How Detroit native Rosalind ‘Roz’ Brewer is breaking barriers

‘Roz’ Brewer was born and raised in Detroit

How Detroit native Rosalind ‘Roz’ Brewer is breaking barriers
How Detroit native Rosalind ‘Roz’ Brewer is breaking barriers

DETROIT – The only Black Woman to hold the CEO position of a Fortune 500 company at this current time has ties to Detroit.

Many Detroiters are familiar with Rosalind “Roz” Brewer. She was born and raised in Detroit and graduated from Cass Technical High School.

She worked her way up the corporate ladder in the consumer food industry before landing top executive jobs. She was the CEO of Sam’s Club, the first Black COO of Starbucks.

In March she became the only Black woman leading a Fortune 500 company at this current time as the CEO of Walgreens.

She spoke about her new role on Wednesday morning on the Today Show.

“Sometimes we use our voices by saying we belong here, get used to us,” Brewer said.

As a leader in her first company, sales grew to more than a billion dollars.

“It was forward-thinking,” Brewer said.

As the CEO at Sam’s Club, she modernized the business and boosted profits. When she became a COO of Starbucks she overhauled the way they treat their customers.

In 2018, a Starbucks manager called the police after two Black males sat without ordering. They were the same age as her son.

“This could have happened to him,” Brewer said. “And he texted me and he said, ‘Mom you have to get after this.’”

In addition to a public apology, Starbucks closed 8,000 stores for racial bias training thanks to Brewer’s perspective, leadership and influence.

She now leads the largest company ever run by a Black woman.

“This is a time for me to step into something that I’ve always wanted to do. Have an impact, make change happen, lead something that would leave an impression on people’s lives,” Brewer said.

Including her male CEO counterparts at other Fortune 500 companies that aren’t used to seeing people that look like her in their exclusive meetings.

“Gentlemen ask me what did I do for a living. Almost like, ‘Why are you here?’ He must have asked me like 20 questions. Like marketing, like sales. I was like,’ No. It was so funny because I happened to be the keynote speaker for the private luncheon,” Brewer said. “And I just saw his face just totally drain.”

Brewer’s father passed away just before she graduated from Spelman College, a prestigious all-female historically Black college in Atlanta.

“I clearly know he would be quite excited, he would be. I think about that a lot,” Brewer said.

Something else she shared is a question she always asks when she’s hiring people, “You’re at your kid’s soccer game and I call, what do you say?”

She said most people say they’d drop everything and respond to whatever you need. She said no, a happy employee is a productive one. You say, “I’ll call you back in an hour.” And she’s good with that.

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