Walgreens CEO Roz Brewer Is the Only Black Woman Leading a Fortune 500 Company


Roz Brewer will make history as the only Black woman leading a Fortune 500 company when she takes over as Walgreens CEO on March 15. Brewer was tapped for the position while she was working as Starbucks’s COO and group president. She will succeed Stefano Pessina, who will become Walgreens’s executive chairman after serving as the drugstore’s CEO for six years.

“She is a distinguished and experienced executive who has led organizations globally through periods of changing consumer behavior by applying innovation that elevates customer experiences,” Pessina said, according to the Associated Press

The new Walgreens CEO will bring her years of experience in operations, customer relations, talent development, and digital innovation. While working at Starbucks, she was responsible for revamping stores and making sure employees had the space to focus on customer service instead of administrative work. Brewer was a huge force in growing the coffee company’s rewards program and making sure there was diversity at all levels of the company. She’s also been candid about the challenges Black women face in corporate America.

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“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.”

When speaking at the all-women HBCU, she told the story of a time she attended a CEO-only event during her run as Sam’s Club CEO. The now Walgreens CEO said she introduced herself to the men in the room as “Roz Brewer of Sam’s Club,” and one man asked if she led marketing. Puzzled by the question since it was a CEO-exclusive event, she replied, “No, that’s part of my organization.”

Brewer’s appointment is a step in the right direction, but her experience proves there’s still a long way to go.


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