Sarah Gavin, Hall of Femme 2020

VP, global comms and corporate brand, Expedia Group

What word would you use to describe your childhood and why? 
“Safety equals love” was the perfect childhood soundbite, suitable for all situations. Sneaking out to a party? Driving with your friends in the dark? Wishing for 4” heels despite being a gangly, clumsy teenager? Safety equals love. I find myself saying on a regular basis to my own kids today. 

Do you have a nickname? Explain.
My nickname these days is “Mom!” seemingly always yelled by my teenagers when they want to go hang out with their friends or have found a forgotten form at the eleventh hour and I’m on my way out the door. I couldn’t wish for a better nickname.

Tell us about your most embarrassing fail. How did you recover?
We created a campaign with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital where we brought dream travel experiences to kids who couldn’t travel using virtual reality. My planned, poised acceptance speech turned to ugly sobbing when they played the video we made. Totally mortified, I leaned into the authenticity of the moment. 

What fictional female character (in a book or movie) has always inspired you?
Elle Woods is a perfect role model to teach women to be strong, to stand up for themselves and their friends and to never be shy but always be gracious about owning your brains and talent. While today’s corporate world tells women to check their natural enthusiasm at the door, she reminds us that optimism leads to leadership magnetism.

Any real-life women or men you look up to?
My dad was a public official and inevitably when people saw me wandering around city hall, they would share some story about learning some life lesson from my dad. While I didn’t appreciate it at the time, to this day, he inspires everyone to be bold in their service of others and confident to stand up to bullies and stand up for the truth. He taught me that to be a good leader, you must first be a good person.

What’s something about you no one knows?
Seven years ago, I had everything I could want on paper — the dream job, loving husband, great kids  but I complained about absolutely everything. I decided to try 28 days of gratitude to rewire my brain. Every day, I took a picture and wrote a message about something I was grateful for. I felt like a completely different person, so I decided to go further. I spent the next 500 days building discipline around gratitude and it changed me to my core. Years later, gratitude is a driving force on good days and a corrective lens to view my world on tough days.

Favorite song and why?
I only have two modes — "Shake it Off" by Taylor Swift or "Lose Yourself" by Eminem. Nothing in between but pretty much the perfect combination for communications leaders.

Tell us about your hobby.
Singing in the car or in the shower… very, very poorly. 

Finish the sentence: To ensure career advancement and pay parity for women, I will...
…always create opportunities for ride-alongs so young talent, especially women, can join me for big meetings to gain firsthand experience with senior executives that come just from being in the room.

What is it about this industry that frustrates the hell out of you?
Everyone focuses on improving measurement but few focus on taking action or changing what they do based on the insight from that measurement.

When have you seen this industry or your organization really shine?
When we rebranded the company, we had a diverse cross-functional working team with an incredible sense of shared purpose. There is nothing like the clarity of a common dream to bring people from all disciplines together in a special way.

What is your golden rule at work?
Assume positive intent and always be grateful.

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