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Walgreens taps Starbucks executive Rosalind Brewer to be its CEO

Rosalind Brewer will be the next CEO of Walgreens — making her the only Black woman currently slated to take the helm of a Fortune 500 company.

Brewer is set to begin on March 15, Walgreens said Tuesday. She currently serves as the chief operating officer at Starbucks, and will remain in the role until the end of February. The coffee company announced her departure on Tuesday.

“I am excited to work alongside the entire [Walgreens Boots Alliance] team as we deliver further innovation and positively impact the lives of millions of people around the world every day,” said Brewer in a statement. “This is especially true today as the company plays a crucial role in combatting the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Brewer will succeed Stefano Pessina, who became Walgreens’ CEO in 2015. The pharmacy chain announced his decision to step down in July.

“It’s really great to see her in this position,” said Lorraine Hariton, president and CEO of Catalyst, a nonprofit research group that keeps track of the number of women serving in leadership positions at large companies.

Only one other Black woman, Xerox’s former CEO Ursula Burns, has ever held the chief executive role at a Fortune 500 company, Hariton said.

“We are definitely accelerating the number of women CEOs, period, in the Fortune 500,” Hariton said. But “as it relates to Black women, that has been a place that has been lagging,” she said. “We still have to work to do to really have a pipeline for women of color.”

Before she became COO at Starbucks in 2017, Brewer was the president and CEO of Sam’s Club. In that role, she was both the first woman and the first African American to lead a Walmart division.

She currently serves as a director of Amazon and Starbucks, though she will step down from the Starbucks board in February. She will join the Walgreens board of directors when she becomes CEO. Previously, she was a director of Lockheed Martin and Molson Coors.

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