Black Female Exec, Roz Brewer, Makes History, Highlighting Long-Standing Problems in Corporate America

Rosalind Roz Brewer (Getty)
Rosalind ‘Roz’ Brewer (Getty)

*Starbucks executive Rosalind “Roz” Brewer has been tapped to head drugstore pharmacy chain Walgreens. As the company’s new CEO, Brewer will become the only Black woman leading a Fortune 500 company in the U.S.

Brewer served as Starbucks’ chief operating officer for a little more than three years. She will succeed Stefano Pessino as CEO March 15.

The Detroit native’s unorthodox path to Walgreen’s began in science more than two decades ago, when she took a position as a chemist with paper products company Kimberly-Clark. After 22 years, Brewer moved on to serve as president and CEO of Sam’s Club, a members-only warehouse retailer under the parent company, Walmart.

After leaving Sam’s Club, Brewer took her talents to Starbucks, where she oversaw the revamping of stores, helped grow the coffee chain’s rewards program and advocated for more diversity within its ranks.

The Detroit native is a graduate of Spelman College and member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated. In 2018, she was listed as the 34th in Forbes’ ranking of the most powerful women.

Why We Need To Know:
Brewer’s climb up the corporate ladder is being applauded while bringing to the forefront a longstanding problem in corporate America: the alarming underrepresentation of women and African Americans in the C-suites of Fortune 500 companies. A 2018 report, The Center for Talent Innovation’s “Being Black in Corporate America,” found that Black people account for only 3.2% of senior leadership roles at large corporations, and hold just 0.8% of Fortune 500 CEO positions.

Brewer joins the ranks of three other, yes THREE, Black Fortune 500 CEOs. They are Marvin Ellison, CEO of Lowe’s home improvement retailer, Kenneth Frazier of pharmaceutical company Merck & Co.; and Roger Ferguson, Jr. of insurance company TIAA. This number is down from seven less than a decade earlier.

Only two Black women have ever led an S&P 500 company: Ursula Burns, CEO of Xerox from 2009 to 2016, and Mary Winston, who was replaced by a White man after serving as interim CEO of Bed Bath & Beyond for six months in 2019.

As she steps into her new role, Brewer will not only have 450,000 employees to oversee, but she has another unprecedented job on her hands. Walgreens is at the center of a Covid-19 vaccine controversy as the company is being blamed for the poor vaccination rollout in long-term care facilities nationwide.
Brewer’s new position is being referred to as a “glass cliff,” a phenomenon experienced by women and minorities where they’re elevated to positions of power during turbulent times. If they succeed, the reward is high, but the risk of failure is unusually high, too.

“You’re way up where everybody can see you, so you’ve been elevated to a really important position, but it’s incredibly precarious because you’re standing on a cliff made of glass,” said Lex Washington, who studies gender, diversity, and bias at work at Oklahoma State University. “Usually, the level of risk we’re talking about is such that unless things turn around, there will be an immediate or large-scale consequence.”

source: ABC News

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