Hilton CultureCategory|

Q&A: Hilton CHRO Laura Fuentes Reflects on Hilton’s New Commitments to Advancing Diversity & Inclusion in the Hospitality Industry

Hilton has long been focused on creating an inclusive workplace and a culture shaped by its team members’ diverse backgrounds and experiences.

Now, the company is taking an important step forward, sharing bold gender and ethnic diversity commitments to advance representation at the corporate leadership level. Specifically, Hilton has announced that it is committed to achieving global gender parity and 25% ethnic diversity at its corporate leadership levels in the U.S. by 2027. The goals will be tied directly to leadership compensation.

Laura Fuentes, Hilton’s chief human resources officer, shared her perspective on the importance of these new commitments and what they mean for the hospitality industry.

Why did you decide to share this commitment now?

At Hilton, we have been on a life-long journey to build an inclusive culture for all. Our founder, Conrad Hilton, began this company over 100 years ago with the belief that we could achieve international peace through travel – a call to welcome and celebrate the backgrounds and cultures that make us all unique.

As a global company operating in 119 countries and territories around the world, diversity is who we are. We’re proud of the progress we’ve made to advance issues of diversity and inclusion, and we humbly acknowledge that there is still much more work to be done. That’s why we’re publicly releasing our data and commitments on gender and ethnic diversity. The actions we’re taking are a reinforcement of our belief in the importance of transparency and accountability. Our progress will be available to our team members, guests and communities and anyone else who wishes to view it at jobs.hilton.com/diversity.

While we have internally been holding ourselves accountable to diversity metrics for a number of years, we felt that now was the time to be bolder. We are at a pivotal moment in our business, a period of transformation as we make our way out of the many crises of the last year. Making these commitments and sharing the data that will help us achieve them is part of our recovery story.

Where are you seeing the most progress in your diversity and inclusion efforts?

I often feel most inspired by the individual stories I hear from our team members around the world – a team member who has benefited from our mentorship program for diverse talent, someone who has been inspired to act on their allyship based on a “Courageous Conversation” discussion, or the work our Team Member Resource Groups have been doing to support one another in response to acts of hate in the headlines. 

Collectively, these stories represent the progress we’ve made in scaling our cultural and representation efforts. Around the globe, we are engaging team members in so many aspects of our diversity and inclusion journey – in a way that feels bigger and more connected than ever before. “Courageous Conversations” was a series designed to convene team members globally for open discussions on difficult topics. Our talent recruitment and leadership development programs continue to focus on hiring and developing our team members. An emphasis on diversity and inclusion is embedded in every touchpoint with our team members – from the moment you encounter us on our Careers website or social media channels to recruitment, onboarding and the full team member lifecycle. While we know the gender and ethnic representation commitments that we’ve set will take time to achieve, our strategy to help all team members see and realize their full potential is positively progressing.

What has Hilton’s diversity journey been like?

While inclusivity is in the company’s DNA, Hilton’s diversity and inclusion journey started in earnest more than a decade ago. Initially, the focus was on increasing the diversity of the workforce. A few years later, we placed greater emphasis on creating an inclusive environment through leadership development. And in recent years, we have increased our attention to actively building equity across the workforce.

To drive this commitment forward, we have focused on three pillars:

  • Culture: Our culture leads the way in changing behaviors and embedding diversity into the business to create an inclusive environment.
  • Talent: We work to embed diversity and inclusivity into every aspect of the talent life cycle – including candidate attraction, recruitment, hiring, employee learning and career opportunities, performance management, rewards, promotions, succession management, leadership development and employee engagement and retention.
  • Marketplace: This pillar is all about creating a more inclusive overall society and community through external partnerships, such as Hilton Effect Foundation, which works to support a variety of non-profits; hurricane relief; scholarship funds; and a focus on supplier diversity.

This approach has been anchored by a commitment to listening to and learning from our team members, as well as others outside of our organization. We have spent years building strong, proactive partnerships with organizations like the Great Place to Work Institute, DiversityInc, NAACP, MAKERS and others. Our mission of engaging with groups like these is not so we can be ranked on their lists or called out on their websites, but so we can hold ourselves accountable to the rigorous standards of some of the most credible institutions looking at diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

How will you track your progress toward 2027?

We will continue to update our progress annually, both to provide continued transparency and ensure we are holding ourselves accountable to the commitments we’ve made public. Internally, we will look at this data at every stage of the team member lifecycle to evaluate our progress. We’ll do so regularly, breaking the data down to understand trends across roles and regions.

Our team members will continue to be a critical part of this journey. We know that one of the best ways for a company to attract new talent is through referrals from those who already work there and who can vouch for the culture. Our efforts will focus on all aspects of the team member experience, from attracting diverse talent to retaining our incredible team members by helping them see the opportunities for growth and development at all levels. 

This new commitment looks at gender and ethnic diversity. How are you approaching other areas of inclusivity?

These commitments are specific to ethnicity and gender – two areas where we know there is much work to be done and where we have mapped out specific pathways to achieve progress in the years ahead. We believe that this is just the start, however. We have a strong focus on holistic inclusivity in order to ensure that we have a broad representation for all team members.

That said, we have always defined diversity broadly – not only looking at race, ethnicity and gender, but also background, nationalities, abilities, sexual orientation and the many other attributes that make up who we are. One of the many ways we do this work is through our eight Team Member Resource Groups (TMRG), including: Abilities TMRG, Asian & Pacific Islander TMRG, Black TMRG, Hispanic Latinx TMRG, Military TMRG, Next Gen TMRG, Pride TMRG and Women’s TMRG. Our TMRGs are another way we make our culture more inclusive. We activate around the common principles of networking, professional development and creating educational opportunities that drive allyship; however, we also look to all of our TMRGs to bolster team member engagement, provide upward feedback on critical issues and help us drive our business strategies and how we’re solving for the needs of our diverse community of guests.

What’s next for Hilton’s diversity and inclusion efforts?

Sharing these commitments is an important continuation of our decades-long journey to be a place of inclusion where all are welcome. Having a benchmark was important for us to know where we are. As we move forward, we’ll use that data to inform how we continue activating our culture around the programs, feedback and partnerships that will help us effect the change we seek to achieve by 2027 and beyond. We also see this work as essential to how we serve our diverse community of guests. It provides us with yet another opportunity to design even better experiences and drive innovative solutions across the business.

Everything we have been doing has been leading us to this moment. The entire talent ecosystem is vital to our success. We can’t truly have a diverse workforce if our team members don’t see themselves in our growth. Not only do we want team members to feel confident about where we are headed, we want them to attract new, diverse talent so we can continue building a great place to work for all.

For us, diversity is a fact – it’s who we are and who we serve; inclusion is a choice – it’s rooted in our values of hospitality, and greater equity and belonging are the outcomes we seek to achieve.