Rosalind Brewer Has Just Become The First Female CEO of Sam’s Club

What a great way to end the week. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT), the world’s largest retailer, said Brian Cornell will step down as president and CEO of its Sam’s Club membership warehouse unit and be replaced by Rosalind Brewer.This appointment marks a lot of firsts for the company as Brewer is the first woman and the first black person ever to be CEO of a business unit at Wal-Mart, said a company spokesman.Way to go Rosalind!

Brewer, who will also be president of Sam’s Club, was previously president of the retailer’s U.S. East business unit. She will report to CEO Mike Duke. The moves are effective Feb. 1. Prior to joining Wal-Mart, Brewer held a number of executive positions at Kimberly-Clark Corp. She holds a B.S. in Chemistry from Spelman College, completed an advanced management program at The Wharton School of Business, and has been a trustee of Spelman College since 2006. [tagbox tag= "female ceos"]

Its Sam’s Club warehouse club business — which accounts for about 12% of Wal-Mart’s annual sales — has outperformed its namesake stores. Revenue in stores open at least one year rose 5.7% at Sam’s Club and 1.3% at Walmart U.S. stores in its third quarter. The measure is a key gauge of a retailer’s financial health. The challenge for Brewer will be continuing the growth that Cornell started. Cornell made merchandising changes, such as expanding the food department and introducing a private- label line, both of which helped sales, she said. Wal-Mart shares rose 40 cents to $61.01 in afternoon trading Friday.

Though this is showing that 2012 will be a huge year for female CEOs, growth for women at the executive level is still stalled in many ways. In 2009, women held 15.2% of Fortune 500 board seats, according to women’s issues research group Catalyst. In both 2009 and 2010, 12% of Fortune 500 companies had no women serving on their boards. Female leaders  also only make up about 3% of Fortune 500 CEOs which is just a 1% increase from seven years ago. You can see the list 18 female CEOs in the Fortune 500 here. Though you have to subtract former Avon CEO Andrea Jung who just stepped down. As B5 Media CEO Elaine Kunda points out in an interview with Fox News (which you can watch here) on the state of women in business, “It is still a very low number and we should never be dissatisfied with the number growing, but 1% in the last seven years is not what I would or many people would have expected.”

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