As Expedia Group globalizes, with a third of its business now coming from outside the United States, the company recognizes the need for a more diverse workforce.
Melissa Maher, senior vice president of marketing and innovation at Expedia Group, is responsible for the “Leading 4 Change” program, which includes driving diversity and inclusion at the global travel company.
Here, she talks to WiT about the reason for the program and the strides that have been made.
Why did it feel necessary to have this Leading 4 Change program?
As a global travel company, diversity is at the core of our values. But while we have a relatively balanced gender workforce, we know that as an industry, more needs to be done. Not only in terms of gender but diversity and inclusion more broadly.
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In an effort to drive positive change, we started an internal program called Leading 4 Change, which is aimed at creating a more diverse and inclusive culture. Initiatives include mentoring, flexible working, career development and networking opportunities, to name but a few.
Do you feel you personally could have benefitted from such a program had it been initiated earlier? For example, how much higher would you be today versus where you are now?
At Expedia Group, I feel lucky to work with male and female leaders who have raised their hand to support women’s empowerment and who are dedicated to women advancing to leadership.
But I know this isn’t the case in every company or industry, which is why it’s important to ensure that the opportunity to succeed is open to all.
Expedia Group CEO Mark Okerstrom says you have achieved 29% quota of women in leadership team - the goal was 30% by 2020. What’s next?
We’ve made a lot of progress in achieving greater gender balance, but it remains a key priority. Through recruitment, talent development and succession planning we believe we can create the broadest talent pools to build and support the strongest, most diverse teams.
We have mandated that everyone in Expedia Group have at least one female interviewee and one female interviewer in the process.
Melissa Maher - Expedia Group
When it comes to recruitment for senior director and above levels, we have mandated that everyone in Expedia Group have at least one female interviewee and one female interviewer in the process.
What’s next, is that we aim to use this strategy with every level in the organization. We’ve already started that in our lodging division, and this is now part of our hiring culture.
Beyond this, we also want to make sure that everyone thinks about diversity and inclusion in meetings, interviews and day-to-day meetings. To do so, we have launched many trainings throughout the organization.
What about other forms of diversity? What’s Expedia doing about that?
Our Leading 4 Change program encompasses diversity and inclusion as a whole. From awareness raising and mentoring to events and support for Employee Resource Groups, we are committed to promoting a culture that welcomes everyone.
As Expedia globalizes, it’s even more critical to know how to manage diverse workforces with different cultures - how are you tackling this problem? For example, people in Asia tend to be less outspoken than Americans, perhaps because of fluency in English as well. How do you manage that difference?
It’s important not only to manage those differences, but also to celebrate them. As a global workforce, having so many different perspectives is what makes us stronger as a company.
A team at Expedia Group may consist of individuals from every continent in the world, and, yes, there can be differences in cultures and perspectives, but I see that as one of our greatest assets.
We will be hosting a series of brown bag sessions around the globe that discuss a variety of topics that our teams want to hear about.
Some of those topics are: feel comfortable speaking up during a meeting; learn to manage up; learn how to build your personal brand; and hear negotiation best practices and tips for success.