Women and Opportunity is Gap Inc.’s global initiative and strategy to align all efforts related to women, including employees, customers, supply-chain workers, and women within the broader community. Gender equality, as embodied by Gap Inc.’s co-founders’ Doris and Don Fisher’s partnership, has always played an important role in the company’s history and success. In 2007, Gap Inc.’s leaders became more intentional in their work, sharpening the strategic focus on gender and increasing programming that promotes women’s leadership across regions. In addition, existing diversity and inclusion efforts were reorganized and integrated more systematically across the organization to make a positive impact on employees’ lives.
Gap Inc.’s approach to gender inclusion is unique in that it does not target a specific diversity challenge; instead, it leverages Gap Inc.’s long-standing culture of equality and inclusion as a business tool to attract top talent, advance women’s representation globally, increase employee engagement and retention, and drive business results. Major components of this strategy include:
Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) Council: Executives from different parts of the organization work closely with Human Resources and leaders “on the ground.” The Council guides the company’s strategy around diversity and inclusion by engaging employees through grassroots activities such as Employee Resource Groups (ERGs). It also partners with other parts of the organization on diversity-related efforts, such as for the creation of the evidence-based pay for performance practices and an organization-wide pay equality analysis. The Council’s approach is “think globally, act locally,” with women’s strategy as an area of commonality across regions and functions.
Recruitment, Talent Development, and Training: Activities are tailored to location, brand, function, and employee needs. Programs include partnerships with nonprofit organizations and community colleges, entry-level field-development programs, as well as cross-brand development curricula that target high-potential talent, such as the signature programs ASCEND and ICON.
Work-Life and Flexibility: Work-life integration is a fundamental strategy to help all Gap Inc.’s employees reach their full potential and thrive both personally and professionally. Following a 2009 Results Only Work Environment (ROWE™) pilot that helped improve employee productivity, accountability, and engagement, a variety of flexible-working arrangements are now implemented across the organization. Flexible working has helped create a culture that consistently values results over face time, even in regions such as Japan, where face-time expectations are often prevalent.
Community and Corporate Social Responsibility: Externally focused activities are closely integrated with Gap Inc.’s diversity strategy to improve workplaces and communities. In addition to region-specific volunteer and community efforts, Gap Inc.’s signature program Personal Advancement & Career Enhancement (P.A.C.E.) provides life skills, education, and technical training to female garment workers. As of January 2015, P.A.C.E. is active in 10 countries and 70 manufacturing facilities. More than 30,000 women have participated in the program since 2007, and Gap Inc. is currently expanding the program to other regions with the goal to reach one million women by 2020.
Thanks to Gap Inc.’s long-standing commitment to inclusion, its initiative has achieved remarkable results. Between 2007 and 2015, women’s representation at the Vice President level increased globally from 44.0% to 49.7%. In the United States, representation of women of color increased from 28.0% to 34.4% among all employees and from 20.4% to 23.9% among store managers, managers, and senior managers. At the most senior leadership level—those reporting to the CEO—women’s representation has gone from 33.0% to 77.0%, and women of color comprise four out of the 10 women. Notably, between 2010 and 2015, women’s representation on Gap Inc.’s Board of Directors increased from 10.0% to 36.0%.