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Jane Fraser (L) and Rosalind Brewer. Photos: Jason Redmond/AFP via Getty Images; Rodrigo Capote/Bloomberg via Getty Images.

The number of women at the helm of America’s biggest companies pales in comparison to men, but is newly growing — and their tasks are huge.

What's going on: Jane Fraser took over at Citigroup this week, the first woman to ever lead a major U.S. bank. Rosalind Brewer will take the reins at Walgreens in the coming weeks (March 15) — a company that's been run by white men for more than a century.

Details: In Fraser's case, one task includes overcoming the perception of a "glass cliff," a heavily researched phenomenon of women being elevated as a company is in need of a cleanup.

What’s going on: Fraser, who’s been at Citi for nearly two decades, is stepping up as the bank faced an onslaught of trouble in recent years.

  • (A few) things on Fraser's to-do list: quell regulatory concerns, up the bank's lagging stock price — and deal with fallout from the $900 million the bank accidentally sent to a group of creditors.
  • On day one, Fraser promised the bank would get to net-zero greenhouse-gas emissions by 2050 — a climate goal promised by peers Bank of America and Morgan Stanley.

Brewer is taking over as Walgreens plays a big role in the country's largest undertaking: getting the masses vaccinated.

  • Walgreens also faces existential threats: Insurers are pinching pharmacy profits. Brick-and-mortar pharmacies are also less essential in the Amazon era, when people can order what they need online.
  • Competitor CVS bought insurer Aetna in 2018. Here's the sense on Wall Street: your move, Walgreens. (The company has used partnerships to infuse health services into its retail locations).

What to watch: 31 out of 500 of America's biggest companies are run by women, including Fraser and Brewer.

  • It's both dismal and a feat, given it's close to an all-time record.

What's next: More churn for America's female leaders.

  • Margaret Keane, chief executive at Symphony Financial, will step down in April. (Brian Doubles, a white man, will step in.)
  • Thasunda Brown Duckett, a Black woman, will take over as CEO of money manager TIAA.

Go deeper

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
Mar 1, 2021 - Economy & Business

Clash of the central bankers

Photo Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Photos: Bloomberg, Samuel Corum (Stringer)/Getty Images

While Fed chair Jerome Powell is brushing off the seismic rise in government bond yields and a corresponding decline in stock prices, a group of central bankers in the Pacific are starting to take action.

Driving the news: Bank of Japan governor Haruhiko Kuroda told parliament on Friday the BOJ would not allow yields on government debt to continue rising further above the BOJ's 0% target.

Scoop: U.S. begins denying Afghan immigrants

Afghan refugees on a bus bound for temporary housing after arriving in Greece. Photo: Byron Smith/Getty Images

The Biden administration has begun issuing denials to Afghans seeking to emigrate to the United States through the humanitarian parole process, after a system that typically processes 2,000 applications annually has been flooded with more than 30,000.

Why it matters: Afghans face steeper odds and longer processes for escaping to the U.S., despite the earlier sweeping efforts by the Biden administration to assist its allies. Immigration lawyers and advocacy groups say the government has set untenable barriers to a safe haven in the U.S.

35 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Dems invoke Robert Byrd to sell Manchin on Senate rules changes

Photo illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios. Photos: Diana Walker, Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

A small group of Senate Democrats is privately invoking the legacy of late West Virginia Sen. Robert Byrd in an effort to sway Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) to support their plans to change the chamber's rules, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: Manchin — who holds Byrd's Senate seat — has often referenced his predecessor's strong moral conviction and insistence on preserving the Senate as an institution, as justification for some of his tough positions.