( ENSPIRE Business ) Taking a Look at Janaye Ingram, the Director of Community Partner Programs & Engagement’s Efforts to Promote Inclusivity
In today’s world, discrimination remains a prevalent issue that has detrimental effects on the lives of countless individuals. It is a problem that affects a wide range of people whether it’s due to race, gender, or socioeconomic status. Fortunately, there are people who are working to fight against discrimination and promote inclusivity and community building. An example of this is Janaye Ingram, the Director of Community Partner Programs & Engagement at Airbnb.
Janaye has played a key role in Airbnbs efforts to combat discrimination on their platform. She has led partnerships with civil rights organizations such as Color Of Change and NAACP. Her work has also included the launch of Project Lighthouse, a groundbreaking initiative that measures and addresses disparities among racial groups. The first results from the project were released last year and were covered by prominent news outlets like The New York Times, Bloomberg, Fast Company, CNN, The Root, and many others. She is also the head of Airbnb’s $100M Community Fund, which awards grants to organizations that support communities around the world.
We spoke with Janaye about her plans for Airbnb.
Can you tell us about your role as the Director of Community Partner Programs & Engagement at Airbnb?
I lead Airbnb’s work building meaningful relationships and partnerships with multicultural communities and organizations, including our engagement with civil rights and racial justice organizations like Color Of Change and the NAACP. In this role, I’m responsible for overseeing Airbnb’s outreach and engagement with multicultural communities, which includes developing partnerships with organizations, supporting community-led initiatives, and collaborating with local stakeholders to create economic opportunities for underrepresented communities.
I also oversee the Airbnb Community Fund, which was created to distribute $100M through 2030 to help strengthen communities around the world. Last year, Airbnb distributed more than $6 million in grants to over 20 organizations across six continents that are working to promote environmental sustainability and conservation, as well as other programs. In short, my job is to help Airbnb create a positive social impact and be a good neighbor in the places our Hosts call home.
Can you share some challenges you’ve faced in leading Airbnb’s efforts to fight discrimination on the platform?
Discrimination takes many different forms, and, just as it can be challenging to identify and prevent it in society, it’s also a challenge for us. We approach fighting discrimination in a holistic way, starting with strong nondiscrimination policies. We also have a dedicated team that provides antidiscrimination and equity guidance throughout the company and develops products to combat discrimination, a specialized Customer Support team that investigates reports of discrimination and we share information with our Hosts to help them identify and address unconscious bias, among other initiatives. Fighting discrimination is a cross-functional effort at Airbnb and I’m proud to contribute through my work with experts in the civil rights and racial justice community. Including perspectives from the members of these communities is incredibly important.
It can also be a challenge to build trust with community members who are worried about facing discrimination on our platform. We especially want to hear from them if they believe they’ve been discriminated against while using our platform so we can take action. We know that discrimination is a complex and emotional issue, and we continue working hard to earn the trust of our Hosts and guests that we’re committed to combating it. To do that, we’ve been transparent about the steps we’ve taken to fight discrimination, including making our 2016 civil rights audit public and publishing progress reports in 2019 and 2022.
What is Project Lighthouse, and how has it helped Airbnb address disparities among perceived racial groups?
Project Lighthouse is a research tool that is helping us uncover and address potential disparities in how people of color experience our platform so that we can make our platform more equitable. We developed Project Lighthouse in partnership with Color Of Change, and with input from other civil rights and privacy organizations. Airbnb does not collect race or ethnicity data from our users, so we worked with these groups to develop a privacy-centric way to measure discrimination based on perceived race – the race someone might associate with a first name and profile photo.
We recently shared that Project Lighthouse uncovered disparities among perceived racial groups in the booking process, which is unacceptable to us. We used Project Lighthouse to dig deeper to understand what was driving those disparities so that we could design ways to tackle the problem. As a result, we introduced a number of changes, including making more people eligible to use our Instant Book feature and changes that will result in more reviews for travelers. And we’ll use Project Lighthouse to help us measure how effective these changes are.
What advice would you give to young professionals who want to make a difference in their communities and work towards promoting inclusivity and diversity in their industries?
If you’re a young professional who wants to make a difference in your community and promote inclusivity and diversity in your industry, there are several things you can do to get started.
First, it’s important to recognize that you don’t need to wait for a special moment or permission to start making a difference. You can begin by taking action right where you are. Whether it’s through small acts of kindness, offering your time and skills, or speaking up when you see injustice or inequality, every effort counts towards creating a more inclusive and equitable environment.
Second, finding strength in numbers is also crucial. You can seek out or create an employee resource group or Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) division within your organization to connect with like-minded colleagues and work together towards common goals. By creating a community of allies, you can amplify your impact and make meaningful changes that will benefit everyone in your workplace.
Finally, get involved in organizations that are advancing equity in your community. Volunteering your time and talents to support these organizations can make a significant impact on those who are marginalized or underrepresented. Whether it’s through mentorship, fundraising, or advocacy work, there are countless ways you can contribute to creating a more inclusive and diverse society.
Besides Janaye’s great success in her field, she is also a mother to a two-year-old daughter and lives in the Greater Philadelphia area. Janaye’s work serves as a reminder of the importance of fighting discrimination and building community. By working together and promoting diversity, it is possible to build a better world for ourselves.
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