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Walgreens new CEO will be the only Black woman leading a Fortune 500 company

Sam's Club CEO Rosalind Brewer stands in front of a large, dark blue Wal-Mart sign during the company's annual shareholders' meeting.
REUTERS/Jacob Slaton
The rarest kind of CEO in corporate America.
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Rosalind “Roz” Brewer was named the new CEO of Walgreens and Boots Alliance yesterday, a move which will make her the only Black woman to lead a Fortune 500 company. Brewer is currently the chief operating officer of Starbucks and will become CEO of Walgreens on March 15. The news was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.

Before her role at Starbucks, Brewer was president and CEO of Sam’s Club, Walmart’s members-only warehouse division, where she was also the first woman and African American in the position. Before Sam’s Club, Brewer worked at the manufacturing company Kimberly-Clark for more than two decades, eventually rising to president of its global non-wovens unit.

Brewer’s promotion to the top job at Walgreens comes during a period of increased awareness and efforts among US corporations to increase diversity and inclusion— including on boards and at senior leadership levels—following nationwide protests in response to the police killing of George Floyd last year. Brewer joins a small group: Ursula Burns was the first Black woman to lead a Fortune 500 company when she became the CEO of Xerox in 2009. Mary Winston was the second when she became interim CEO of Bed Bath and Beyond in 2019, but was only in the position for six months.

Brewer has been outspoken about her commitment to increasing diversity before, including her personal experiences in corporate America and with her Sam’s Club suppliers. “Every now and then you have to nudge your partners,” she said during an interview with CNN’s Poppy Harlow in 2015. “You have to speak up and speak out. And I try to use my platform for that. I try to set an example.”

Brewer’s appointment shines a light on the vast gap in minority representation at the highest level of corporate America. There are still many more white male CEOs at Fortune 500 companies named John than there are CEOs who are Black women.

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