In Corporate America, the glass ceiling is cracking a bit more this year. The number of Fortune 500 companies with female CEOs had been steadily rising over two decades, until slipping backward last year, to just 24. But now a new record has been set, thanks to the appointment of Heyward Donigan as CEO of Pennsylvania-based Rite Aid, the third-largest U.S. drugstore chain. That brings the total to 36, says Fortune.
Donigan, 58, had been CEO of Sapphire Digital, a platform for analyzing the differences in health-care plans. She joins several other women ascending to the top job in recent months. AutoNation, the Florida-based car retailer, last month named Cheryl Miller, 47, as its first-ever female CEO, a promotion from her previous role as CFO. In April, Minnesota-based Best Buy named Corie Barry, 44, to the top spot at the giant retailer; she too had previously served as CFO.
However, Donigan’s new gig at Rite Aid “isn’t all popping champagne corks. Indeed, there’s plenty about it that screams ‘glass cliff!,’” wrote Fortune’s Kristen Bellstrom in the publication’s Broad Sheet newsletter, referring to the perception that women are often appointed to leadership roles when the situation is dire and the risk of failure is high. Marissa Mayer’s tenure at Yahoo comes to mind.
“Rite Aid has struggled mightily in recent years, as this Wall Street Journal story details,” wrote Bellstrom. “The company sold roughly half its stores to competitor Walgreens after regulators blocked a 2017 merger between the two. Then a deal to merge with grocery chain Albertsons fell apart, prompting the announcement that [Donigan’s predecessor John Standley] would step down and that the company would cut 400 corporate jobs. Since then, Rite Aid has seen its market share erode and its shares crater—the stock is down more than 50% this year.”
But Donigan is undaunted. “I recognized the opportunity to really revitalize Rite Aid,” she told the Wall Street Journal. “It’s not just taking a hammer to the business. I have a strong point of view that pharmacies will continue to be physical,” suggesting that reports of the death of brick-and-mortar stores has been greatly exaggerated.