Rosalind “Roz” Brewer is the youngest of five children and was born and raised in Detroit. Both of her parents did not finish high school before taking hard physical labor jobs at General Motors. Often when her parents worked differential shifts Roz was left alone for a couple of hours when her mother had to report to work and before her older siblings came home for school – at four years old. Roz graduated with honors from Cass Technical High School in Detroit and attended Spelman College in Atlanta. She worked every summer since she was a teen to save up for the Spelman tuition and earned a scholarship to cover her last two years of school.
She earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and while working her first job, attended Wharton’s Advanced Management Program and Stanford University’s Directors’ College. Immediately out of college Roz landed a job as a scientist at Kimberly-Clark Corp. Roz stayed dedicated to each job she has had in life. She learned as much as she could always moving up the ladder in the process. She spent 22 years at the Kimberly-Clark, moving as her education and knowledge within the company grew to into the business operations aspect of the company to reaching president of one of the company’s global divisions.
Roz took a similar upward path when she was hired as a regional vice president at Walmart in 2006. In her 11 years with Walmart she ultimately moved into a position of President and CEO of Sam’s Club.While at Sam’s Club Roz focused on the core areas of growing membership and the use of technology to improve the shopping experience to increase sales.
Roz has a style of a leader that is confident, positive, supportive, honest and tireless. She sets an expectation but coaches her people in the process. Roz earned the knickname The Velvet Hammer.Roz has said in many interviews that her directness shows investment.
She’s worked in jobs where she did not receive feedback, and it usually meant she’d been “counted out.”Counted out. Woman and particularly women of color are all too aware of this feeling. There many Fortune 500 companies with no women or women of color on their boards. We are living in a time where there is less fear of being politically incorrect. Racism and sexism is so blatant and so normalized.Shortly after Roz was named CEO of Sam’s, she was invited to be a part of an exclusive roundtable of CEOs.
During the reception she met another CEO who asked her what she did at Sam’s Club. Are you in marketing or merchandizing?, he asked. Roz was the keynote speaker. You can achieve a leadership position and continue to be marginalized. Roz has said that the limits society wants to put on her and the moments of indignation she’s experienced have fueled her.
Roz believes that diversity makes good business sense and has always emphasized the importance of diversity in corporate leadership. She is not afraid to speak out about it, even if its within her own company or those her company does business with. In 2015 Roz spoke in an interview with CNN about the lack of diversity among Wal-Mart suppliers. She wanted Wal-Mart to set an example and nudge their business partners to do the same. Her interview triggered strong emotions. Her resignation was called for and she received death threats. The CEO of Wal-Mart Doug McMillon backed her up and echoed the importance of diversity.
Roz left Wal-Mart in the fall of 2017 to accept the job of COO of Starbucks. In the position Roz serves as a member of Starbucks senior leadership team and is on the Starbucks board of directors. She is leading Starbucks’ operating businesses in the U.
S., Canada, and Latin America as well as the global functions of supply chain, product innovation, and store development organizations. In her previous experience with Kimbery-Clark and Wal-Mart, Roz obtained valuable knowledge in product management, development and innovation and international distribution. Starbucks with their focus as a culture-first company aligns with well Roz’s own values.Earlier this year Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson, both black men, entered a Starbucks in Philadelphia for a business meeting.
They asked to used the restroom and were told it was for paying customers only. They had been in the store less than 10 minutes when the manager called the police and they were arrested for being in the store without ordering anything. Roz believes that when companies and people make mistakes, your true character is revealed in how you handle the mistake and the action you take.
She told recent Spelman graduates during commencement in reference to the Philadelphia incident.Roz was involved in the reaction and action after Philadelphia. She understands there challenges and opportunities of being a worldwide community gathering spot or “third place” between work and home. Roz is is working to change the experience. After Philadelphia Starbucks stores across the country closed for a day of racial bias training and there is now an exclusive curriculum to train employees specifically addressing racism.From researching Rosalind Brewer’s story I have learned about an inspiring woman of color who moves around road blocks and stays true to herself.
Its not the title that means anything, its the work you do. I’ve learned that it may not get me to the top but doing the right thing is important. Part of a leader’s standard operating procedure should be contributing to society in a meaningful way and changing the narrative of how we look at each other.
“Always consider that you are part of something bigger than yourself.” No truer words to live by as a human being, a woman, a black woman, and a business owner. It should be applied to everything I do, every person I interact with, every handshake I make.