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Cry WOLF: St. Kate’s alumna speaks up for women

Angela Chambliss ’04
Angela Chambliss ’04

Being a woman has never been an obstacle to success for Angela Chambliss ’04, who at age 30, is senior manager for marketing, communications and measurement for WOLF at Best Buy’s Minneapolis corporate office. WOLF stands for Women’s Leadership Forum, and in its six years has become a corporate role model for promoting women’s leadership internally and for listening to employee and customer views on how to improve the retail experience for women.

Chambliss’ role in women’s leadership wasn’t one she aspired to. Yet, in it she has found a sense of purpose and passion. “When I graduated from St. Kate’s, I had no idea that women make 78 cents on the dollar that men make,” says Chambliss.

“I was brought up to believe that I could be anything I wanted to be,” she adds.

Chambliss came to St. Kate’s for its marketing and management program, and enjoyed a seamless launch into the business world. A summer internship at Best Buy after her junior year lead to a part-time job at the corporation her senior year. In her senior year, she was offered a full-time position as an inventory analyst — which Best Buy held for her until she  graduated.

Despite the apparent ease with which she negotiates the business world, she’s learned that women need to support each other if they’re going to rise to the top. After a promotion to project manager in Best Buy’s real estate division, she met with men on job sites who would look at her quizzically and say, “You’re the project manager?”

Their tone didn’t faze her until she read Gail Evan’s popular business book, “She Wins, You Win,” and became aware she was being asked about her role because she was “a young woman in corporate America,” she says.

Joining a WOLF Pack
Her new awareness inspired her to join Best Buy’s “WOLF Packs.” The packs are one aspect of the multifaceted WOLF program in which employees from across the company voluntarily huddle to brainstorm ways to improve the Best Buy experience for women.

Each pack comprises 25 employees — 23 women and two men — with 20 from the retail stores and five from the corporate offices. The first three WOLF Packs were launched in 2004–05 in California. Today, there are more than 50 packs nationwide.

It all started when former Best Buy executive, Julie Gilbert, convinced now retired CEO Brad Anderson that supporting women was important to the success of the company. The WOLF concept fits two of the corporation’s core values: hearing all employee voices and serving all customers equally.

It’s also smart business. The website reports that women:

* Spend $100 billion on consumer electronics annually
* Influence 89 percent of consumer electronics purchases in households
* Will control two-thirds of consumer wealth in the U.S. in the next decade.

Best Buy flew Chambliss from Minneapolis to Dallas 10 times a year to meet with her pack. She soon learned that males typically wear the signature Best Buy blue shirt and yellow tag, and that fewer women employees in the stores mean less collegial support. WOLF packs not only provide that support, they also bring about innovation.

And Best Buy’s top decision-makers listen.

In the Midwest, packs have influenced Best Buy to allow consumers to donate their Reward Zone points, earned by making purchases, to benefit local schools. In 2008 packs led the launch of the much ballyhooed DVD “Sex in the City: The Movie,” with in-store parties and end-cap displays shaped like a stylish high heels to showcase the DVD.

Packs also have helped to spawn Girlfriends for Technology, a Best Buy service that provides technology help with electronic product purchases. So, for example, you can learn how to change the pixels in your camera’s printer once you get it home.

Directional shift
Through her participation in WOLF, Chambliss has discovered that she can use her strong and confident voice to stand up for women, and she praises the company for making women’s leadership first and foremost in the program.

“Best Buy knows it cannot be a wonderful place to shop unless it is a great place to work,” says Chambliss, who leads packs, as well as the WOLF Talent Readiness program, which fosters leadership; the Omega program, in which female customers help the company to vet new ideas for 90 days; and the Geek Squad Summer Academy, in which Best Buy partners with nonprofit organizations to demystify technology through kids camps.

Saying “yes” to new opportunities through WOLF has been part of “an amazing journey,” says Chambliss. “The opportunities you’re not sure of can lead you to the most beautiful places. I am an example of that.”

Today, her journey is taking her to another phase of life: motherhood. Her first child, a daughter to be named Makenna after the resort in Maui where she and her husband honeymooned, is due in March.

Having a daughter redoubles Chambliss’ conviction that the world needs to welcome women equally. “Being a mom will open up a new realm of passion for me,” she says. “I am excited to see how this shapes my point of view.”

March 2, 2011 by Elizabeth Child

See also: Alumnae/i, Business, Leadership