Expedia CEO Okerstrom commits to advancing diversity and inclusion

by James Wilkinson

Expedia Group has revealed at its annual conference ‘Explore ‘19’ in Las Vegas today (Nov 14 local) the formulation of a new Travel Industry Group within CEO Action aimed at bringing travel leaders together to cultivate diverse and inclusive environments and impact positive change.

Expedia Group’s President and CEO, Mark Okerstrom, signed the broader CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion (CEO Action) pledge on October 9, 2019, the largest global CEO-driven business commitment to advance diversity and inclusion within the workplace.

The CEO Action pledge includes four commitments: to create and share strategic inclusion and diversity plans with our board of directors; to share best – and unsuccessful – practices; to implement and expand unconscious bias education; and to continue to make our workplaces trusting places to have complex, and sometimes difficult, conversations about diversity and inclusion.

Cultivating an inclusive and diverse workplace environment focused on opportunity and equality is a key focus for Expedia Group. Globally, the company achieved gender pay parity across men and women in equivalent roles, and 52% of the company’s total employees are female.

The company says it has also been focused on a diversity and gender-equality journey aimed at ensuring all employees feel like they belong and are empowered to reach their full potential.

“A diverse workforce creates a more creative, more productive environment with increased trust and less fear – an environment where employees, and in turn, the companies, thrive,” said Expedia Group Chief Inclusion Officer and senior vice president, marketing and industry engagement, Melissa Maher.

“As travel leaders, we have an amazing opportunity to bring the world within reach and champion change in our industry and in our companies, committing to making our industry a better, more inclusive environment.”

Expedia Group plans to share its best practices and learnings, as well as learn from others, with the introduction of the Travel Industry Group. The sub-group, which will be comprised of U.S. and multinational companies, will focus on: promoting allyship, intersectionality, inclusive language and inclusive workplaces; hosting deep dives and trainings on topics that are key priorities for travel companies, including accessibility, LGBTQ+ travel, diversity marketing, gender balance and cultural competency; arranging roundtable and video conference discussions to convene participants regularly; co-ordinating research to highlight the current state of diversity and inclusion within the travel industry; and promoting diversity and inclusion conversations at industry events.

Expedia Group has a wide range of initiatives to support a more inclusive workplace. Recognising the need to go beyond unconscious bias training, the company implemented Textio, a technology platform that reveals hidden language patterns in job ads that impact both the diversity and quality of applicants, as well as HireVue, a video interview tool that reduces bias in video screenings.

In addition, the company mandates gender balanced interview slates, and tracks the hiring pipeline by gender representation.

The company’s employee-led Business Resource Groups also play an invaluable role in the company’s diversity and inclusion strategy. With more than 100 global chapters, thousands of member volunteers are focused on driving meaningful and actionable decision making around diversity topics.

Within all areas of the Expedia Group business, these groups not only help employees connect and share knowledge and lived experiences, but also provide the business with ideas and insights to improve diversity and inclusion efforts across employees, partners and customers.