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Meet Women at Expedia Group Learning and Leading’s New President

Last month, Expedia Group Inclusion Business Group Women at Expedia Group Learning and Leading (WELL) gained a new global president in Senior Program Manager, Karen Tocher! As Women’s History Month kicked off, we caught up with Karen to hear more about her goals for WELL and what Women’s History Month means to her. 

How did you become involved with WELL? 

When I joined Expedia 10 years ago, I first joined WELL by adding myself to the WELL email DL. This was how the IBG originally shared stories and built their communities. Soon after the Vancouver office, where I was based, started a local chapter and hosting local events, I joined the board as a member at large so I could get more deeply involved. I was new to Vancouver and it was such a great way to get to know colleagues and leadership. Eventually, as people came and went, I put my hand up to take on a leadership role on that local board. 

What made you want to take on the position of President of the global board? 

I hadn’t aimed to be President. In 2020, there was a call for global board members; this was before the official election process was put into place. I applied and joined the global board as a member at large, and after not too long I moved into the Vice President of the Americas role to fill in a gap we had at the time. Then in 2021, when the global elections were implemented, I hadn’t felt like I had done enough yet and so applied for the VP role and was luckily elected to stay on the board. That role is both challenging and rewarding and I got a lot of satisfaction by working alongside the local chapter leads.  

Fast forward, when the previous president left Expedia Group, the board rallied personally and professionally to support each other. We discussed as a team, and I decided that I would put my hand up for the role because of the amazing women on our board. We wanted to have consistency in leadership for our members and I thought that I could bring value by stepping up. That being said, I wouldn’t be in this role if not for the trust of my fellow board members and I think at the end of the day, that’s why I wanted to do it – because of them. Imposter syndrome is a real thing, but having their support meant the world. 

Can you describe your responsibilities in this new position? 

Really, the whole point of the President is to ensure the success of the board overall and to keep us accountable to our goals and membership. The President can act as a facilitator and connector and a primary point of contact for the executive sponsor (Chief Legal Officer, Bob Dzielak) and the rest of the board.  Every person on the board works as a team to decide what is important and has autonomy to accomplish the goals we’ve set, and the President is the supporter behind that. If we as a group get stuck, I need to help unlock any barriers that could stand in the way of the board achieving those goals and creating value for our members. 

What are your short-term goals and long-term aspirations for WELL? 

We are in the process right now of finalizing our 2023 goals and there is lots of discussion happening around what we want to accomplish in 2023 and how we can also set the 2024 board up for success at the same time. Short term, our goals are aligned with three pillars: Awareness, Development and Inclusion, because inclusion is part of everything that we do. We are focusing in on equity – giving visibility into our progress towards EG’s goal of 50% women in all levels, across all orgs and partnering internally and externally to support recruitment & retention of women in tech. In the very short term, we’re partnering with Women in Travel to help deliver their annual awards in our London office and that’s a partnership I’m really excited about. We’re doubling down on the programs that we’ve already been working on for the last year and growing their reach, like the Own your Dreams Learning & Development Program, Power of X and Life Events Resources and education. You’ll see more to come about how that is evolving in April. Overarching everything is our intersectional alliances and working across all IBGs to increase representation of ALL women in our WELL community. 

Longer term, we want to help influence real changes at Expedia Group when it comes to how we are supporting women at in all different stages of life, including returning from maternity & experiencing Menopause. We will also develop partnerships with organizations that can help us with our internal goal to grow the number of women working in tech at EG and support our consumer facing goal of supporting women’s safety and solo travel. 

How does the International Women’s Day 2023 theme of “Embrace Equity” resonate with you? 

There is a really big difference between equality and equity. I think providing more visibility into that is incredibly important. We can’t just say “we need 50% women and we’re going to get there and then we’ll be equal”. It’s not that easy. There are unique challenges women face that we need to recognize and solve for first. For us to make sure that women are truly represented equally, we need to have the tools & resources that increase opportunities for all women and remove those barriers. 

What is your favorite memory that has come from being a part of WELL? 

What a difficult question! I wouldn’t even be in the job I’m in today if I wasn’t a part of WELL. I met my mentor who later ended up hiring me by being on the board, so I have a lot of very fond memories. I think some of my favorites would have to be meeting all the women that participate in WELL. I was in London for a working session on our Power of X Program and got to meet women I have been working with for over a year in person and it was such a special moment. Last year, when I helped with the International Women’s Day Panel, I got to talk to Peter Kern about what it means to be an ally and then got to actually continue that conversation at explore a few months later because of the connection we had made through the WELL panel, so just some amazing opportunities.  

Can you tell us your favorite WELL campaign or initiative you’ve been involved in? 

I think the entire month of our global observance (Women’s History Month) is something I consistently just love to be a part of. I thrive off the energy that our board rallies around it and our chapters leads and members do as well. It more or less powers our goals for the rest of the entire year, so I have a special place in my heart for the month of March.  

What would you say to the women or allies, in the company to get them excited to join WELL or to someone at another company to get them excited to join the inclusion business group centered around women? 

I would say “why not?”. You have the opportunity to join the conversation and you can participate as much or as little as you want. You’ll always meet amazing people, you’ll always make new connections, and you’ll always have a network of support around you. So why not join a community that you can talk openly with, and make real change together? Being a part of WELL is one of my favorite experiences at Expedia. 

Expedia Group | Careers