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

January 27, 2021, 1:55 PM UTC

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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

Today’s Broadsheet was curated by Emma Hinchliffe


- Black says goodbye? Leon Black gave up his position as CEO of Apollo Global Management over his financial ties to Jeffrey Epstein. But Black will stay on as chairman, and he was reportedly able to handpick his successor. Fortune

- Wartime action. Girls Who Code founder Reshma Saujani's Marshall Plan for Moms has a new set of backers, with 50 women—including #MeToo founder Tarana Burke and actor Eva Longoria—signing a letter to President Biden published as a full-page NYT ad yesterday. The letter asks Biden to come up with a plan to pay mothers for unpaid care work during the pandemic. Fast Company

- Fight for $15. Fran Marion, a McDonald's worker in Kansas City, writes a Fortune op-ed asking President Biden and Congress to raise the federal minimum wage to $15. Marion joined Rep. Bobby Scott and Sen. Bernie Sanders as they reintroduced legislation to do so. Fortune

- Insuring the future. Aetna, the insurer that is part of CVS Health and led by incoming CVS chief executive Karen Lynch, is changing how it treats surgeries like breast augmentations for transgender women. The insurer has previously declined to cover those surgeries, classifying them as cosmetic, but after advocacy by trans women working with the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund, will now classify procedures that meet certain requirements as medically necessary. New York Times

MOVERS AND SHAKERS: CloudSphere hired former Microsoft and Google exec Jane Gilson as CEO. Kara Gustafson will become executive director of the Finance Leaders Fellowship at the Aspen Institute. Opendoor promoted head of operations Megan Meyer Toolson to chief customer officer. Pearson hired Florida E. Starks as SVP and chief diversity officer. Identiv hired Leigh Dow as VP of marketing. 


- Solar power. Kristal Hansley has a strategy to solve solar inequality—i.e. the fact that wealthy people are generally the ones who can afford renewable energy alternatives, and therefore benefit from subsidies. The WeSolar founder describes her vision to bring green energy to low-income communities. Bloomberg 

- Slam dunk. How did the WNBA help flip Georgia blue? Basketball players, especially those with the Atlanta Dream, reflect on how they took a stand against the team's owner, Sen. Kelly Loeffler—extending that effort beyond just her race. "Female athletes are always underestimated," says player Elizabeth Williams. Elle

- Haute cuisine. Two women in London are simultaneously the first female chefs in the U.K. to be awarded three Michelin stars in their own right. Hélène Darroze's restaurant the Connaught and Clare Smyth's Core just earned the honors. Bloomberg


How baseball helped Biden nominee Samantha Power as an immigrant and ambassador The Athletic

Marjorie Taylor Greene indicated support for executing prominent Democrats in 2018 and 2019 before running for Congress CNN

The gender gap in negotiation may start very young Psychology Today

Pandemic drives business support for paid leave, study finds Bloomberg


"Rather than protecting pregnant people from research, what we really need to be doing is protecting them through research."

-Carleigh Krubiner, a health policy and bioethics researcher at the Center for Global Development. She's discussing the lack of research on use of new drugs and treatments during pregnancy—including for the COVID-19 vaccine. 

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