One trillion dollars in stock market value is what the 27 CEOs on Fortune magazine’s Most Powerful Women list control.
To celebrate the global leaders on the list Fortune frequently hosts the “Most Powerful Women Evening With…” series Q&A’s. Each city brings together a spectacular group: the area’s most prominent women in business, philanthropy, government, academia, and the arts.
The most recent event, hosted at the Time Warner Center in New York City, featured a talk with Sam’s Club President and CEO Rosalind Brewer—ranked number 15 on the list. The Michigan native and the youngest of five children is a graduate of Spelman College and became the first African American woman to lead a division within Walmart, which owns Sam’s Club, in 2012.
The lively conversation centered on a controversial comment she made in December 2015 about her commitment to diversity during an interview with CNN’s Poppy Harlow.
“I demand it of my team,” said Brewer. She went on to say that she also talks to her suppliers about diversity: “Every now and then you have to nudge your partners. You have to speak up and speak out. And I try to use my platform for that. I try to set an example.”
That comment spurred a lot of backlash. People called Brewer a “racist” and encouraged a boycott of Sam’s Club stores using the hashtag #boycottracistsamsclub.
Luckily the company stood behind Brewer, despite the outcry for her removal. And fortunately, Brewer has never been shy about speaking her mind, so the conversation is far from over.
“The lesson for me is to continue to use my voice,” she said. “Don’t stop, because it did start a hailstorm but I have to keep the conversation going. This incident reminds all of us that this whole issue around diversity is nowhere near fixed.”
In addition to the multitude of CEO’s in attendance the, other prominent guests were rising-star women from around the world, who just spent the last two weeks in the U.S. shadowing members of the MPW community as participants in the Fortune/U.S. State Department Global Women’s Mentoring Partnership. The partnership directly supports the U.S. goal of advancing women’s efforts to become financially independent through entrepreneurship and utilize their economic strength to improve their communities.
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