At Hilton, diversity and inclusion is at the core of our business, from the hospitality that we provide to our guests, to the same light and warmth that we share with our Team Members and partners. In honor of Black History Month, we sat down with Hilton’s Director of Supplier Diversity Erika Gibson to hear more about how she engages and supports diverse communities. Read on to learn more about how she is powering change.
Could you tell us a bit about yourself and your career path?
I’ve been with Hilton for a little over seven years now, and currently work as Director of Supplier Diversity. I began my career in law before obtaining my MBA from The George Washington University School of Business. I realized that I wanted to change fields, and when I received a call from a recruiter about an opportunity with Hilton, I knew that it felt like the right fit. Hilton has a great reputation, a warm and welcoming workplace culture and the hospitality industry interested me. I moved into direct and indirect sourcing roles within Hilton Supply Management (HSM), and from there onto Corporate Procurement as a Senior Manager. This past summer, I was promoted to my current role.
What do you do in your current role with Hilton?
I lead the advancement of Supplier Diversity at Hilton, with a focus on developing and enhancing a strong pipeline of diverse suppliers and connecting that pool of supplier partners into HSM’s supply chain to get their products and services to our network of 6,000+ hotels and corporate offices.
What does Supplier Diversity do?
Essentially, we encourage doing business with small, diverse, local business through a variety of mechanisms including events, education and training, matchmaking, business opportunity fairs, networking and mentorship opportunities. We are focused on enhancing our supplier diversity program as we work towards our Travel with Purpose 2030 Goal to of double our sourcing from local, small, and medium-sized suppliers and minority-owned businesses.
Why is it critical that Hilton partners with diverse suppliers?
Diverse businesses typically encounter barriers that challenge their start-up and sustainability, such as access to capital and networking opportunities, so effective supplier diversity strategies can alleviate these pain points. Small businesses are also often very nimble and innovative, which not only impacts our bottom line, but aligns with our innovative spirit. For Hilton, supplier diversity goes back to what this company was founded on. We are committed to having a positive impact in the communities where we work, live and travel – we call this the Hilton Effect. A big part of this is our positive economic impact on our communities – and one of the ways we continue that momentum is by doing business with local, small, diverse owned businesses.
February is Black History Month. Why is it important to recognize and celebrate these moments?
I think it’s always important to recognize and celebrate diversity of thought and background. As a company, it’s important to reflect and recognize who you’re doing business with every day, but observances like Black History Month are an added opportunity to reflect on our values and our commitment to diversity and inclusion.
How do you engage and support diverse communities through your professional or personal experiences?
One of the ways that I extend my support is through small and local businesses outside of my work life. In fact, this past year my team participated in Small Business Saturday where we supported local “mom and pop” shops the Saturday after Thanksgiving. We encouraged Team Members in our department to spend time with their family and support local boutiques, family-owned pizzerias, black-owned ice cream shops, veteran-owned bakeries, you name it! After everyone returned from the holiday, we put the names of those who participated in a drawing and our lucky winner received a certificate for a one-night stay at a Hilton of their choice. Most small businesses are diverse and you can support by reaching out to your local shops. Another way to engage is by attending conferences where certified suppliers are present and letting them know how to engage with your business, like I do in my work.
Hilton has a number of Team Member Resource Groups (TMRGs). Could you tell us about your experience with them?
I am a member of the African American and Millennial Team Member Resource Groups (AATMRG) and both groups really help serve as a voice for our larger population and identify opportunities. They’re also amazing for networking and creating a sense of community within the workplace. Personally, I’ve had the opportunity to sit in on focus groups aimed at improving the Team Member and the customer experiences and I also had the privilege of planning and participating in two signature events for our AATMRG. I’ve attended an event for every TMRG and each time I attend, I come away amazed by the speakers and the learning that each group brings to the table.
What career advice would you offer to others?
The most meaningful piece of advice I can give is to find a position that allows you to marry something you’re passionate about with something you have experience and skills in, in order to create something that’s worthwhile to you. For me, my passion is encouraging diversity and I’ve been able to leverage my skills in procurement and contract management. In my experience, finding that combination in my career has empowered me to create more economic impact and inclusion for all.
Interested in hearing more from our Team Members? You might enjoy this Q&A with diversity leader DeShaun Wise Porter. To learn more about joining the #4 Best Company for Diversity by DiversityInc and #15 Best Workplace for Diversity by Great Place to Work® and Fortune visit jobs.hilton.com.