VP of Global Diversity and Inclusion, Jon Muñoz uses his background to help him move forward with Hilton Worldwide
By Kayla Carnes
For Jon Muñoz, Vice President Diversity & Inclusion at Hilton, the foundational values of hospitality and inclusion that define his corporate practices first took their root long before he was teaching their importance to others.
Muñoz, a Texas-born Latino, saw his personal and professional beginnings unfold in the desert city of El Paso – a region on the US/Mexico border that would, unknowingly, set the stage for a life of diversity, flexibility and continued personal growth.
“My parents are my biggest inspiration,” says Muñoz. “My mom and dad were very civically involved locally, so I was always looking for ways to demonstrate that same level of commitment to the community where I lived and worked.”
Upon graduating University of Texas at Austin in 1992, Muñoz dove headfirst into the corporate landscape, drawing upon his family values and strong sense of personal identity to calibrate the direction in which he would first head.
“I was intentional about accumulating a skill set that would be diverse and global in scope,” Muñoz says, recalling his early days in multicultural marketing and community relations. “I was constantly looking for connections to my personal values, and I have always sought out opportunities where I could use my voice for the benefit of the company.”
Muñoz took his first entry-level marketing job at NationsBank, now Bank of America, relocating from Austin to a bustling Dallas. During this time, Muñoz saw firsthand the the upside potential represented by diverse communities. The challenge and the opportunity was to build awareness and understanding of financial products and services in a culturally relevant and meaningful way, while building an internal infrastructure to support this new customer base in multiple languages and demonstrating support for diverse causes through support of non-profit organizations.
“The early 90’s was an interesting time,” Muñoz reflects. “I was excited to be an emerging leader focused on multicultural marketing in financial services.”
The years that followed would prove to be full of personal and professional evolution, leading Muñoz into diversity-focused roles for internationally regarded companies like Sprint and multicultural marketing roles for Nextel and Bank One (now JPMorgan Chase). In the summer of 2011, Muñoz transitioned out of telecom and stepped into the role of Senior Director of Global Diversity and Inclusion at Hilton, a position that he held until his most recent promotion to Vice President of Global Diversity and Inclusion in early 2018.
The transition took place soon after Hilton was taken private by Blackstone, which had just gone private; Hilton Hotels Corporation was now Hilton Worldwide.
“At the time, we were building a global framework focused on culture, talent and marketplace initiatives that would add value to Hilton’s culture and bottom line,” says Muñoz. “My role now is to oversee our comprehensive global diversity and inclusion management practice.”
And while diversity officers are still relatively new positions to be held in the corporate world, Muñoz embodies his work on behalf of underrepresented communities in a way that extends beyond social relevance and the common narrative, approaching even simple decisions with a global perspective.
“[At Hilton], we see the definition of diversity as a broad range of attributes: starting with age and gender, continuing through ethnicity, citizenship, language and religion, to experiences and each person’s individual skill set,” says Muñoz. “In support of our Executive Inclusion Council, led by Chris Nassetta, President & CEO, we’ve recently established Regional Inclusion Councils around the world to advocate for inclusion across the organization by applying region-specific interpretation of Hilton’s global diversity and inclusion framework to affect meaningful and sustainable change.
“Our global strategy is to leverage that framework, fostering innovation in a way that helps us be a globally competitive business.”
And that dedication to intentionality has paid off: Hilton is frequently ranked among the top places to work in the world, landing at #33 on the prestigious Fortune Top 100 Best countdown and coming in at #10 on Diversity’s Top 50 Companies for Diversity in 2018.
“A number of studies have shown that the value of being intentional and leveraging your diverse talent produces higher return on sales, increased investment, and equity,” says Muñoz. “This approach is very natural to us. We continually refine our diversity and inclusion strategy to realize these benefits. Diversity and inclusion is not only the right thing to do, it’s good for business.”
Looking ahead into the future, Muñoz can’t help but reflect on the unique perspective his own story has provided him within his line of work.
“Even before Hilton, my entrance into corporate America was interesting – as a Latino and gay man, I didn’t see a lot of people like me,” he observes. “As I navigated my career, I had to learn how to assert my individuality. It was has been very liberating for me to live my truth and leverage those points of difference.”
As Muñoz works to continue extending diversity and inclusion around the globe, he takes pride in the advancements Hilton has made on behalf of diverse team members, guests, owners and vendors.
“I’m proud of our diversity and inclusion journey at Hilton.”