“The first was ‘Wow, that’s incredible. Great company, great job! Congratulations!'” Kaigler said.,When Emerson alumna Denise Kaigler (’85) was named Vice President of Marketing and Corporate Affairs at Nintendo, she said there were two things people said to her.
“The first was ‘Wow, that’s incredible. Great company, great job! Congratulations!'” Kaigler said. “The second was, ‘Can you get a Wii for me?'”
Currently, Kaigler is transitioning from her 16 years as Head of Global Corporate Communications and Corporate Citizenship at Reebok International Limited to her new job with Nintendo. After a Jan. 14 press release revealed Kaigler, who is black, is to replace Perrin Kaplan in the top position at Nintendo, blogs focusing on blacks and women, like blacksportsnetwork.com, essence.com and divertyjournal.com, erupted with the news.
Despite all the attention placed on her rise in the marketing and business realm, Kaigler began as a broadcast journalism major at Emerson.
“More specifically, I had an aspiration to be a White House correspondent,” Kaigler said. “I had dreams to fly with the president and to attend meetings all over the world.”
While at Emerson she was involved with the Emerson Independent Video channel, E.B.O.N.I. and WERS while managing to hold two part-time jobs on the weekend, she said.
Since graduation Kaigler has accomplished her college dream and has traveled to Korea, India, China, Japan, Panama and Mexico, but it wasn’t journalism that brought her there; she has her time in Reebok ‘s marketing department to thank for that.
After graduation, Kaigler worked in journalism but realized she wasn’t content.
“It wasn’t doing it for me,” Kaigler said. “I didn’t get up every morning happy.”
Her contacts over the years eventually landed her an entry-level job at Reebok. Kaigler said she felt ill during her first day on the job, but it wasn’t just nerves-she was pregnant with her first child. Kaigler said her superiors were generous when they found out she was a mom-to-be and allowed her flexibility.
She remained at Reebok for 16 years, working her way up through the department.
In 2004, Kaigler said she represented the company at the Olympics in Athens, Greece. She also said she helped host celebrity parties for those who have partnerships with Reebok, something she said was one of the more fun aspects of her job. At one of those parties, she said she was assigned to attend to Blair Underwood, of L.A. Law and Rules of Engagement, and his new wife.
“The team was meeting, and my boss told me ‘Oh, you’re in charge of being Blair Underwood’s guide,'” she said. “We had all just been thumbing through People magazine looking at the three-page spread of their wedding. I was on top of the world. I walked over to the van thinking I was ‘Miss Thing’ and ended up tripping on the step of the van. I fell right in front of Blair. I just started laughing.”
Unfortunately Kaigler’s rise through the often male-dominated ranks of a multinational corporation is still somewhat anomalous. According to the 2007 United States census, the number of companies without any female corporate officers rose 15.6 percent in the previous year. The number of women in jobs fast-tracked to top leadership promotions decreased by six percent and women make up only 6.7 percent of corporate officers or top earners in the business world, the report indicated. In 2004, black women accounted for only 1.6 percent of corporate officers at Fortune 500 companies, the report indicated.
But marketing communication major Amanda Maltz said these statistics do not bother her.
“I feel like today it’s not as big of a problem as it was before,” the freshman said. “In this day and age, women are seen as more powerful.”
Kaigler said when speaking to young people and fellow minorities, she mentions what her mother taught her.
“You can never be too committed to a strong work ethic,” she said. “I don’t think of my gender when I walk into the office. I think, ‘What am I going to do today to make a difference?'”