A Lesson in Gender Diversity

Best Buy offers us a lesson in gender diversity. The best man for a job is a woman, times three.

The former Chief Financial Officer Sharon McCollam, former President eCommerce Mary Lou Kelley, and former US Retail President Shari Ballard together architected the turnaround of Best Buy under the leadership of Chief Executive Officer Hubert Joly. They serve as three shining examples of women leaders that saved the day by saving Best Buy — when turnarounds are not for the faint of heart.  Fortune Magazine tells the story and it is a good read.

Women Who Saved Best Buy

Source: Fortune http://fortune.com/2015/10/25/best-buy-turnaround/

Despite the store’s gadget-geek stereotypes, Best Buy’s leadership team has been largely female: Women run operations accounting for 90% of its revenue. Best Buy CEO Hubert Joly was inspired by a McKinsey colleague’s gender-diversity research—on which Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In is partly based—and decided to give women leaders a shot. His investment has paid off, big time.

According to Fortune Magazine,

On the eve of its 50th anniversary, Best Buy—bogged down three years ago in mounting losses and management disarray—seems to be back on track. The largest consumer-electronics retailer in the world (No. 72 on the Fortune 500) and the only surviving U.S. nationwide chain, Best Buy has redesigned most of its 1,433 U.S. stores, put its retail employees through retraining boot camp, become a force in e-commerce, and excised $1 billion in annual costs. Earnings have beaten Wall Street’s expectations for 11 quarters in a row; since December 2012 its stock has roughly tripled. “Best Buy is one of the most impressive turnarounds in retail over the last decade,” says Scott Galloway, marketing professor at NYU Stern and founder of brand-research firm L2.”

Fortune Magazine reported turning around Best Buy was particularly validating for chief financial officer Sharon McCollam (pictured on the right above), a veteran of Williams-Sonoma who was lured out of retirement by the CEO.

“She implemented a rigorous budget; overhauled Best Buy’s IT, supply chain, and logistics; and even inspected stores with a “white glove” dust test. By the time the holidays were over, she was confident that she had engineered an enduring revival. “

Where Are the Women Today?

With that accomplishment firmly in place, Ms. McCollam stepped out of that role back into retirement, where she continues to guide corporations at the board of directors level. She joined Hallmark Cards, Inc.in that capacity in 2017.

The Good Fight

Why do I keep writing about women diversity at the senior executive level? I head an executive search (The Good Search) and recruiting research (Intellerati) firms help companies become more diverse at the board and C-level. Most companies want to be more diverse: they simply don’t know how to get there.  Successful diversity initiatives require that we begin with the realization that yes, women can do this. Best Buy gets that and the company has benefited mightily. CEO Joly put it this way:

“If it had been Lehman Sisters instead of Lehman Brothers, maybe it would not have been the catastrophe that it was.”

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