January 21, 2020
For the third consecutive year, Gap Inc. is honored to be included in the Bloomberg Gender-Equality Index. We talked with Melina Wyatt, Senior Manager, P.A.C.E. Operations and Partnerships and leader of Gap Inc.’s Women in Leadership networking group and Maria Febre, Director for Global Equality and Belonging about what sets Gap Inc. apart when it comes to our longstanding leadership creating an equal and inclusive workplace.
What does it mean to you that Gap Inc. is a global industry leader in gender equality, and how does it come to life in your day-to-day work?
Maria: At a time where women and other under-represented groups continue to fight for equal rights and equal access, I feel very proud to work for an organization that stands behind equality. Whether it’s contributing to the Bloomberg Gender-Equality Index to assess ourselves against other industry leaders and identity areas to improve or leading efforts to be intentional with how we attract, develop, and retain our diverse talent, my role is to help bring the best out of our employees to drive our business forward.
At Gap Inc. leading the industry in gender equality means that, not only is Gap Inc. a great place to work for all genders, but that we practice and promote gender equality practices in all aspects of our business – in our supply chain and surrounding communities through programs like P.A.C.E., and our supplier diversity program, and through efforts to influence the rest of the industry to follow suit. Additionally, Gap Inc. recognizes the intersection between gender and other cross-cutting issues like climate change – Gap Inc. partners with the US Agency for International Development (USAID) on a program called Women + Water, aimed at improving the health and well-being of women and communities in cotton-growing communities in India. These women receive education and training through P.A.C.E. on important topics such as communications, negotiation, as well as water, sanitation and hygiene education, in order to help combat the water crisis in India.
In my day-to-day work managing P.A.C.E. operations, I interact with lots of apparel brands, industry groups and nonprofit organizations that are eager partner with us given our great track record. I also have the pleasure of leading Gap Inc.’s women’s network group, GapWIL, where I have the support to create a safe space for women within the company to gain leadership skills, learn from one another, and influence how Gap Inc. Leverages and benefits one of our biggest employee populations.
Maria, as Director for Global Equality and Belonging here at Gap Inc., can you share some of the ways the company has continued to improve year-after-year when it comes to gender equality?
What hasn’t changed about Gap Inc. over the last 50 years is our core values of equality, respect and inclusion. What has evolved over time, are how those values are expressed and show up in how we do business. Year-after-year we’re finding bold, new ways to use our voice for good and impact change. From our P.A.C.E. program to Women + Water, our progress does not happen by accident; it begins with a vision and strategy that is steeped in the reality of our business and rooted in our core values. We continue to work really hard with our employees and industry partners to assess emerging trends and needs and find solutions that make difference.
Are there any goals that you or the company is working on that you can share? What does 2020 have in store?
With our Gap Inc. headquarters at the center of Silicon Valley, we are uniquely positioned to offer tech related job opportunities inside a multi-brand retail organization – that is our competitive advantage. One of our enterprise priorities is expanding access to careers in fashion and our Digital + Tech ecosystem. We want to drive a national conversation, engage with aspiring creatives + STEM fields early and often, and emerge as an organization where anyone can see themselves in fashion and tech and can make that future a reality here at Gap Inc.
Melina, you’re a Senior Manager of our P.A.C.E. program. Tell us how that incredible program has had an impact on gender equality and what it has had on women around the world.
Gap Inc.’s P.A.C.E. program has had an impact on gender equality in numerous ways. At the center of the program is the woman or girl we are reaching through many hours of in-person workshops focused on a range of soft skills and education. Research shows that investments in women and girls yield significant returns, not only on the women themselves, but on their families and communities, ultimately creating a more level playing field for everyone, regardless of gender, to have the opportunity to contribute to society and lead a fulfilling life.
We see the impacts of the program show up in countless ways – a P.A.C.E. woman in Vietnam noted that her communication skills increased as a result of the program, enabling her to better communicate with her husband and share household responsibilities. Not only did she reflect on this change, but her husband said she is now ‘stronger, and a role model for their daughters’. P.A.C.E. acknowledges the importance of bringing men along the journey of women’s empowerment – we can’t go this road alone!
In addition, we were one of the first companies back in 2007 to launch a program directly focused on the education and soft skill development of women in factories. Since then, the program has grown exponentially across geographies (17 countries!) and contexts (we also run the program for women in communities, academic settings and vocational schools, in addition to a program specifically designed for adolescent girls). We have taken learnings and experience from the past 12 years and shared them with other brands, nonprofit organizations, academic institutions, and even governments – this truly is a best-in-class program!
Maria, how will Gap Inc. maintain its leadership position on gender equality?
The industry will continue to be disrupted and we will be impacted by the ever-changing cultural, social and political landscape – nationally and globally, so our commitment to equality, fairness and respect has to be crystal clear. And while these values have always been part of who we are at Gap Inc., we too have to continuously commit to finding ways to improve. And our ongoing commitment gives us a seat at the table, a voice in the industry, and an opportunity to influence meaningful change for women around the world. In the past, failure was a scary thing and most companies were risk averse. We now know that on the other side of failure and vulnerability is creativity and innovation. The future is all about experimentation, crowd sourcing and listening to the needs of your employees and then actually delivering solutions. That’s how you stay current and culturally relevant.
Melina, you wear two hats at Gap Inc. As chair of the employee-led GapWIL (Women in Leadership) group, tell us what employees look for when they join the group? Can you also share the group’s top priorities for 2020? What are you most looking forward to and what were the group’s highlights from 2019?
GapWIL members are passionate about investing in their personal development and building a network inside and outside the company. We also have a leadership team of over 20 women who have raised their hands to contribute to the development of our events, member offerings, community engagement efforts and communications. One of my favorite things about the group is that it provides a safe space to focus on development opportunities or gain exposure to skills sets you might otherwise have limited exposure to. This year, I’m looking forward the relaunch of our incredible mentorship program, Connect, and to creating more opportunities to represent the multiple identities and lived experiences of women.
Could each of you share with us an anecdote from your career journey that might surprise or inspire other women in the workplace?
Melina: My journey with Gap Inc. started 9 years ago at the 2 Folsom front desk! I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do after graduating from college (with a degree in Political Science and Italian), and applied for a part-time job at the front desk to earn some extra money while pursuing several internships in sustainability. As soon as I joined the company, I discovered countless jobs that I never even knew existed. Thanks to some great mentors within the Loss Prevention organization, I was recommended to apply for the role of Executive Assistant to the President of Gap Foundation and Global Sustainability, where I’ve since worked across several roles and functions. I can’t overstate the value of mentors, both within and outside the company - I credit a lot of my journey within the company to the guidance and support and growth opportunities I’ve received through my investment in these relationships.
Maria: Throughout my career and my life, I have always worked hard to do my very best and be a strong role-model for others and especially my four children. With all the ups and downs of life, I never had a chance to obtain my college degree although I expected my children to follow that path. About 12 years ago, I decided to go back to school and earn my degree. I took one class a semester while balancing my career and raising my children, who at the time were ages 5 – 12 years old. It took me 10 years to earn a AA and BS degree and it was not easy. I missed a number of events with my kids - soccer games, school plays, and concerts and despite missing all that, my kids continued to cheer me on to not give up. I share this story to inspire women and other parents that we tend to live in a world of guilt when we can’t be everything and be everywhere for our children and I’d have to say that in the end, they are our biggest supporters and understand the sacrifices we have to make. This personal goal of mine could not have been possible without Gap Inc. There are many organizations that offer tuition reimbursement programs, but that was just half the battle. The support I received from my leaders, peers and teams is what helped me continue to push to the finish line.
Want to learn more about our company values? Check out our Global Sustainability report here.