Rosalind Brewer: She’s Spilling the Coffee Beans

February 5 - On The Dot
FIRST THOUGHT: Brewing Up Change

Most of us have either seen or been inside a Starbucks coffee shop, with its green, two-tailed mermaid logo displayed on every possible surface, packaged product and paper coffee cup in the vicinity. Since its inception in 1971, the coffee enterprise has expanded beyond Seattle and onto just about every bustling city corner throughout the world. On the cusp of 2018, the billion-dollar company opened its largest store and roastery yet, in Shanghai, China. It features a tea bar with 3-D-printed materials, an in-house bakery and three massive coffee bars in a 30,000-square-foot space, so I’d say a visit is in order. But first, coffee!


In a world where women aren’t provided many “venti” opportunities in the workplace, Starbucks is giving women a career pick-me-up that’s worth a whole lot more that a hill of coffee beans. In fact, female employees account for 66 percent of the company’s workforce. Considering Starbucks offers flexible work hours, competitive wages and funds 100 percent of women’s preventative health coverage, it’s easy to see why working for Starbucks has become so many women’s cup of tea.

WOMAN TO WATCH: Rosalind Brewer, Chief Operating Officer of Starbucks

Today’s Woman to Watch is a no-nonsense, history-making exec who’s using her many years of expertise to shake things up at the world’s most prominent coffee company. Her name is Rosalind Brewer, and she’s the newly appointed chief operating officer of Starbucks.

It seems obvious Rosalind would be a great fit for Starbucks. I mean—hello—her last name is Brewer. But her position is one she worked hard to achieve and certainly deserves. A Detroit native, she attended a technical high school before excelling at a private women’s college in Atlanta. Rosalind then spent the next 20-plus years at consumer-product behemoth Kimberly-Clark, working her way from research tech to market manager all the way to president for manufacturing and operations.

But that’s just a glimpse of her impressive career. Before her switch to Frappuccinos and chai lattes, Rosalind worked as an executive VP for Wal-Mart and as the president and CEO of retail-warehouse giant Sam’s Club, worth $57 billion.

Rosalind’s move to Starbucks happened, in part, by chance. During a panel discussion in 2016 with Starbucks’ chief executive, Rosalind had to step in for the Wal-Mart CEO at the last minute. After having a natural repertoire with the Starbucks CEO, Rosalind visited the company’s Seattle headquarters, sparking much interest. In addition to Rosalind’s natural ability to connect with people, her experience of executing operational success really shone through.

As the first woman and the first African-American COO at Starbucks, Rosalind is definitely making history. That’s a heck of a lot of pressure, but that’s precisely why she took the position. One of the key focuses of Rosalind’s tenure is to increase diversity at Starbucks. While women account for more than half of Starbucks’ employees, minorities account for only about a third—a number Rosalind aims to boost through a variety of diversity initiatives.

Another action item on Rosalind’s new to-do list involves simply making sure technology works and enhances—not diminishes—the Starbucks customer experience. From scanning a gift card on your smartphone to improving drive-thru encounters, ensuring all the cool customer-facing digital stuff works properly is key to Starbucks retaining customer loyalty. That sounds like even more of a reason to happily wake up and smell the coffee!


Let’s conclude today’s caffeine-fueled story with a quote from Rosalind Brewer herself. She said:

“You can and should set your own limits and clearly articulate them. This takes courage, but it is also liberating and empowering, and often earns you new respect.”

This is Melinda Garvey signing off until next time. Remember, ladies, empowered women empower other women. Share On the Dot so more women can have a voice. Thanks for getting ready with us.

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