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‘There was that growing activist in me’: Why Roz Brewer left Starbucks to become Walgreens CEO

October 11, 2022, 9:41 AM UTC
Updated October 11, 2022, 9:51 PM UTC
Walgreen's CEO Rosalind "Roz" Brewer
Rosalind “Roz” Brewer, then Starbucks COO and group president, speaks at the annual meeting of shareholders in Seattle on March 20, 2019.
JASON REDMOND—AFP/Getty Images

Good morning.

The Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit began yesterday evening in Laguna Niguel, Calif., with Walgreens CEO Roz Brewer onstage to discuss her decision to leave her job as COO of Starbucks and join the drugstore chain during the pandemic. It was clear she saw it as an opportunity to transform health care.

“I was loving Starbucks. I thought that was the best job ever. [But when the pandemic hit] and things were happening around me, there was that growing activist in me, and I felt that it wasn’t enough…Health care has always been ripe for disruption. I saw it as a problem ready to burst. It was time for me to take everything I had learned and put it against one of the greatest problems we have ever faced.”

She also hinted that she may have had some differences of opinion with former CEO Kevin Johnson. “We were good partners, but I saw my potential [to be a CEO] at that point.”

Brewer is one of only two Black women CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. (The other, TIAA CEO Thasunda Brown Duckett, will be on the MPW stage today.) She said being the only Black woman in the room “is never a good feeling.”

“I’m still walking in being the only one in the room. It doesn’t feel good to be the only. This should be moving much faster than it is. I want to do as much as I can to change that.”

You can follow today’s action at the summit here. By the way, Megan Leonhardt has a smart story this morning about how to manage Gen Z employees. She quotes workplace expert Lindsey Pollak saying:

Gen Z are not fundamentally different human beings. They have just grown up in a different country and culture. So don’t look at Gen Zers as different people, look at the culture in which they have grown up.”

More news below. And check out Fortune’s new list of the 15 Most Powerful Women in Startups here.


Alan Murray
@alansmurray

alan.murray@fortune.com

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This edition of CEO Daily was edited by David Meyer.

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