( ENSPIRE News ) Airbnb Publishes “A Six-Year Update on Airbnb’s Work to Fight Discrimination and Build Inclusion”
ENSPIRE Contributor: Gabel Strickland
Airbnb released a diversity report on December 13th titled “A Six-Year Update on Airbnb’s Work to Fight Discrimination and Build Inclusion.” The report outlined existing and future initiatives Airbnb has developed in an effort to increase equity and inclusion between 2016 and 2022. Airbnb also published some statistics about the experiences of users of different perceived races on their platform. Most notably this year specifically, Airbnb is working on increasing usage of Instant Book, partially by changing host eligibility criteria. They are also removing listings from their platform associated with slavery and adding wheelchair-accessible listings to their site.
Airbnb then highlights four things they have done to combat discrimination on its platform prior to 2022: the institution of their Community Commitment and Nondiscrimination Policy in 2016, the creation of a permanent anti-bias and discrimination team in 2016, the elimination of guest profile photos prior to booking in 2018, and the formation of Project Lighthouse in 2020. The report also included updates on the effectiveness of these policies as of 2022. Airbnb found that their decision to make guest photos invisible to Hosts until they have decided to approve or reject a guest’s reservation has very slightly decreased discrimination on the platform. In addition, Airbnb says it suspended 4,000 accounts for violating its nondiscrimination policy in 2022. This report is the first one to include data from Airbnb’s Project Lighthouse, which they started in collaboration with Color Of Change in 2020.
Moving on to this year, 2022, the main change that Airbnb is working on is increasing usage of Instant Book, partially by changing host-recommended eligibility criteria. As Airbnb explains, in 2021 guests perceived to be Black had a 91.4% chance of successfully booking an Airbnb listing while White had a 94.1% chance. Other racial categories were also in the 90s, though not as high as users perceived to be white.
Airbnb says the best way to fix this is by increasing the usage of Instant Book because Instant Book allows guests to immediately reserve an Airbnb listing, whereas otherwise, a host would have to approve their stay, which could lead to discrimination. White users are more likely to fit the eligibility requirements to use Instant Book (which are heavily based on Host reviews), so Airbnb is expanding eligibility requirements to encourage more guests of color to take advantage of the tool.
“To make it easier for more people to use Instant Book, including Black guests and other guests of color, in November 2022 we updated the ‘Host recommended’ eligibility criteria for Instant Book to a ‘good track record’ requirement, to be more inclusive of people who have fewer stays and reviews. Specifically, we updated the available setting options so that Hosts can choose to welcome guests even if they do not have a review. Now, identity-verified guests who have traveled on Airbnb can be eligible for Instant Book, regardless of whether they previously received a review from a Host, as long as they do not have a recent history of incidents or negative reviews,” the report reads. “Our goal for this updated system is to provide more guests the ability to use Instant Book. We estimate that at least 5 million more people will be able to use Instant Book because of these changes.”
Other changes Airbnb made this year included no longer listing properties that are former slave houses and or other properties associated with slavery. As the report states, “such properties have no place on Airbnb.” In November the company launched the Adapted category, which features listings that have been adapted to be wheelchair accessible. Listed properties must also have at least one accessibility feature in the bathroom (grab bars, a step-free shower, etc.). In this way, the report addresses more than just racial diversity.
The report concludes with a current snapshot of the Airbnb workforce’s analytics. The report states that “As of June 30, 2022, 15 percent of US Airbnb employees identified as underrepresented minorities, the highest percentage since we started collecting this information in 2014. Globally, the population of employees who identify in the gender binary as women is just below 48 percent.” The company says their 2025 goal is to have 50% of employees identify as women and 20% of employees identify as underrepresented minorities. They plan to further this goal with initiatives such as annual pay equity analysis and bias training.
Airbnb says multiple times throughout the report that they worked with civil rights leaders and diversity and equity professionals to gather this information. Laura W. Murphy, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Washington Legislative Office, wrote a foreword to the report. Airbnb also acknowledges organizations such as Color of Change, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, the Center for Democracy and Technology, and others. A quote from Derrick Johnson, President of NAACP, goes as follows:
“The NAACP has been calling on companies to do what is best for racial equity, and Airbnb has stepped up to provide answers. Airbnb has committed to walk with us and others to unpack their journey to achieving diversity, equity, and inclusion as an organization. Over the last six years, the company has set and maintained the blueprint for how companies should tackle this critical work: in a transparent, public-facing, and introspective way. By releasing Project Lighthouse data, Airbnb is setting the right precedent for other companies. We applaud Airbnb for taking this step, one of many to come, and encourage other companies to follow their lead.”
In the report, Airbnb took a moment to emphasize how important it is for their company to be considering diversity given their usage as a travel site. The report reads “Airbnb fosters connection and belonging, and over the past 15 years, our community has grown to over 4 million Hosts who have welcomed over 1 billion guest arrivals in almost every country across the globe. In that time, we’ve built several tools to foster connection between people of different backgrounds, cultures, beliefs, and geographies.”