Bright Idea: Creating access through clothing
Megan Dalessio, Senior Manager Equality and Belonging for Gap Inc.
My current role leading equality and belonging efforts is particularly motivating for me because I’ve loved expressing myself through my style since before I could fasten my own buttons! Clothes have the unique ability to broadcast our identities and stories to the world and can be a joyful expression of who we really are. At Gap Inc., we have the privilege of getting people dressed for their lives every day and, with our 7 brands and global scale, an outsized ability to shape the narrative around who gets to participate in fashion.
Like many leaders in the field, I regularly make the business and cultural case for equality and belonging efforts, so I was excited to contribute to Enact Leadership’s research paper on the full range of rationales for investing. When I read the results, I was surprised there were six distinct cases to be made, but then realized I do use most of them!
The moral case, or “the right thing to do”, has long been a part of Gap Inc.’s DNA. Our founders, Don and Doris Fisher, were very clear that “we do more than just sell clothes” as evidenced by our social impact programs through Gap Foundation, our global sustainability efforts, and, recently, our Color Proud Council, which takes aim at embedding inclusion throughout our product.
The business case shows up a lot as we explore expanding our product and marketing to include people from a broader range of sizes, skin tones, abilities, and ages. Not only does this open new markets by addressing the needs of often overlooked consumers, but it also conveys greater care to all customers who, with so many options, choose brands that align with their values. Amplifying inclusive storytelling has the ability to increase our market cap, while positively impacting the broader brand perception and, ultimately, business results.
I often take a blended approach as recommended by Enact’s paper. The values case means continuously re-activating our company focus around inclusion, for example our inaugural Product Inclusion Summit that brought together Product, Marketing, and Inclusion leaders from within our company and across our industry to collaborate on new ways to create more inclusive apparel. I make the improvement or neo-instrumental case that we will be more adaptable, resilient, and transparent as we bring a growth mindset to our culture. And the social norms approach where I engage internal champions, helping diverse employees in the business develop their own unique journeys.
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