Career Advice, Culture

Meet the Woman Building a More Inclusive Culture at Gap Inc.

Maria Ledesma is a firm believer in the power of Gap Inc.’s Business Resource Groups (BRGs) to build their members’ networks and skill sets. A founding member of one of our BRGs, she credits that experience with helping her make the leap to her new role as Gap Inc.’s Director of Diversity & Inclusion. 

What has your Gap Inc. career path looked like?
I’ve been with the company for 18 years, mostly working in loss prevention (LP). I started as an administrative assistant, then became a project manager and went on to other roles. Most recently, I was a senior manager in LP global operations leading our company’s background screening program, data intelligence, and security protection services for our stores.

What are you currently working on?
I am so thrilled to be the new Director of Diversity & Inclusion for Gap Inc. Currently, I am focusing on two parallel tracks – completing my on-boarding by learning the ropes of this new role while also jumping in with shaping our diversity strategy and infrastructure.

How did your involvement in the ASIA (Asians Supporting Inclusion & Awareness) Business Resource Group help position you for your job change?
Having the opportunity to join ASIA during their development as a BRG allowed me to collaborate with leaders to build our strategy and purpose for our members and organization. This experience helped expand my internal network as I worked side by side with leaders, giving me exposure to opportunities I wouldn’t have otherwise had. It also helped elevate my influencing and leadership skills as well as expanded my external network as I collaborated with BRG leaders from other companies.

Talk a little more about why you think diversity is important here at Gap Inc.
We embrace diversity because it’s part of who we are. As our nation continues to grow with demographic shifts and more women and millennials in our workforce, we need to shift as well. Ensuring we have a culture that leverages our differences to stay competitive and drive innovation is important to our company’s success. I believe all employees of all levels can make contributions to these efforts – from how our store teams create a welcoming environment for our customers to how leaders make business decisions.

Can you share some of the advice you got from one of your mentors?
One leader gave me some great advice about earning my college degree. I’d had 10 years with the security team, so I was leaning toward a degree in criminal justice. But my mentor steered me away from that, saying, “Why would you go for a degree in something you already know? Pursue something that complements your current skills and think about what really matters to you.” Thanks to her advice, I chose paralegal studies which supported me with my role in LP and I later chose human services for my bachelors degree, which ultimately helped with positioning me for my new role.

What’s something you think we’d be surprised to know about you?
I balanced my career and education on top of being a single-mom of four children. At times, it was tough to make it all work, but with the support of family, friends, and a great company, anything is possible.

 

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