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Down but not out, Gap bounces back

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in Best-Practices Leadership,Leaders & Managers,Profiles in Leadership

When Glenn Murphy left a Canadian drugstore chain in 2007 to become CEO of Gap, the clothing retailer had sustained a multiyear losing streak. But it’s finally bouncing back.

The company owns The Gap, Old Navy and Banana Republic brands. Murphy engineered a turnaround largely through colorful fashions and catchy ads after years of cost-cutting and personnel overhauls.

But he has also exhibited a sweeping global vision for the societal issues that affect the fashion industry. In his first year at Gap, he invested in its P.A.C.E. program (Personal Advancement & Career Enhancement) to give female garment laborers in developing countries a chance to improve their lives.

About 80% of garment employees around the world are women. Realizing that most of these women lack career advancement opportunities, Murphy and his team developed a training program built on education and literacy, life skills and technical tools.

In the past six years, more than 14,000 women have participated in P.A.C.E. Gap provides paid time off so that they can finish the program in 10 months or less.

Raised in a poor family in India, Sujatha completed the program in her rural village. It has helped her advance from an entry-level job in a factory sewing line to supervisor. P.A.C.E. also operates in Cambodia, China, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Vietnam.

By combining hard-nosed business decisions—like firing underperforming executives—with ambitious outreach programs such as P.A.C.E., Murphy has reversed the once-storied company’s steady years of decline.

— Adapted from “Finding leaders on the factory floor: Gap Inc.’s P.A.C.E. program,” Rebecca Webber, www.dailybeast.com.

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