Gap Inc.’s efforts to eradicate systemic racism continue with the launch of a new advisory board. On Wednesday, the global apparel company that owns Old Navy, Gap, Banana Republic and Athleta unveiled its Power of the Collective Council, a group dedicated to creating better access and advocating for historically marginalized and vulnerable communities. The group has three key focus areas—community, customer and employee—to ensure its efforts extend beyond the confines of the Gap Inc. offices.
Inclusion strategist Amber Cabral joins the board as employee experience advisor after beginning a partnership to improve the company’s diversity goals in 2018. Leonardo Lawson, who has served as the head of YZY Gap since August 2021, joins as creative impact advisor and will support the customer category. Aurora James, founder and creative director of luxury brand Brother Vellies and founder of the 15 Percent Pledge, will support the community pillar as the council’s economic inclusion advisor.
Gap Inc. joined the 15 Percent Pledge as an advocacy partner in February 2021, committing to a 15 percent increase in programs such as internships and apprenticeships that support the Black community.
“Creating a culture of belonging where we all feel seen and respected for who we are is as critical to the success of our company as it is for the communities we serve,” said Sonia Syngal, Gap Inc. CEO. “We are more powerful in creating change when we move as a collective, gain external inputs and lean into discomfort. Together with our leaders, this advisory council will help deepen our role as a force for good.”
The establishment of the council follows through on brands’ increased push for better representation throughout the fashion industry. During Harlem Fashion Row’s (HFR) 4th Annual Black History Month Fashion Summit, speakers noted that while some companies made statements that they have yet to live up to, others have made real progress—and called attention to Tommy Hilfiger’s People’s Place Program, a 2020 initiative that has helped increase fashion job opportunities for underrepresented communities.
The council also aligns with the commitments Gap Inc. outlined in its first equality and belonging report published in June. Goals for 2025 including doubling the representation of Black and Latinx employees at all levels in its U.S. headquarters and increasing representation of Black employees by 50 percent in store leader roles. As of June 2021, 26 percent of U.S. employees were Latinx, 17 percent were Black and 7 percent were Asian. Leadership at the store level also lagged: 17 percent were Latinx, 9 percent were Black and 3 percent were Asian.
Efforts to increase representation include Gap Inc.’s “Closing the Gap” awards program in partnership with Harlem’s Fashion Row (HFR), which funds scholarships across 10 fashion departments at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). The company also sponsored HFR’s inaugural “Fashion Playbook,” an online video content library of insight from fashion industry professionals with a mission of leveling the playing field for minorities aspiring to a career in fashion.
Internally, Gap Inc. removed educational requirements for 99.7 percent of job descriptions below the vice-president level to further increase job access, and increased diversity within its leadership training program. According to Kisha Modica, vice president of equality and belonging at Gap Inc., the new council will help sustain this progress.
“We have momentum built on a strong foundation, years in the making…but this year must be met with increased speed, efficiency and accountability,” she said. “[The] collective counsel will ignite and guide our teams to uphold our company’s purpose, which is to be inclusive by design.”