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Sonia Syngal is trying to build The Gap into a bolder brand

October 27, 2020, 12:50 PM UTC

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Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Venture capital reaches a milestone, we check in with Gap Inc. CEO Sonia Syngal, and Amy Coney Barrett is confirmed. Have a thoughtful Tuesday.

– Building a bolder brand.  Sonia Syngal took over as CEO of Gap Inc. in March, right as the COVID-19 crisis caused mass lockdowns in the U.S. It was a tough task for any CEO, let alone one new to the top job.

But if Gap’s share price is any indication, Syngal has met the moment; it’s tripled since the spring. That’s due in part to Syngal facilitating bold decisions at The Gap, the company’s storied flagship brand that has under-performed siblings Old Navy and Athleta in recent years. (The parent company also owns Banana Republic.) The Gap brand launched a new teen line this spring, it struck a collaboration deal with with Kanye West’s Yeezy brand in June, and its parent last week announced the closure of hundreds of Gap and Banana Republic stores in North America by 2023.

A Wall Street Journal story published yesterday morning recapped Syngal’s CEO tenure thus far, and Syngal spoke to Fortune‘s Phil Wahba at the Fortune Global Forum yesterday afternoon.

“The Gap brand is a lot bigger than the way we were monetizing the brand,” she said, pointing to some of the recent moves. She said clarity of vision, relevance, and “releasing trapped energy” would be among the company’s priorities in coming years. A corporate value that she calls “inclusivity by design” is also high on her list. So far, the principle is behind company initiatives that pay workers to staff election polls stations and donate apparel to people in need.


Also yesterday, Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation to the Supreme Court, which seemed all but inevitable soon after death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, became official. She clinched her seat with a Senate vote that was along party lines, except for Sen. Susan Collins (R–Maine), who, facing a tough reelection bid, voted with Democrats against the appointment. Barrett is now the country’s fifth female justice.

Republicans have claimed that Barrett is not as hardline conservative, not as big a threat to women’s reproductive rights as her judicial and personal history suggests. But the sprint to confirm her—a process that shattered norms and betrayed principles Republicans said they held dear—undercuts the argument. Barrett, for her part, will start putting speculation about her judicial tendencies to rest rather quickly; she could weigh in on election disputes that are pending before the Supreme Court in coming days and could consider her first abortion case as a justice by the end of this week.

Claire Zillman
claire.zillman@fortune.com
@clairezillman

Today’s Broadsheet was curated by Emma Hinchliffe

ALSO IN THE HEADLINES

- What it feels like to be a 'first.' What are the privileges—and pressures—of being a "first?" A dozen women who earned the designation in politics, from Sen. Kamala Harris to Sen. Tammy Duckworth to Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, reflect on the often bittersweet milestone. Harper's Bazaar 

- New frontier in venture. At Upfront Ventures, Kara Nortman is now co-managing partner. It's likely the first time a woman has been promoted to the powerful role at any of Silicon Valley's largest venture capital firms. (Most other powerful women in venture struck out on their own to launch firms rather than being promoted within existing ones.) TechCrunch

- Raimondo's RI. At Fortune's CEO Initiative gathering yesterday, we heard from Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo. She discussed her program Back to Work RI, which matches out-of-work Rhode Islanders with relevant open positions. Fortune

MOVERS AND SHAKERS: The Visa Foundation hired Calvert Impact Capital's Najada Kumbuli as head of investments. Zuora hired Procore Technologies' Valerie Jackson as chief diversity officer. AU10TIX promoted president and COO Carey O’Connor Kolaja to CEO. Rhonda White joins the board of Accellion. TIBCO Software named Rani Johnson chief information officer. 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

- CEOs say. Also at Fortune's CEO Initiative, chief executives reflected on some of the most pressing issues facing their businesses. A conversation on how to address the various crises of the COVID-19 pandemic, featuring Adtalem Global Education CEO Lisa Wardell, Bank of the West CEO Nandita Bakhshi, and other leaders honed in on the issue of food insecurity. Fortune

- An unusual upset. Last month, the mayor of Povalikhino, Russia needed an opposing candidate in his reelection race; with elections usually rigged, he was looking for an opponent in name only. Marina Udgodskaya, who had a job cleaning city hall, agreed to be listed on the ballot—and won. New York Times

- Childcare crisis. In a Fortune op-ed, Catalyst president and CEO Lorraine Hariton comes up with five ways employers can lead on solving the U.S. childcare crisis, from helping employees build better home offices to adopting flextime. Fortune

- Bad flight. Women on a Qatar Airways flight heading to Sydney say they were strip-searched and "given invasive medical exams to see if they had recently given birth" after a newborn was found abandoned in an airport bathroom. The incident has threatened diplomatic relations between Australia and Qatar. Experts say these exams could be considered sexual assault; the airline did not respond to request for comment. New York Times

ON MY RADAR

The vicious cycle of never-ending laundry Vox

Honoring her wish: In conversation with RBG's granddaughter, Clara Spera New York Magazine

The woman who led Kamala Harris to this moment The Atlantic

PARTING WORDS

"More than 100 years later, we have the opportunity to revolutionize society again."

-GM CEO Mary Barra on the origins of the automotive industry and the company's current work on electric vehicles