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‘An operator:’ What to know about Roz Brewer, Walgreens’ new CEO

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Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Women leaders call for a Marshall Plan for Moms, Aetna will cover a wide range of procedures for trans women, and Roz Brewer is Walgreens’ new CEO. Have an excellent Wednesday.

– Shot in the arm. For years now, many companies on the Fortune 500 have tried to cast themselves as champions of diversity that foster inclusive workplaces and groom employees from underrepresented groups for future success. But one data point is always there to puncture the fantastical self-portrait corporate America tries to paint of itself: of all the CEOs of all Fortune 500 companies, only two have ever been Black women.

Ursula Burns was the first when she became CEO of Xerox in 2009; she stepped down in 2016. Mary Winston of Bed Bath & Beyond was the second, though her stint as CEO was short—seven months—and on an interim basis.

The Fortune 500 will finally get its third on March 15, when Rosalind ‘Roz’ Brewer becomes CEO of Walgreens. The nearly $140 billion retail and pharmacy giant announced its hiring of Brewer, who was most recently Starbucks’ COO, on Tuesday.

At Starbucks, Brewer was largely credited with cleaning up the company’s stores and instilling a new level of discipline in its operations, as my colleague Beth Kowitt reported in her 2019 profile of the executive. That’s a skill set she honed at Walmart, during a decade-long tenure that included running Sam’s Club, the company’s warehouse club business. At Sam’s Club, she focused on pushing the brand into e-commerce and targeting a more affluent shopper, but struggled to catch up to bigger rival Costco.

Brewer will take over as CEO at a critical time for Walgreens as the pharmacy chain partners with the U.S. federal government on its COVID-19 vaccine rollout, which has been criticized as slow and chaotic. Good thing Brewer is known for getting things done.

“She’s an operator,” Mellody Hobson, co-CEO of Ariel Investments and now Starbucks chair told Beth in 2019. “She’s not just a person with a point of view and vision. She can execute.”

The Broadsheet’s regular tallying of all female CEOs serving in the Fortune 500 always underscores how much work remains. Brewer’s appointment does that too—she’ll be No. 40, a record high, based on the current universe of female CEOs. It shines an especially bright light on the dearth of Black women in the ranks, but her hiring is at least one tick in the right direction.

Claire Zillman
claire.zillman@fortune.com
@clairezillman

Today’s Broadsheet was curated by Emma Hinchliffe

Lyron Foster is a Hawaii based African American Musician, Author, Actor, Blogger, Filmmaker, Philanthropist and Multinational Serial Tech Entrepreneur.

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