However, the coffee giant announced Brewer’s departure at the end of February for a CEO position at a publicly-traded company. Later that day, it was announced that she would replace Stefano Pessino as the new CEO of Walgreens Boots Alliance 

The popular drugstore was hit hard by the pandemic, with shares still down 5% over the last 12 months. In her new role, she will create new revenue streams after the company recently closed hundreds of Walgreens and Boots stores in the United Kingdom, cutting its workforce tremendously. Sales have been picking up, but only in the low single-digit earnings. The retailer is fighting against competitors like CVS and Amazon, who’s board Brewer is a member of, which as of November also offers online prescriptions.


Since 1999, there have been only 18 Black chief executives of Fortune 500 companies according to Fortune Magazine. Two have been women: Ursula Burns, who led Xerox from 2009 to 2016, and Mary Winston, who led Bed Bath & Beyond as interim chief in 2019. Investors, regulators, and activists have been pushing for more diversity and inclusion in corporate America. Nasdaq has also proposed increased racial and gender diversity on the boards of publicly-traded companies.

Brewer’s appointment is timely, as she works to upturn the company’s sales and lead them forward during the pandemic. According to a study by Lean In Black women are also sorely underrepresented in top leadership positions, making up 1.6% of vice president roles and 1.4% of C-suite positions, despite being 7.4% of the U.S. population.


“When you’re a Black woman, you get mistaken a lot,” she said during a 2018 speech at her alma mater Spelman College. “You get mistaken as someone who could actually not have that top job. Sometimes you’re mistaken for kitchen help. Sometimes people assume you’re in the wrong place, and all I can think in the back of my head is, ‘No, you’re in the wrong place.’”

Brewer is definitely in the right place, opening a door for Black women that shouldn’t have been closed.

Congratulations, Roz!


Photo Courtesy of Sara Stathas/Fortune

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