There’s No “Mistaking” It: Rosalind Brewer Ascends to CEO of Walgreens and Only Black Woman to Lead a Fortune 500 Company

From cappuccinos to the candy aisle, Rosalind “Roz” Brewer will transition from her current position as the first Black and first female Chief Operating Officer of Starbucks to CEO of Walgreens in March 2021. In this leadership role for the largest U.S. drugstore chain, Brewer will be the only Black woman presently serving as CEO of a Fortune 500 company—and the third Black woman ever to lead a Fortune 500 company.

Brewer joined the 50-year-old coffee company in 2017 and was noted for her digital expertise, which helped spark Starbucks’ strong mobile business, particularly as the company focused on to-go operations during the pandemic. Before that, she was CEO of Sam’s Club—the first woman and first Black leader to head up a Walmart division—and spent more than 20 years at Kimberly-Clark Corp., initially as a chemist. In addition, Brewer serves as a director on the Amazon.com board, where she further honed her e-commerce experience and leadership; she will resign her Amazon board membership prior to joining Walgreens.

An advocate for diversity, Brewer encouraged Amazon to broaden its board membership when she joined as the only person of color in 2019, and she played a key role in increasing diversity in the Starbucks’ workforce while expanding racial bias training for employees across the company’s 8,000 stores.

While delivering a commencement speech at Spelman College, her alma mater, Brewer said that “when you’re a Black woman, you get mistaken a lot. Sometimes you’re mistaken for kitchen help. Sometimes people assume you’re in the wrong place, and all I can think in the back of my head is, ‘No, you’re in the wrong place.’”

In addition to her bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Spelman, Brewer is a graduate of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania Advanced Management Program and Stanford University’s Directors’ College. She chairs Spelman College’s board of trustees and is a former board member for Lockheed Martin and Molson Coors.

Brewer was featured on the Forbes 2020 Power Women list. While the number of women heading up Fortune 500 companies reached a new high in 2020, the number of Black leaders remains low: Brewer will join four other Black CEOs of Fortune 500 companies.

Walgreens’ shares rose eight percent following the initial news of Brewer’s hiring; she will succeed Stefano Pessina, who will become chair of the Walgreens board.

A Detroit native, Brewer is a resident of Washington and her go-to Starbucks order is a tall Blonde Espresso Roast Honey Oat Milk Latte.

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About the Author

There’s No “Mistaking” It: Rosalind Brewer Ascends to CEO of Walgreens and Only Black Woman to Lead a Fortune 500 Company

Kerry Corbit

Kerry Corbit is Investors Prism's Editor in Chief and Lead Broadcast Journalist and is based in New York, NY.