Skip to Content

Marriott CEO: At a Time of Great Anxiety Around Diversity, We Need to Communicate

From the time that Arne Sorenson was a mere attorney working with hotel giant Marriott International (he was a partner with the Washington, D.C. law firm Latham and Watkins), he knew that the company didn’t talk about its talent the way others tended to.

“The company was [long] saying, ‘Alright, you may have started as a waiter in a root beer stand, but you can be a manager of a restaurant or you can be a manager of a brand or you can be a CFO of the company. Those are things that are available to you just like anybody else,” Sorenson told Fortune senior editor Matt Heimer at the 2017 Great Place to Work conference in Chicago. “My first exposure to the Marriott board [of directors] was in 1992—before I got to the company, I was a lawyer—and the thing that struck me from the beginning was [that] the board would never talk about the pedigree of executives. It was never, ‘Well, they went to Wharton, they went to HBS, they came from P&G, or whatever it is. It was, ‘Oh they started as a security guard.’ Or, ‘They started as a waiter. And look at how their career evolved.’ Those were the stories of pride in the board room. That legacy is important.”

More recently the company has been working to more overtly communicate to the LGBT—lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender—community at a time when there’s “more anxiety” around diversity and inclusion that there used to be, Sorenson said. “Which makes the hearing of those words that much more important,” he added.

For more on this—as well as the impact of recent immigration policies—watch the video above.