By Lauren Crain*
Last night the NCRW Emerging Leaders Network hosted Julie Gilbert, CEO and Founder of Wolf Means Business , at New York University’s Stern School of Business. Gilbert addressed an enthusiastic and engaged audience about the power of networking and team-building and harnessing the potential of women to create transformative change in the business community and beyond.
The WOLF model, which Gilbert successfully implemented during her time as Senior Vice President at Best Buy, brings to bear the energy and ideas of men and women at all levels of a company to “innovate against” tired institutional practices. Whether reimagining a company’s website or reinventing their product design, Gilbert’s WOLF packs create positive change for the company as well as its employees, who experience increased professional development and networking opportunities through their packs.
In emphasizing the role of mentoring and peer-to-peer support, particularly among women, Gilbert speaks from experience. She talks openly about the hostility and lack of support she experienced from her female colleagues. “I must be amazing in the sack,” Gilbert quipped in referencing the rumors that often plagued her and so many other successful women as they attempted to climb the corporate ladder. Bedroom innuendo aside, Gilbert’s record speaks for itself, having used the WOLF formula to increase female customer revenue at Best Buy by upwards of $4.4 billion in less than five years. Over time figures such as these and Gilbert’s WOLF Means Business approach have won over many of her former detractors, who now also actively seek to promote and encourage their peers.
While speaking about the natural benefits that follow increased representation of women working alongside men at the highest levels of all professions, one audience member raised her hand to question this philosophy. When women reach a critical mass in leadership positions across the sectors, will they truly transform corporate culture or simply reify the time-old structures and practices already present? Before Gilbert could reply, another audience member shouted out, “Let’s get there and find out!”
*Lauren Crain is a Program Coordinator with The Aspen Institute’s Justice and Society Program and a member of NCRW’s Emerging Leaders Network Steering Committee.