This month, we caught up with Teniola Adedipe, Sr. Director, Data Analytics at Gap Inc., and leader of the Gap Inc. African-American Networking Group's (AANG) New York chapter, to learn more about the role AANG plays in her work-life, how she got involved and what exciting things are brewing within the community.
How did you get involved with AANG?
I got involved with AANG mainly because there wasn't AANG in New York. I heard about some of the activities in San Francisco and I was curious why AANG didn't exist in New York.
During that time, Diversity & Inclusion really started to get off the ground and we were beginning to think a little bit more critically about what was happening in the New York office. So, I pushed for an AANG chapter to be started here.
I felt strongly about getting involved because I feel everyone needs a support system. I'd been meeting a lot of employees in New York who didn't have a place to gather, to share what they were experiencing in their work lives, or a community to support each other. I thought it was really important to be a part of that, so I figured who better to start it than myself?
What does having this community at Gap Inc. mean to you?
It means so much more than I originally thought it would. The number of relationships I've been able to cultivate through AANG are wonderful. Being a more senior member of AANG, I feel it’s important to connect with people who are still coming up in their careers, to not only help guide them, but to gain inspiration from them, too.
AANG has not only been a way for me to expand my own network within the company, but to create a community of individuals. Because we all go through hardships, and it helps to feel supported.
Some of the best times I've had in my time at Gap have been working on initiatives or events that we've put on through AANG, one of them being the I am Black And... campaign that we did in February. It was so powerful to see so many creative minds work to put something unique and special together, and it's something that I cherish and hope to continue to do in the years to come.
What type of resources, support and education can AANG offer to employees?
I think one of the greatest things AANG can offer is a support system of fellow employees. The resources to me aren’t necessarily tangible, but rather what we can learn from each other. AANG is a great place to be able to advocate for what people want in the organization, and to start to see those ideas come to life through a community of people.
It should come as no surprise that the Black community, both at Gap and at-large, sometimes feels like they don't have a community to belong to. I think we've created that space with AANG and that space is what's particularly important to Gap Inc. employees. To me, that is support, that is education, that is resources...all rolled up into one.
Who can join AANG?
ANYONE can join AANG. It's not just for our Black and African-American employees. It is for all allies. It's for anyone who feels it's worth being a part of an organization that supports Black lives at Gap Inc., and we’d love anyone & everyone to get involved.
What does active involvement in the community look like?
Whether in New York or San Francisco, being an active member means attending our regular meetings, which happen on both campuses (and now, virtually!). We also send out emails to our members around events and initiatives that we're leading. To put it simply, being an active member means showing up.
Last year, our main goal within the NY chapter of AANG was to just create community. So, we had an AANG event every single month, outside of our member meetings. Those events included things like volunteering together, attending Broadway shows, going out to dinner, and our executive sponsor in NY, Chris Goble, also hosted a more intimate get-together for the group.
Being involved means being a part of the community and our events, and also helping to plan them!
How has AANG taken (and how will the group continue to take) action for the Black Lives Matter movement?
We've done a ton of work kind of behind the scenes, and I'm really proud of everyone in AANG and what we continue to do. To give you an idea, both the NY and SF teams have been working in tandem to target our efforts across three pillars we’ve identified. We like to call them the three p’s: People, Product and Positioning.
- A focus here that we’ve been pushing for a while was ensuring that diversity numbers were shared across the organization to create a baseline. We’ve now seen that within the Gap Inc. Commitments, and we also know there are conversations happening by brand. I’m super happy to see this come through.
- We’ve also identified that we need to work on attracting and retaining talent, and ultimately making sure we create an inclusive culture for all. We have members of AANG working with our recruiting team to ensure we engage people of color at junior levels and provide opportunities to develop their careers here — this is being looked at through the lens of not only our Equality & Belonging groups like AANG and HOLA, but in conjunction with our HR organization as well.
- We’re also working with our Learning and Development teams to pilot something at Gap brand called Allyship Circles. The idea here is that once you start having candid conversations with employees about allyship, unconscious bias and micro-aggressions, you, in turn, begin to develop the awareness needed to create an inclusive culture. And that is truly what keeps people at Gap Inc.
- We recently made the call to engage Black creatives across our business. We’re working with the Product and Design teams at Gap brand to create a capsule collection for Black artists and featuring these individuals internally for Black History Month. For the Black Lives Matter movement, product is launching online and in-stores this fall. I’m so excited that Gap is standing behind us to showcase the voices & talent that we have internally, and their willingness to support our ideas. I think this is a really strong statement.
- The AANG team has been working with the Marketing and Communications teams to make sure that our input is considered for both our internal and external messaging. It's super exciting to work with these teams to ensure what we’re saying feels authentic, especially when it's in regard to Black lives.
What’s one thing you hope to accomplish as a leader of AANG?
If there's anything I’d like to accomplish, it’s making sure that we have employees who want to be here, want to grow and truly feel a part of this culture. If I can make anyone at Gap Inc. feel like they belong, I've done my job as a leader of AANG.
I’m deeply passionate about leading the charge, showing people what’s possible and helping develop an atmosphere and culture of belonging. I want every member of AANG to feel like they’ve got a supportive community that wants to see them succeed. I would love to look back and say that in my time at Gap, I was able to help build an organization that mirrors our commitments.