< PrevNext > Erin Wilk Facebook global travel safety manager Share Erin Wilk sees a growing opportunity for travel managers in travel risk management and safety, but only if they can connect with business strategy. As a woman in a male-dominated security field, she says diversity equals an opportunity to innovate. She spoke with BTN editor-in-chief Elizabeth West about her outlook for her role and how she hopes to influence others. How did you get started in the security space?I was at Bank of America for 10 years, where I started in staffing. During the financial crisis, I did staffing for our global travel executive, which gave me insight into managed travel. The bank acquired Merrill Lynch, extending its investment arm and increasing its global footprint. At the same time, BoA had two employees staying at the Marriott [Islamabad] when it was bombed [in September 2008]. Shortly after, the bank had more than 25 employees on the U.S. Airways plane that went down on the Hudson River. I had familiarity with the travel side and was asked to move from my original bank roots in HR global staffing to security, where I would build, implement and finally manage a global travel safety program.BoA is significant in that it shifted a full-time resource specifically to traveler safety. Facebook has done the same but proactively. Do you see this as a growing trend?When Facebook asked if I would contribute to building a program here, I was impressed that a company would dedicate a full-time resource with the goal of setting a new industry standard for traveler safety. This role often sits on the shoulders of someone who has a full-time position already, someone in travel or in benefits or HR. I give credit to Facebook and Bank of America for recognizing that this space has such an impact on employees. Coming from very different companies, it’s a testament to how important the role is, and I think you will continue to see dedicated roles like this developed in the industry. Often, the individual tasked with traveler safety does not understand how [the role] plugs into the bigger picture. Knowing the business angle has proven very beneficial to me." What advice would you give someone looking to define a role like this for his or her company?I've been at industry events recently where still about 50 percent of [the people in] the room worked for companies that don’t know they are at the event. The companies didn't give them a number to call if there was an issue. I've been fortunate to work for companies where that is not acceptable, but they were very different companies: a financial institution and now a leading tech company in Silicon Valley. To craft an effective message around traveler safety, you must understand the business. At Facebook, our people are our most valuable assets; they are what drives our mission forward. Keeping them safe and secure leads to an obvious next step. Often, the individual tasked with traveler safety does not understand how [the role] plugs into the bigger picture. Knowing the business angle has proven very beneficial to me.Working in security and traveler safety, you are likely one of the few females in your colleague group.I am proud to work in an environment now where I see very strong leaders. Diversity isn't all about gender or particular groups; it's also about diversity of thought and experience. Anytime you can get folks around the table who come from different places and spaces, you get a more colorful conversation that drives innovation. When you are looking to set higher standards, diversity is critical. There is also a very important responsibility that comes with being amongst an underrepresented group in an important industry. When I think of myself and other women who work in [security], there is a corner that we will continue to turn.Does a diverse security team have an advantage in serving a diverse corporate travel community?You sometimes hear about programs that try to segment travel populations to support them, maybe female travelers or high risk or LGBTQ travelers. It's not so much about segmentation as it is about education: Being more educated and informed on all kinds of travelers makes a much richer program. Perhaps you manage women and you could have a better perspective of what they face when traveling or you work with a woman or you arrange travel for women. It's not just women or men or religious groups; what about first-time travelers versus experienced travelers? In driving this dialogue, we all become more educated. That is when we can make the most thoughtful and intentional decisions and start to influence others.What are you most excited about right now in your work? At Facebook, we are investing great resources and time in education and awareness. I want to introduce later this year to the industry some more creative ways this can take place. … I would love to think that what we are building at Facebook will reset the industry standard. We want to do it in an authentic way that connects with our employees to drive duty of loyalty, that we are committed to them and that they also have a responsibility to the company to create sustainable and effective duty of care.