Athleta’s CEO On Balancing Strength With Softness

Aaron Hurst
Purposeful Leadership
May 24, 2017

This spring, when the women’s athletic lifestyle brand Athleta launched the next iteration of its “Power of She” campaign, the company included an ad featuring a 98-year-old yoga teacher, who says, “Anything is possible. Nothing is impossible,” as she strikes a yoga pose with a younger yogi.

Nancy Green, Athleta’s CEO, describes the campaign as a deliberate effort to “break the stereotypes of health and wellness, and what strength and beauty look like by showing much more body-type diversity and age diversity.” In doing so, Athleta, a division of Gap Inc. with 135 stores in the U.S., is joining the ranks of companies, like Dove and Always, that have been fighting how women are portrayed in advertising, “Women are not portrayed well in the fashion media. It causes serious body dysmorphia, psychological problems. I believe we can be a force for good in the world in changing that,” says Green.

“I didn’t think I could do the job because I didn’t see other women that were doing the job as mothers.”[Photo: courtesy Athleta]

Green points out the campaign is also about “supporting and empowering women,” and sharing the stories of nonprofits like I Am Water and Girl Ventures–that are helping women and girls build resilience and confidence. The response to the campaign has been overwhelming, “We’re getting thousands of comments and letters,” says Green. “We heard from a third-grade teacher, who said ‘I took your catalog to the class today, and we were talking about empowerment and bodies and self-imagery. The girls loved it.’” For Green, this is part of changing how a brand can matter in people’s lives. “I’m hoping that we’re going to influence the fashion industry through our success. Because beauty does not come in one size two.”

Read more on Fast Co. here.