Insights Blog

Rosalind Brewer on empathy and empowering diverse voices

The 2021 Forbes Power Women’s Summit provided a platform for influential women to share powerful insights on a variety of modern issues. One of several memorable speakers was Rosalind “Roz” Brewer, CEO of Walgreens-Boots Alliance and number 14 on this year’s Forbes Power Women’s List, interviewed by Moira Forbes.  

Roz touches on a variety of topics including lessons from the pandemic, the relevance of diverse voices, and the importance of bringing others along in one’s own success.

Brewer has a history of leading companies and teams through times of incredible transformation. Her appointment to CEO of Walgreens-Boots Alliance in March 2021 during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic was no different, as the company played a critical role in vaccine rollout. When asked what her biggest takeaway from the pandemic has been, she responds with “How important it is for leaders to have such a strong sense of empathy [and] listening skills.” She notes that with society’s focus on tech driven, fast paced movement forward, we have also left people behind.

As we face complicated issues in corporate America, Roz emphasizes the need for everyone’s voices to be heard. When she was starting out, she recalls, “I was that quiet, shy person in the back of the room. It took a couple people paying attention to me, who could see my wheels turning but my mouth not moving, to call me out in a meeting to say 'Roz, what do you think?'”. Now, she is only the third Black woman to achieve the career milestone of the position she currently holds.  

In fact, much of her career has been framed by similar “firsts”.  When asked how she responds when these milestones are brought up, she says her first thought is, “Have I been bringing enough people along?... This is not a competition or a race. We’re better when we move in herds... It reminds me how important it is to give back and continue to mentor—find those moments where you can pull people along.”