Airbnb diversity business partner explains why ‘diversity is not just good business’

Maria Cuba was an Airbnb host more than a decade ago in Puerto Rico before she applied to work for the home sharing platform. Today she’s diversity and belonging business partner at Airbnb. She has worked on engaging hosts of diverse backgrounds, and providing resources to employees within Airbnb. 

“It’s a matter of really looking at diversity as the one thing that makes us stronger and it makes us serve our communities better. And in turn, it makes our community engaged with our products in a better way,” Cuba told Yahoo Finance Presents: Hispanic Stars.

About five years ago, Cuba and a co-worker started a group at Airbnb called Juntos, which now has chapters in the U.S., Latin America, and Europe. 

“We come together, on the one hand, to really just enhance and support the experience that employees are having at Airbnb, giving them opportunities to come together, to learn from each other,” Cuba said. 

“On the other side, we are also partners to the business, making sure that we’re there to support the business initiatives that have to do with our community, whether that is in the United States — the Latinx communities in the United States — the diaspora in the world, or in Latin America.”

‘Diversity is not just good business sense’

Airbnb is one of the many companies and organizations that have collaborated and pledged to We Are All Human’s Hispanic Promise, an initiative created to hire, promote, retain, and celebrate Hispanics in the workplace.

“We’ve heard a lot that diversity makes companies better,” said Cuba. “But I would say this, diversity is not just good business sense. It’s not just, you know, moral sense. But if we want to really serve our community, our internal community needs to be reflected in the people that we’re serving.”

Maria Cuba speaks to Yahoo Finance.
Maria Cuba speaks to Yahoo Finance.

The coronavirus pandemic took a hit on many travel industries, including the home-sharing business. Now, as lockdowns have started to ease, people have been looking for ways to explore local areas.

“I think that it’s clear that the community wants to stay closer to what’s familiar, what feels safer, right? So they don’t necessarily want to be at home. They still want to take a trip. They still want to travel, but they want to do that close by where it feels familiar,” said Cuba. 

“I think that people are also looking for things that are more unique because now the stay is the prize. The stay is the thing that you’re looking forward to. So unique little things like tree houses, listings that have a pool, listings that might have, like, a family theater or a nice patio or surrounded by nature, right? We’re seeing that the community are saying, we want that. We want more of that,” she added.

Cuba spent several years working with Airbnb’s “Experiences” business — activities organized and hosted by locals, a unit that turned virtual shortly after the pandemic hit.

“Early during this pandemic, our host, our experiences hosts, came to us and said, ‘We don’t want to stop hosting’. What can we do to offer our community these experiences? We can do this online,” said Cuba.

To that point, Cuba says she recently received a tray of home-made pernil, a traditional Puerto Rican dish.

“It was actually a Brazilian friend who said, guess what? I’m bringing you some pernil that I learned to make through an online experience. And so I thought it was fantastic,” said Cuba. 

Ines covers the U.S. stock market. Follow her on Twitter at @ines_ferre

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