March 8, 2017
John Vomhof Jr.Staff Writer
Shari Ballard started as an assistant manager in 1993. Today, she serves as Best Buy’s president of U.S. retail, overseeing almost 1,400 stores that combined generate more than $30 billion in annual revenue.
Last September, Fortune magazine named her to its 50 Most Powerful Women in Business list for the fourth time in the past eight years. But she isn’t the only powerful woman at Best Buy — far from it. The company has strong female leaders at every level of the organization, from store managers to the C-suite.
That’s not important to Best Buy only on International Women’s Day, though. It’s part of the company’s everyday commitment to diversity and inclusion, something we know makes us stronger as a company.
And it’s not just about tracking the number of women in the company. It’s about unleashing the power of our people and utilizing their unique talents, experiences, beliefs and backgrounds to create an engaging work environment and world-class retail operation.
“I think it’s as much about how the diversity of a team is orchestrated and used — the inclusiveness of it — as whether the raw diversity is present or not. Both matter,” Shari said.
It starts at the top. Five of the 11 people on Best Buy’s executive team are female. Plus, women hold four of 10 seats on the board of directors, tied for 12th among all S&P 500 companies.
That doesn’t happen by chance. Gender diversity has been a top priority since Chairman and CEO Hubert Joly took the helm in 2012.
“In growing transformational leaders, our commitment to diversity delivers shared success for our company and communities,” he said.
In addition to Shari, the other female executives are:
- Paula Baker, chief human resources officer
- Corie Barry, chief financial officer
- Mary Lou Kelley, president of e-commerce
- Trish Walker, president of services
The Women in the Workplace 2016 study from McKinsey & Co. and LeanIn.org found that only 19 percent of C-suite executives nationwide are female. Board diversity is only slightly better, with women accounting for 21 percent of all board seats, according to a report from Equilar.
Hiring female leaders isn’t just the right thing to do — it’s also good for business. Research has found that companies with more women in upper management actually generate higher profits.
“The more diverse we are around the table when making decisions, the better off we’re going to be, because we’re going to have more of the population and more points of view represented,” said Trish, whose role includes overseeing all of Geek Squad.
Or as Hubert once told Fortune: “If it had been Lehman Sisters instead of Lehman Brothers, maybe it would not have been the catastrophe that it was.”
While Best Buy has made great progress in gender diversity in recent years, there’s still more work to do. But having strong female leadership throughout the company, including at the executive level, also gives the next generation strong role models to look up to.
“I hope women in our company see other women on the executive team — or their store manager or district or territory leaders — and feel like, ‘Yeah, I can do anything here,’” Shari said. “Honestly, I hope that’s true for everybody. I hope people who are starting out in stores today can look at my job, regardless of whether they’re a woman or a man, and say, ‘Hey, somebody can start out in stores and end up in that job.’”
For more information about Best Buy’s commitment to diversity and inclusion, click here.