The beginning of Black History Month provides an important opportunity to reflect on the significance of this month, understand how far we have come as a nation, and also consider how far we have yet to go when it comes to the ever present challenge of achieving racial equality.
When the history of Airbnb is written, I want us to reflect on 2016 as a turning point in our approach to achieving diversity within our own ranks and combating discrimination amongst ourselves and the users of our platform.
We know that we have much important work to do, and as we have previously shared, that work is underway and continues to be a priority for us. Today, I want to highlight three things that are signs of the progress that we are making toward those ends:
As a company, we have several key strategic priorities which reflect where the organization plans to put its energy and resources in the years to come. One of these key initiatives is diversity in employment, contracting and partnerships.
Airbnb’s culture is built around our mission of creating a world where everyone can belong. In order to achieve that goal, we must start from within. By bringing more diversity to our team, we will become a stronger company and also better serve our global community. I am pleased that our new Vice President of Employee Experience, Beth Axelrod, is leading these important efforts. Diversity is a cornerstone of Airbnb’s mission and Beth’s leadership and tremendous passion in these areas will help ensure that we continue to make the progress necessary.
Second, I am heartened by the ongoing work of the Anti-Discrimination Product Team. This is a permanent effort, and while there is no finish line on this important work, they have made important progress in a few short months since they were constituted.
In that time, they successfully launched the Community Commitment to our global Airbnb community. They have launched important experiments to better understand our platform, including assessing reducing the prominence of guest photos in the booking process and enhancing other parts of host and guests profiles with objective information, and they have engaged in research on guest reviews and how they can elevate trust and reduce bias. Our hope is that this team of technologists, who are solely devoted to this area of study, will help us use technology to achieve a more just and fair world.
Third, Airbnb continues to engage with a range of civil rights leaders as part of our work to learn from experts who are dedicated to the fight for equality. African American, Latino, South-Asian American, disability, LGBTQ and women’s organizations have met with Airbnb to make their concerns heard and felt, and we have future gatherings planned for the months ahead. We cannot achieve our diversity goals in a vacuum. We need the support and even the criticism—as painful as it may be at times– of people outside the company to implement our goals.
I want to thank our Senior Advisor Laura Murphy for the intensive work that she and so many others did to outline where change was needed within Airbnb to reduce discrimination and to achieve greater diversity. As Brian and so many of us have said, that report was a beginning and not an end point in that journey.
Black History Month is a reminder that we must better understand our collective history so that we understand why separation exists. We’re honored to contribute to the work of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, whose mission is to promote, preserve, and spread the word about black history and culture to the global community. Together, we can craft sustained and creative ways to bridge divides that exist in our company and our society. We are moving forward, and we are committed to the hard work that needs to be done.
Belinda Johnson is Airbnb’s Chief Business Affairs and Legal Officer