Melissa Thomas-Hunt | Influence 100

Melissa Thomas-Hunt 

Head of Global Diversity 



 One of Airbnb’s persistent reputation issues has been around diversity and inclusion. Airbnb rentals likely result in higher rent in cities with housing shortages, which often disproportionately impact communities of color. Black users have been discriminated against when trying to book on the platform. Then, there’s the overall lack of diversity in the tech sector. That’s why the company hiring Melissa C. Thomas-Hunt in 2019 was such a milestone. (David King held the role first from 2016 to 2018.) 

Airbnb has launched a series of initiatives like the Airbnb Community Commitment and Open Doors policies that help fight discrimination and promote belonging. In her role, Thomas-Hunt advises Airbnb on these and other initiatives that are designed to work to fight bias and ensure our community is open and fair for all hosts and guests.

“Leaders are ultimately curators and stewards of an organization’s climate and culture. My role at Airbnb is to equip them with the skills to connect with individuals across backgrounds, embed conversations about diversity, inclusion and belonging throughout all of our businesses, and to help weave an organizational fabric that enables every member of our global team to feel like they belong,” she said when the company announced her arrival. 

Thomas-Hunt joined Airbnb from Vanderbilt University, where she served as vice provost for inclusive excellence. In that role, she was responsible for helping advance equity, diversity and inclusion in Vanderbilt’s academic research and community of almost 22,000 students, staff and faculty. Prior to her work at Vanderbilt, Thomas-Hunt served as global chief diversity Officer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, where she was focused on ensuring that the student community was seen, heard, valued and supported.