Airbnb Unites with NAACP to Combat Discrimination and Expand Room at the Inn

(image via npr.org)

by Karen Grigsby Bates via npr.org

Since its inception nearly a decade ago, Airbnb has faced questions from people of color as to whether the company’s worldwide “vacancy” sign really applied to them. The company has been plagued by allegations and several lawsuits, predominantly but not exclusively from African-Americans, claiming discrimination.

Now, as part of its attempt to turn that image around, Airbnb has announced a partnership with the NAACP. The goal is to put teeth in the home-sharing company’s anti-discrimination efforts and to expand the number of people of color who are hosts on the site. The company has revised its policies and introduced more stringent penalties for hosts found to discriminate.

A settlement in California this year involving an Asian woman resulted in the discriminatory host being banned from the site for life. A similar incident in North Carolina involved a black would-be guest. Earlier this year, Airbnb hired Laura W. Murphy, the former director of the American Civil Liberties Union‘s Washington legislative office, to help shape the new policies and put practices in place that would make Airbnb more inclusive.

The announcement comes amid the NAACP’s attempts to bring the organization closer to the younger activist audience that it hopes will be its next generation. While it continues to fight for things traditionally associated with the NAACP — voter enfranchisement, equal opportunities in education and housing — the 108-year-old organization is also stretching in new directions. The NAACP describes the Airbnb partnership as “a landmark national agreement” that will encourage more people in communities of color to consider becoming Airbnb hosts.

“Our fastest-growing communities across major U.S. cities are in communities of color and we’ve seen how home sharing is an economic lifeline for families,” Belinda Johnson, Airbnb’s chief business affairs officer, said in a statement. And it’s not just host families who benefit: the company says Airbnb guests spend money in the neighborhoods where they’re renting.

The partnership is notable in another way: Airbnb has committed to sharing 20 percent of the revenue from its community outreach efforts with the NAACP. It will also work with the NAACP to educate communities of color on the benefits and mechanics of home sharing as part of its planned outreach.

Airbnb also seeks to expand its employee base nation-wide, and has been working with the NAACP to increase the percentage of employees from underserved populations, from its current 9.6 percent to a target goal of 11 percent by the end of the year.

To read full article, go to: Airbnb Unites With NAACP To Expand Room At The Inn : Code Switch : NPR

Airbnb Addresses Discrimination Allegations, Establishes New Operation Policies

The Airbnb logo is displayed on a computer screen Aug. 3, 2016, in London.

The Airbnb logo is displayed on a computer screen Aug. 3, 2016, in London. (CARL COURT/GETTY IMAGES)

article by Breanna Edwards via theroot.com

Earlier this year, home-rental site Airbnb came under heavy scrutiny after black users of the platform took to social media to describe the discrimination they faced. Most noted that after renters saw their photos, which were included in the booking request, they were denied accommodations. The hashtag #AirbnbWhileBlack popped up on Twitter and went viral. The company needed to do some serious soul-searching.

“Our mission is to allow people to belong anywhere … and that this issue, the issue of racial bias [or] discrimination on the platform, was a big problem and antithetical to our actual mission,” Christopher Lehane, head of global policy and public affairs for Airbnb, told The Root. “We needed to address this, but to be able to address it, we needed to understand it, consult with the experts [and] listen to people who’ve been on the front line for decades to help us … understand what the challenge was and then, from there, what we can do.”

That aha moment led the company to tap powerhouses such as former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Holder, along with Laura W. Murphy—former director of the ACLU Legislative Office, who currently serves as a senior adviser to Airbnb—launched a review into the company’s practices with the intention of confronting and dealing with explicit and implicit discrimination and bias.

“What Airbnb made clear from the beginning is that they didn’t want to simply follow the law … but to do that which would exceed what was legally required,” Holder told The Root. “Change comes when you have tough, honest conversations, which I think Airbnb has done; when you have genuine self-reflection, which I think they have engaged in; and when you come up with proposals for bold action.”

Holder, along with civil rights attorney John Relman and Airbnb staffers, spoke with civil rights leaders for input and ideas about policy changes to address the problems and also to position the company to deal with any future grievances.

“The first time I spoke to the executives at Airbnb, there was a palpable demonstration to be willing to have these uncomfortable but absolutely necessary conversations about how these issues arose … and I thought they were interested in solving the problem and not just responding to public criticism,” Holder said.

On Thursday the company is releasing a report detailing its findings and how it plans to remedy the issues that the victims of discrimination have faced. In doing so, Airbnb acknowledges its own lack of workforce diversity, saying that it plans to create a “new comprehensive plan to recruit and retain a diverse workforce.” According to the report, some 9.64 percent of all its U.S.-based employees come from underrepresented communities. The company hopes to increase that number to 11 percent by the end of 2017.

Part of that plan includes implementing the “Diversity Rule,” which mandates that all vacant senior positions at the company include candidates from underrepresented backgrounds before any hiring is permitted to go forward.

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