Gap Inc. adorns brand sites with diversity pledges, and Levi’s reveals diversity makeup for first time
As Americans demand that brands reveal the diversity of their corporate boards amid continuing civil unrest following the death of George Floyd, major retailers are responding with transparency and promises of actionable change. Competitors Gap Inc. and Levi Strauss & Co. are the latest retailers to promise more diversity at corporate levels.
Gap Inc, parent of Gap, Banana Republic, Old Navy, Intermix, Athleta and recently shuttered Hill City, has topped the homepages of its brands’ websites with pledges to double Black and Latinx representation. Meanwhile, Levi Strauss & Co., parent company of Levi’s and Dockers, has published the diversity makeup of its company for the first time in its 167-year history and promises to do better.
Gap Inc. updated the homepages of its brands’ websites with white-lettered declarations set against black backgrounds and links to webpages where each brand outlines its plans. On the websites of Gap and Banana Republic, the declarations take up the majority of the homepage, while Old Navy and Athleta have banners. The commitment is absent from Intermix’s website, but the brand has instead posted a pledge to Instagram.
Gap’s website reads: “Stand United. Together, we will bridge the gap. Black lives matter. This isn’t a moment, it’s a movement. For better. While we know that real action takes time, it has to start now. And, we have work to do. Our Black employees, allies and advocates spoke up. And came together to set real intentions for real action, focused on more representation inside (and outside) our company, making products with purpose, and continuing to include Black voices in all our marketing. Together, we will move forward. As individuals. United to bridge the gap.”
All the Gap Inc. brands are sharing a letter which the company sent to employees on Wednesday, specifying Gap Inc.’s commitments moving forward. By 2025, Gap Inc. pledges to double Black and Latinx employees “at all levels in our U.S. HQ offices” and increase representation of Black employees in Store Leader roles by 50 percent.
Currently, only four percent of Gap Inc’s U.S. headquarters is made up of Black people, with only 10 percent Hispanic and five percent “other minority,” but 27 percent Asian and 54 percent white. U.S. store leadership is 9 percent Black, 17 percent Hispanic, 2 percent “other minority,” 3 percent Asian and 70 percent white. The numbers pale in comparison to the company’s store employees, made up of 20 percent Black individuals.
Gap Inc. has publicly reported the diversity breakdown of its employees since 2013, but will now regularly share the data at store and corporate level, and will create an annual “Equality & Belonging” report mapping the company’s progress, the company said. Anti-racism trainings will
“Across Gap Inc., we can – and we will – do more to be a force for good and break down the centuries-old systems that have held back our black and brown communities,” reads the letter.
This year, Gap Inc. also pledges to use an external firm to evaluate pay equity by race for all U.S. employees. Last year, the company did so in California, where its headquarters is located, and found “no meaningful pay disparity.”
The company says there is a focus on making products “for all, with all.” Gap Inc. will expand upon its Color Proud Council, established in 2018, which focuses on creating inclusive work such as the True Hues collection for Banana Republic, a line of nude basics in eight shades, ranging from pale to espresso. The company says upcoming capsule collections for Fall 2020 and beyond will feature Black designers and artists.
When it comes to marketing, the company plans on working with more Black and Latinx talent and partners for marketing moving forward. “We’ll thoughtfully and intentionally find ways to amplify diverse voices in our creative and marketing,” says the brand in the letter.
Gap further extends this promise by saying it will continue to make sure its advertising is “collectively over 50 percent people of color” in front of and behind the camera. Gap promises to update its social channels every month with an update on its progress.
Unlike Gap, some retailers are just now starting to share diversity numbers. For the first time in its 167-year history, Levi Strauss &Co. has published data around its diversity lineup, showing how the company’s diversity makeup “declines as the corporate ladder ascends,” Levi’s writes in an Instagram post on Wednesday, which links to a blog post discussing the company’s efforts going forward.
The numbers are similar to competitor Gap Inc. Levi Strauss & Co. cushions the blow by first saying that “On the surface we are a diverse company." Women make up 57 percent of our workforce. Black employees make up 18 percent. That’s where the positive numbers end.
Only five percent of Levi Strauss & Co. corporate staff is Black, and only two percent of its executive level is Black. There are no Black employees on the global leadership team and no Black board members. Besides that low five percent Black, the company’s corporate employees are made up of 55 percent white, 23 percent Asian, 10 percent Hispanic or Latinx and three percent of two or more races.
“The numbers reveal dire underrepresentation that requires immediate action and a sustained effort to correct,” the brand writes in a blog post. “For generations, our corporate culture has accommodated institutional inequality. We’ve tried to address it, but quite frankly we haven’t tried hard enough. … Starting today, we must eradicate the inequality at the heart of Levi Strauss & Co. Starting today, we must build a company worthy of everyone who works here. Starting today, we must begin to live our values.”
This year, the company is promising to hire a Head of Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging and make sure that half of the interviews for open positions will be with racially diverse candidates. In 2021, the company will launch a career path program from retail to corporate, and search for a Black leader to join its board of directors.
Levi Strauss & Co. states that it has donated $100,000 to the ACLU and $100,000 to Live Free, an organization which aims to curb gun violence and promote racial and economic justice, and has named Juneteenth as a company holiday. The company has previously invested $37 million in social justice organizations.
The diversity makeup of Levi Strauss & Co. and Gap Inc are similar in comparison to other competitors in the space, such as Walmart and Nordstrom, which have also recently taken strong stances against racism and have announced further action to advance their workplace diversity.
Walmart, which on June 5 announced a $100 million commitment to create a new center on racial equity, has stated that its U.S. workforce of 1.4 million is made up of 21 percent Black and 15 percent Hispanic or Latino. A new 2019 diversity report shows that Walmart’s executive ranks was made up of 5.7 percent Black employees in 2018, down from 8.7 percent in 2015.
On June 8, Nordstrom shared an internal letter to its employees dated May 30, that promises to “increase demographic diversity in our corporate and all leadership positions to better reflect the North American population,” among other initiatives. The company also shared a PDF showing its diversity makeup. Of all employees, 19 percent are Black and 23 percent are Hispanic or Latino, while its leadership is 13 percent Black and 21 percent Hispanic or Latino. In the PDF, Nordstrom also specified that it has achieved 100 percent pay equality for men and women of all genders and race.
In posts of these announcements, commentators are also calling on these brands to support their current Black employees with better pay, an issue that retailers have yet to address.
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