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Since the company’s founding over 47 years ago, Doris Fisher has played many inspirational roles — coming up with the catchy and now iconic company name, starting Gap Foundation, acting as a merchandising consultant until 2003 and serving as Honorary Lifetime Director on the Board of Directors. From the start, Doris has demonstrated what it means to be an influential woman in the workplace.
In fact, with the opening of the very first Gap store in 1969, Doris and Don Fisher invested the same amount to get their dream business off the ground and grew it together as equal partners. This foundation of equality still exists today. Case in point, we pay women and men equally for equal work.
In recognition of Equal Pay Day, a day dedicated to bringing awareness to the work that still needs to be done to make pay equality a reality for millions of women across the country, we spoke with Doris to hear her philosophy on equality and why it’s always been a pillar for our company.
How were things different for women in business when you started the company with Don back in 1969?
Frankly, I would have always assumed that women were getting paid the same amount as men. I mean, they were doing the same jobs. But, back when we started Gap, of course they weren’t. That was a time when I don’t think it occurred to many people that women could be leaders. There were so few women leaders back then. It’s just the way the world was. It’s different now. I hear about women as CEOs and Presidents of companies, and I’m glad to know things have changed.
Why did you and Don decide to contribute equally to start the Gap?
Why not? It didn’t even dawn on me to do anything differently. We were doing it together as partners, so of course I put in the same amount of money as Don did.
We both worked in the first store that opened on Ocean Avenue in San Francisco. People always wanted to buy what you were wearing because they would envision themselves wearing the same thing. We worked hard to build that business, and we had fun too.
So many employees, especially women, think of you as their career icon. You inspire women to become business leaders. What contributed to your success?
I’ll tell you that I’ve been successful because I’ve worked hard.
When I think back to growing up, I pushed myself to get through school and graduate with honors. I put that same energy into building the Gap.
I had an older sister – I was the middle child – and I just wanted to make my parents proud and to have them notice me, especially my dad. I really idolized him. I wanted to show him what I could do.
You’ve been just as involved in the community as the business. Why has this been so important to you?
I have been volunteering since I was 12 years old. I will never forget going to a children’s hospital as a Girl Scout and meeting with a little girl who had rheumatic fever. The mom would come to visit her – she lived in Novato and had other kids. So this kid was alone most of the time and I would be with her. She would cry when I would leave. It touches you, the difference you can make in someone’s life.
I’m still working with KIPP schools. We have the most incredible group of kids and teachers. The teachers work all the time. They are so dedicated. It’s unbelievable what some of those kids have gone through and how KIPP helps them. It shows you the power of education, how it can change a person’s life.
Some people at my age play bridge all day. But I love the work I do in our communities. I love being able to help people who have fewer opportunities. My family and our employees are that way too. It makes me proud to see and hear about the things they do to help other people.
See how Gap Inc. employees came together to stand for and celebrate equality leading into Equal Pay Day.
Discover more #WeAreGapInc profiles.