Roz Brewer has stepped down as CEO of Walgreens, according to Walgreens Boots Alliance. Brewer was once the only active Black woman CEO of a Fortune 500 company in early 2021, making a statement and bringing more awareness to the lack of corporate diversity. Her departure calls into question the state of corporate diversity today.
According to CNBC, Brewer’s departure comes from Walgreens goal to move from a drugstore to a healthcare company. The company is going to look for a CEO with a background in healthcare. Ginger Graham, the lead independent director and a health-care industry veteran, will take on the role of interim chief while the company finds a successor.
Brewer is going to continue advising the company until they have selected their new CEO, but she has officially departed from the board of directors.
With Brewer’s departure, the state of our corporate diversity has been called into question. Brewer’s role was both a symbol of progress and scarcity, being that she was the only Black woman CEO of a Fortune 500 at the time. In 2023, after Brewer’s exit, there will be one Black woman as a CEO of a Fortune 500 company: Thasunda Brown Duckett of TIAA.
It’s not to say no progress has been made. The Fortune 500 crossed a milestone this year. According to Fortune, for the first time in history, women ran more than 10% of the businesses on the list of America’s largest public companies in January. And according to the 69th annual Fortune 500 ranking, those CEOs are staying, leaving women running 10.4% of companies on the Fortune 500 now.
Fortune further reports that 52 companies out of 500 are led by women CEOs, representing 18% increase from 44 this time last year. Twelve of these CEOs were hired within the past year, reflecting the rapid pace of executive turnover post-pandemic.
With this progress, Fortune 500s are still struggling with appointing Black women executives and retaining them. Only four of the 25 Black executives to have led Fortune 500 companies were women.
The reason for Brewer’s exit was based on the fact that she didn’t have enough healthcare experience for the company. Despite leading the company through a major stretch of the COVID-19 pandemic, they did not think her skill set aligned for what they needed.
“The retail side of the business, where Ms. Brewer has much more experience, is simply not an area that Walgreens wants to pursue as a major growth opportunity,” Neil Saunders, retail analyst and GlobalData managing director, said in an emailed statement to CNBC.
Brewer’s accomplishments at Walgreens include leading the team that created Walgreens’ vaccine scheduling system and developing a plan to drive vaccine equity. “She furthered our consumer-facing capabilities while supporting the culture of community and team-member engagement in difficult times,” said Stefano Pessina, the executive chairman of the company.
After Brewer’s exit, shares of Walgreens fell about 7%.