Starbucks COO Roz Brewer Will Be the New CEO of Walgreens—and the Only Black Female CEO in the Fortune 500

Roz Brewer, Americas Group President & Chief Operating Officer, at the Starbucks Annual Meeting of Shareholders in Seattle, Wash. on March 21, 2018.
Roz Brewer, Americas Group President & Chief Operating Officer, at the Starbucks Annual Meeting of Shareholders in Seattle, Wash. on March 21, 2018.
Photo: Jason Redmond/AFP (Getty Images)

The Fortune 500 will soon be gaining a new CEO—and it will be a Black woman. On Tuesday, Business Insider (BI) was among several outlets to report that Starbucks Chief Operating Officer Rosalind “Roz” Brewer will soon be the new CEO of Walgreens.

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Starbucks confirmed Brewer’s departure on Tuesday, at the time only disclosing that the exec would be stepping down from the role she’s held since 2017 after accepting the chief executive officer position at “another publicly-traded company.” As BI noted, the Wall Street Journal may have awkwardly preempted Walgreens’ formal announcement, as “it broke the news in the middle of Starbucks’ earnings call on Tuesday, with an analyst congratulating Brewer on the call.” According to a press release obtained by BI, Brewer will end her tenure at Starbucks at the end of February.

Current Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson wished his departing chief operating officer well on her next endeavor, reportedly assuring investors the coffee juggernaut would “not miss a beat” while Brewer’s duties were delegated to others on the leadership team.

“Roz, on behalf of the entire leadership team, I want to thank you for your leadership and wish you every success in the new role,” said Johnson.

On Wednesday morning, Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA) confirmed the rumors reported by the Journal, Fortune, and CNBC, among others, announcing that as of March 15, Brewer will indeed succeed Stefano Pessina as CEO. She will also join WBA’s board of directors, of which Pessina will become executive chairman after announcing his resignation as CEO last July.

Brewer’s ascension to CEO will make her the only Black woman to currently lead a Fortune 500 company. She will be only the third in history, following Ursula Burns, who was at the helm of Xerox from 2009 to 2016, and Bed Bath & Beyond Interim CEO Mary Winston, who led the housewares company for six months in 2019. Notably, as of July of 2020, when Jide Zeitlin stepped down as CEO of fashion holding group Tapestry, there were only three Black male CEOs in the Fortune 500.

For further context on the significance of Brewer’s new role, Business Insider noted:

Women currently hold 30, or 6%, of CEO positions at S&P 500 companies as of December 2020, according to Catalyst, a nonprofit research group focused on advancing women in leadership roles.

Brewer’s ascent is not only significant for women but for women of color, who are dramatically underrepresented in senior management levels, according to the latest “Women in the Workplace” report by McKinsey & Company. Between January 2015 and January 2020, representation of women in senior-vice-president positions grew from 23 to 28 percent, and representation in the C-suite grew from 17 to 21 percent, according to the report. Additionally, one in five C-suite leaders is a woman, and fewer than one in 30 is a woman of color.

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Brewer has already proven an experienced and effective leader, having formerly served as president and CEO of Walmart’s Sam’s Club division from 2012 to 2017. She was the first woman and Black woman to lead any division at Walmart, after joining the company in 2006; prior to which, she spent 22 years at Kimberley-Clark. Brewer was also the first woman and Black person to become second in command at Starbucks, garnering early buzz that she might eventually become that company’s next CEO, and earning her a spot on the 2019 Nation’s Restaurant News Power List. She currently ranks 27th on Fortune’s 50 Most Powerful Women in Business list.

“Brewer brings to WBA a proven track record of leadership and operational expertise at multinational corporations, with deep experience in strategic development, marketing, digital transformation and loyalty, innovation and technology, supply chain and store development,” said WBA in a statement (h/t WWD).

Maiysha Kai is managing editor of The Glow Up, host of The Root Presents: It's Lit! podcast and Big Beauty Tuesdays, and your average Grammy-nominated goddess next door. May I borrow some sugar?

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