Technology

“We simply have not done enough”: Expedia CEO promises bigger diversity push following George Floyd’s death

Expedia’s CEO Peter Kern has penned a letter to his employees vowing the company will do more to promote diversity in the wake of George Floyd’s death in the US.

Floyd was an African American man who died last month after a white Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck during an arrest for allegedly passing a counterfeit $20 note.

His death has led to multiple protests in major US cities and other countries, along with the police officer in question facing a charge of second-degree unintentional murder.

Expedia posted Kern’s letter to the company’s blog and said it was intended only to be sent to employees, but the response was so positive that it decided to make it available to the public.

In the letter, Kern laments the institutionalised racism that led to Floyd’s death and emphasised it was not an isolated event.

“These are trying times for us as a company, but that seems to pale in comparison to the trying times that humanity is facing,” he said.

“And just as I’ve asked all you to be motivated by COVID-19 to change faster, I hope the events following the senseless death of Mr Floyd (and sadly the hundreds who have come before him) will likewise bring you new energy for the cause of equality.”

Kern, who has been Expedia’s CEO since 23 April, expressed his frustration about the lack of progress the US has made.

“I have seen a lot in my days and I find it wholly disheartening and pathetic that we as a nation have not been able to get further over my lifetime,” he said.

“I grew up in Greenwich Village in NYC in the 70s, and I can tell you that in many ways my community and society seemed to have more racial diversity and acceptance than our country does now.”

Kern also admitted that the tech industry and Expedia itself had not done enough to promote diversity and dismantle institutionalised racism.

“For all our talk as a society, we simply have not done enough. And, candidly, neither the tech industry nor Expedia Group has done enough either,” he said.

“I am not naive to the fact that we must do better in terms of our own diversity, and we will, but I am not writing this to make you believe that we as a company will do better or for some corporate positioning.

“What matters is that we as humans reject the killing of innocent people and the systemic racism that has plagued our country.

“Unfortunately unlike COVID-19, which I believe science will eventually conquer, hundreds of years of racism and overt and unconscious bias will not be fixed with a vaccine. Instead, we all must be a part of the solution and we each must rededicate ourselves to the cure.”

Kern has committed to re-evaluating what Expedia has been doing about inclusion and diversity, and how he can personally help.

“I will also be signing the CEO Action Pledge (that prior management signed) to affirm that commitment,” he said.

“We do not yet have all of the answers and actions we will take, but we have the will. We will be intentional and thoughtful in evaluating and identifying how we can dismantle any bias within our policies and practices.

“We will create safe spaces to have difficult conversations. We will ensure allyship is a collective action taken by all of our employees. We simply must do better. And together, we can and we will.

According to Forbes, Expedia’s executive leadership team is made up entirely of white men, and neither its travel leadership team nor its board of directors includes an African American person.

You can read Kern’s letter in full here.

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