Rosalind Brewer Takes Her Place as the New Walgreens CEO—and the Only Black Woman Fortune 500 CEO

Published on March 17, 2021

Rosalind Brewer has taken her place as the new CEO of Walgreens. The former Starbucks executive assumed the role on Monday, succeeding Stefano Pessina. As Walgreens CEO, this makes Brewer the only Black woman to currently serve as CEO of a Fortune 500 company; it also makes her the third Black woman in history to reach such a milestone.

Brewer’s Background

Rosalind Brewer is no stranger to the corporate world. For 22 years, she worked at paper manufacturer Kimberly-Clark, starting out as a Research Technician. She soon climbed up to assume the role of President of the company’s global nonwovens division; in other words, she ran its global and manufacturing operations.

After Kimberly-Clark, she became a vice president at Walmart. Over the course of her six years there, she also became President of the Walmart US East unit. In 2012, she made history after becoming the CEO of Sam’s Club; it made her the first African American and the first woman to ever lead the company.

Following her tenure at Sam’s Club, she took on her most recent role as Group President and Chief Operating Officer of Starbucks. While there, she helped in maximizing the company’s online retail and marketing efforts, which helped benefit Starbucks when the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

In regards to her new role at Walgreens, Brewer expressed her excitement about working with the Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA) team, calling it a world-class, trusted organization that she deeply admires.

“The healthcare industry is constantly evolving, and I am excited to work alongside the entire WBA team as we deliver further innovation and positively impact the lives of millions of people around the world every day,” she said. “In these extraordinary times, I’m humbled by WBA’s pharmacists and all colleagues and the critical role we play in community healthcare, and I’m excited about how much more we can do to shape the future of health and well-being for everyone.”

The news of Brewer taking over as CEO of Walgreens hits close to home for several Black leaders and entrepreneurs.

Bringing More Black Women to the Table

Dr. Stephanie Barnes is an award-winning author who coaches women to become great leaders in business, corporate, and community through C-Suite Women’s Network. She believes that Brewer’s role as a Fortune 500 CEO is not only a role model for Black women, but also a living blueprint for how to get more Black women at the table.

“When I began my career many years ago as a young associate in a law firm, there were absolutely no Black women partners and no Black women CEOs. They were hardly any women CEOs,” she said. “25 years later, seeing Rosalyn Brewer as a Fortune 500 CEO is affirming for me as a black woman and a graduate of an HBCU because it blows the argument that HBCUs don’t prepare graduates for the ‘real world’ out of the water!”

Motivation for Black Entrepreneurs

Veronica Southerland, a Board Certified Family Nurse Practitioner and Nursing Entrepreneur, said that Brewer becoming the CEO of a Fortune 500 company will insight more influence and approval for people of color (specifically women) to earn consideration more often, based on their representation in greater number.

“Her position and power will hopefully afford many that walk behind her more wind beneath their wings to reach for higher heights, and empower those of us that felt defeated and invisible in the workplace,” she said. “People like her gave entrepreneurs like me the motivation to create my own table, my own lane, and my own legacy in business because I was getting too old to wait for the opportunity to be afforded to me by some corporate big wigs that didn’t even know I existed.”

Important for Aspiring Black Youth

Chloë Cheyenne is the CEO and Founder of the COMMUNITYx app. The app, which launches on March 31, will serve as a tool for activists, advocates, speakers, public figures, and community organizers of women’s issues, diversity and inclusion, LGBTQIA+ issues, and more. She said that Brewer’s role is a “shining example” of what is possible for aspiring Black leaders.

“Growing up in areas where you are taught that your success in life is limited by the color of your skin, and the community in which you were raised creates detrimental effects to the psychological wellbeing and overall morale of our Black Youth,” she said. “It is critical, even if only from a mental health lens, that our youth have strong examples across all industries and professions that show success is possible.”

Lexi Jones is an award-winning journalist and Staff Writer at Grit Daily. Based in Las Vegas, she covers startup brands in entertainment, internet and LGBTQ+ startup news. She is also an editor of Grit Daily's "Top 100" entrepreneur lists.

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