“I remember three very big moves where I took steps to get up….I took pay cuts, I took moves and moves…just to get the development I needed “said Brewer, one of the two Blacks. women CEOs of the Fortune 500, said Thursday during a June 19 conversation on “Advancing Black Leadership,” hosted by CNN.
Getting to Suite C was never a goal in and of itself. On the contrary, she said, she has sought platforms throughout her career that have allowed her to make an impact in the black community.
One of the times she decided to take a step back was when she went from global vice president at Kimberly-Clark to vice president at Walmart, where half of the the employees were black. She would eventually become Walmart’s president and CEO of Sam’s Club, her members-only retail warehouse club.
“If you really break down my career, I came into impact roles. I wanted roles where I could influence a lot of employees,“ she says. “[At Walmart] I could assign the biggest black job [pool] in the United States and then around the world. »
Brewer’s efforts to advance black leadership begin with his own actions. Managers, she says, must “from words to deeds” and make sure their team is diverse and that they cater to black employees and other people of color early in their careers.
“When I was this quiet, young, insecure person in corporate America…I knew I could circle around the conversations that were happening, and I knew the answers. But I actually didn’t have the courage to raise my hand and say the things that needed to be said in those contexts. I see that … in my young new recruits. So I try to grab them and pull them in,” she said.
When she decided to take on the role of CEO at Walgreens, a job she started during the pandemic, the impact she was looking for was much broader.
“Our community didn’t believe in vaccinations, but we are dying at a disproportionate rate from the coronavirus. … We were able to do a fantastic job and we [got] nearly 70 million gunshots and 50% of them were people of color. … I was really obsessed with stopping the death and dying of our people.”
Brewer wants to help facilitate access to trials in black communities.
“We are announcing that Walgreens will join pharmaceutical companies in providing access to clinical trials. And because of our physical [locations in Black communities]we can involve black and brown people in these clinical trial processes so that we know more about vaccines as soon as they come to market and that our people are included in that, she explained. This is on providing important localized health care to people who need it [at] the most affordable and accessible rate.”
Creating Wealth in the Black Community
Advancing the career and health prospects of Black Americans is critical when seeking greater racial equity in society. But more needs to be done.
Two other key elements are financial literacy and building generational wealth in Black families, entrepreneur John Hope Bryant said during CNN’s “Advancing Black Leadership” panel.
Bryant said that it views social justice through an economic lens. “Financial literacy is the new civil rights issue.”
To date, it has distributed $4 billion in capital to underserved neighborhoods, Bryant said. This money was used to help people to buy homes, supporting small businesses, improving credit scores and teaching children about money.
“Nobody ever gave us a grade on the money,” he said.
But that is changing as role models change, he said, citing black business leaders, entrepreneurs and venture capitalists.
Bryant introduced himself as a black businessman who owns hundreds of single-family rental homes. More than half of the contractors he uses are black-owned businesses, he said, also noting that the suit he wore on Thursday was made by a black tailor. “Everything is changing.”
Entrepreneur Barry Givens is one of the few black venture capitalists in the United States. Early in his career, he didn’t know any black VCs and always struggled to raise capital. That’s why he co-founded Collab Capital, a $50 million venture capital firm that funds black tech founders.
“Our slogan is ‘Transforming Black Genius into Generational Wealth,’ because we now have the ability to not only become those rich people ourselves, but also save and plant seeds for 100 other black people,” Givens said. .
Like Brewer and Bryant, Givens found there was power in finding purpose and, as he put it, “running[ning] your own race” despite what the world might tell you to do.
“As soon as I started focusing my life on helping others and building community, money found me,” he said.