Booking.com's first woman CEO, Gillian Tans, took up the mantle in 2016 and has since made it her mission to encourage women to pursue careers in tech and leadership positions.
She rides a bicycle to work. She is soft-spoken, wears no make-up, and does not put on any airs as head of one of the largest tech companies in the world. To present the key note address to an audience of around 200 people from 80 different nationalities, she walks up to the stage in casual attire – a black T-shirt and trousers.
Her simplicity is not deceptive. It’s both inspiring and heart-warming. Gillian Tans, President and CEO of online travel platform Booking.com, is among the world’s highest paid CEOs, with a net-worth of $40 million. (Her salary in 2016 was $17 million.)
When HerStory catches up with Gillian at Booking.com’s swanky office in Amsterdam, she is excited to talk about not just the 23-year-old company where she has spent the last 16 years, but also about women making a mark on the tech scene, which has long been a male-dominated one.
“The gap for women in leadership roles is actually widening, not narrowing. It demands a lot of attention. Overall, you see more men than women in technical roles. There’s not even enough women that are studying these topics, so it’s not something that companies alone can fix.”
Gillian is an exception to this norm. After graduating from Hotel School Middleburg, The Hague, and serving as Director of Sales at Golden Tulip Hotels, she joined Booking.com in 2002. In the last 16 years, she has served in various positions at Booking.com in global sales, operations, IT, content, and customer care. In 2011, Gillian was appointed as Booking.com’s Chief Operating Officer, and promoted as the Chief Executive Officer in 2016.
The 48-year-old mother of three has also been instrumental in bringing more women into technical roles, and has been leading quite a few initiatives at Booking.com in this regard.
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