May 08
May 8, 2014

Penny Abeywardena

Former Director of Girls & Women Integration, Clinton Global Initiative

How ANN INC. Is Reimagining Its Investments in the Women Leaders of Tomorrow


Last week, we spoke with a top leader from Walmart, who discussed the private sector's role—and according to her, its advantage—in empowering girls and women around the world. This week, we interviewed ANN INC.'s charitable initiatives director Teresa Segarra about the company's approach to fostering future women leaders.

As the machine behind the Ann Taylor and LOFT brands, ANN INC. has been an influential player in women's fashion for more than 50 years. Now, ANN INC. is working through the CGI platform to invest in the company's latest focus: the Millennial generation. 

PENNY ABEYWARDENA: Give us a quick snapshot of your company's efforts to empower girls and women, both internally and externally. 

TERESA SEGARRA: ANN INC. inspires and connects with women across the globe through our associates, our brands, and our purpose-led programs. From the women who wear our clothes to the women who make our clothes, we are committed to supporting women and the things they care about most.  In addition to our ANN Cares charitable programs, which have raised and donated nearly $40 million to support women and children, we have two signature programs that exemplify our connection to women. Our ANNpower Vital Voices Initiative, a CGI Commitment to Action, empowers young women with the skills they need to become the next generation of leaders. Together with our implementing partner, Vital Voices Global Partnership, we have trained and mentored 100 ANNpower Fellows to date. To date, our Fellows have had a positive impact on more than 16,000 people in 12 countries around the world, far exceeding our initial target goals set as part of our CGI Commitment to Action. Through our CSR platform, ResponsiblyANN, we are committed to empowering and providing a better world for 100,000 women in our supply chain over the next five years by teaching in-factory health and financial literacy education.

ABEYWARDENA: Why has this focus on girls and women been important to ANN INC.?

SEGARRA: This focus is important to our company because of who we are, because of our purpose, our people, and our products.  At ANN INC., our purpose is to inspire and connect with women to put their best selves forward every day. ANN INC.’s CEO, Kay Krill, is one of the few female CEO’s in the retail sector today. Ninety four percent of the Company’s more than 22,000 associates are women and over 70 percent of the workers in our global supply chain are women. Through the Company’s Ann Taylor and LOFT brands and our products, we reach women in over 100 countries with products that make them look and feel their best.

Lessons from the Front Lines of Women's Leadership - 2013 CGI Annual Meeting

(WATCH: Kay Krill, President and CEO of ANN INC., and Kate Hudson, Award-Winning Actress and Ann Taylor Brand Ambassador, share "lessons from the front lines of women's leadership" at the 2013 CGI Annual Meeting.)

ABEYWARDENA: What are some of the challenges ANN INC. has faced in its efforts to empower girls and women? Are there any examples of where you’ve had to change course?  

SEGARRA: When creating programs, the "areas of need" can be overwhelming. Choosing an area of focus is a challenge given the desire to balance the passions of our constituencies with the needs within the global landscape. To facilitate the decision process, we have adopted a methodology that has been key to our programs' success—research and leadership support. We start with investing in research to help us understand what aligns best with our values and provides us with an optimal ROI. Then, we go through the process of getting buy in from the very top—from our CEO to our Board, as well as from our associates and cross functional internal and external partners. This has helped us refine and refocus on what is most important to invest in, and ultimately develop programs that demonstrate ROI while aligning our values with key stakeholders. For example, our ANNpower Initiative was originally envisioned as a social investment in women entrepreneurs. But once we engaged our stakeholders in the development of the strategy and combined this with a benchmarked study that helped us understand the needs in the landscape and where we could have the biggest impact, we refocused the strategy to invest in girls leadership.

ABEYWARDENA: What are some of the mistakes or pitfalls you’ve seen in the way that the private sector invests in the issues pertaining to girls and women?

SEGARRA: We believe that there are two pitfalls common in the private sector—authenticity and a lack of focus. When a program is not authentic to a company’s mission and purpose, there is a chance of failure and a lack of integration into a company’s DNA. That’s why at ANN INC., we’ve made sure to invest in programs that strongly align with our purpose. Our purpose is the filter that makes our programs authentic and encourages our workforce and partners to learn and invest in them. As we developed our programs, we made the decision to take a very focused and deliberate approach. We invest in a smaller number of programs, but provide major support to be able to maximize our impact. This allows us to truly support the causes that we stand behind and truly affect change. Trying to do too much by casting a wide net of support becomes a pitfall of many in the private sector because they can’t measure impact and are spread too thin.

We believe that there are two pitfalls common in the private sector–authenticity and a lack of focus. When a program is not authentic to a company’s mission and purpose, there is a chance of failure and a lack of integration into a company’s DNA.

ABEYWARDENA: How and where do you think the private sector can better measure the outcome—the successes and the shortcomings—of their girls and women initiatives? 

SEGARRA: Investing in girls and women is a long-term commitment. We might not see the full effects of some of our investments for many years to come.  However, we continually measure short term progress towards our goals. We also try to quantify the ROI of our social investments. Some are easier to measure, like increased engagement and retention, but other outcomes won’t be evident for many years to come. So to better measure the outcome of these types of initiatives, we need time.

Investing in girls and women is a long-term commitment. We might not see the full effects of some of our investments for many years to come. However, we continually measure short term progress towards our goals. We also try to quantify the ROI of our social investments.

ABEYWARDENA: Why has ANN INC. chosen to participate in CGI’s Girls & Women efforts, and what do you hope to get out of our focus in the year ahead?

SEGARRA: Through the CGI’s Girls & Women’s platform, ANN INC. has been able to find a vehicle to raise awareness about the importance of investing in girls leadership and our own long-term investment in future women leaders—the ANNpower Initiative. Last year, our CEO, Kay Krill was invited to speak at the CGI Annual Meeting about ANNpower’s progress.  We invited two special guests to join Kay and talk about the impact our program is having: Monica, a 2012 ANNpower Fellow and Grantee, and Kate Hudson, an award-winning actress and the face of Ann Taylor. Providing this platform and opportunity not only to our company, but most importantly to our Fellow, Monica, who is passionate about STEM and getting girls interested in computer science, is truly invaluable. We hope that we have many more opportunities in the future to use CGI as a platform to provide our Fellows the role models they need to be inspired and succeed in whatever they are passionate about.  We also hope to leverage CGI for our newest commitment to empower 100,000 women in our supply chain.

ABEYWARDENA: What emerging or future opportunities do you anticipate within your sector for engaging girls and women as both consumers and producers of your goods?

SEGARRA: Millennials are a key area of focus for us. They are our clients and increasingly a large part of our workforce. We know they care about the impacts of their purchases and they want to work for companies that value what they value. We are already seeing it every day in our recruitment efforts, when candidates tell us how important it is for them that we invest in our ANN Cares and Responsibly ANN programs. As we look ahead to the future, we are excited to continue to connect our purpose-led programs to our current and future clients.

This was the second in the CGI series Reimagining Girls' and Women's Empowerment Through Private-Sector Investment. Check back next week for our interview with Patrizio di Marco, President & CEO of Gucci. 

About Teresa Segarra


As the director of charitable initiatives at ANN INC., Teresa Segarra is responsible for strategic philanthropy, cause marketing, and employee social engagement programs for the company and across all brands.

Under her leadership, Segarra’s focus on growing ANN INC.’s charitable platform and delivering on its mission to care for women and children has led to significant growth in the company’s annual commitment to The Breast Cancer Research Foundation and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.  She developed and launched of the ANNpower Vital Voices Initiative, a girl’s leadership training and empowerment program in partnership with Vital Voices Global Partnership.

Previously, Segarra served as managing director at Changing Our World, Inc., Omnicom Group’s philanthropic consultancy. Segarra holds a Bachelor of Science from Cornell University. She earned a Master of Science in marketing from New York University, where she was awarded the Lester Wunderman Prize for the best Master’s thesis. She also completed the Corporate Social Responsibility executive education program at Harvard Business School.