The ask may be 15 percent, but the number of retailers joining Aurora James’ 15 Percent Pledge keeps growing, with names like Sephora, West Elm and Macy’s agreeing to allocate a minimum of 15 percent of their offerings and efforts to Black-owned brands, designers and staff members—a move that has prompted more than a few internal initiatives. Last week, Crate & Barrel announced it would be ensuring that 15 percent of its products and collaborations will be represented by Black businesses, artists and designers by 2024. On Monday, the call-to-action launched by James in June 2020 announced another big retail partner: Gap Inc. has joined the 15 Percent Pledge with a commitment to increasing its pipeline programs by 15 percent.
Per a release sent to The Glow Up:
Gap Inc., the nation’s largest specialty apparel company and collection of purpose-driven lifestyle brands including Old Navy, Gap, Banana Republic, and Athleta, has joined the 15 Percent Pledge as an advocacy partner, aligning with the Pledge’s mission of creating a more equitable industry. Gap Inc. will increase their pipeline programs by 15 percent to drive access and opportunity for the Black community within the Gap Inc. family of brands starting with early empowerment programs, including internship, externship, apprenticeship, and training. Gap Inc. is proud to donate $200,000 to the organization to further support their mission. In February, Gap Inc. will share the company’s progress to create for all, with all.
“As we approach the one year mark of a pandemic that has decimated Black businesses and communities, it is crucial that companies step up to create economic opportunities for Black people at every level of the workforce,” said James in a statement. “Committing to the Pledge is not a band-aid solution—it requires a comprehensive re-evaluation of business as usual, and we are thrilled that Gap Inc. is partnering with us to drive racial equity across retail.”
“Driving lasting change takes time and maniacal focus, and we’re invested for the long-term,” said Head of Equality & Belonging at Gap Inc. Kisha Modica. “As we strive to enable a culture of inclusion and belonging for all, we are excited to partner with the 15 Percent Pledge to accelerate our commitment to increase access and opportunity for Black and Latinx communities.”
The 15 Percent Pledge was launched in response to the often performative non-efforts that emerged after last year’s police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, among others. However, it’s worth noting that Gap’s commitment follows the killing of 23-year-old Gap Inc. employee Casey Goodson Jr., who was shot at his home by police in December 2020.
“Casey was one of our own employees and had joined the Gap Inc. family just a few months ago,” said Modica in a December statement. “I believe the only appropriate feelings in the immediate aftermath of this tragic loss are grief and frustration. The only appropriate action, however insufficient it might feel in the moment, is to demand and create change.”
Modica addressed the challenges of creating substantive structural change in a global corporation when speaking with Essence last month, explaining:
If you squeeze the balloon on one side, it bulges somewhere else...For instance, launching a new mentoring program to address the belonging and retention of people of color without first making space to address behaviors and build cultural competence equates to a program focused on teaching people how to navigate and operate in a broken system...in this work, you need to know where that bulge is happening and what the impact will be. That’s why it’s so incredibly important to go slow to go fast.
“We’ve taken a hard look in the mirror and have a renewed focus and commitment to fight for true social equality for all,” she added.