Zero Black Women at Helm in S&P 500 as Walgreens CEO Steps Down

zero black women at helm in s p 500 as walgreens ceo steps down.jpg Business

In a startling revelation, Walgreens Boots Alliance announced on Friday that its CEO, Rosalind Brewer, has decided to step down from her position. This departure is not just another executive movement, but it marks the end of an era as Brewer was the only Black female CEO heading an S&P 500 company. The absence of her leadership shines a stark light on the sluggish pace of diversity progress in the upper echelons of America’s largest corporations.

Brewer, a seasoned executive with previous stints at Starbucks and Sam’s Club, took the reins at Walgreens in March 2021 with the challenging task of transforming the company. However, her exit comes at a time when Walgreens is grappling with a significant loss in stock value and a challenging pivot from its conventional pharmacy and retail business towards health care services. The impact of her departure extends beyond the company, underscoring the persistent dominance of white men in top corporate roles, a trend that has been increasingly exclusive over the past two generations.

Leadership Diversity in Question as Walgreens CEO Steps Down

An Exclusive Club

Rosalind Brewer, the only Black female CEO of an S&P 500 company, has stepped down from her role at Walgreens Boots Alliance, casting a spotlight on the lack of diversity in corporate leadership. Brewer’s departure from the drugstore giant marks a significant absence in the top ranks of the nation’s most prominent companies.

The 61-year-old former Starbucks and Sam’s Club executive had been a beacon of hope for diversity in corporate leadership. Prior to Brewer, the last Black woman to lead an S&P 500 company was Ursula Burns, who left Xerox in 2016. Brewer’s exit underscores the slow progress in the diversification of executive roles in major corporations.

A Dominated Landscape

The corporate leadership landscape is predominantly white and male. According to a USA TODAY analysis, 70% of the 533 named executive officers in S&P 500 companies are white men. Furthermore, about 1 in 7 of these companies had executive teams entirely composed of white men in 2022.

Women, particularly women of color, are significantly underrepresented. Only 17% of named executive officers are women, and a mere 17 are women of color. Black women account for a scant 1% of top leaders, a figure that is even lower at the CEO level.

Brewer’s Legacy and the Future

Brewer joined Walgreens in March 2021 with a mandate to transform the company. However, the company’s stock has lost half its value since her appointment, as Walgreens faced challenges in transitioning from its traditional pharmacy and retail business to a focus on healthcare services.

Following Brewer’s exit, board member Ginger Graham has been appointed as interim CEO. Despite this change, the broader issue of lack of diversity in corporate leadership remains, highlighting the need for more concerted efforts to foster inclusivity at this level.


The resignation of Rosalind Brewer from Walgreens further shrinks the already tiny pool of Black women in CEO positions among S&P 500 companies. This event serves to underscore the stark underrepresentation of women, and particularly women of color, in top leadership roles. The question remains as to how corporations can break the cycle of white, male dominance in their executive ranks and foster a culture that truly values and promotes diversity.

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