Lessons from legacy: empowering diversity in hospitality



This past year has presented us with innumerable tribulations, and just weeks ago, our industry suffered another profound loss with the sudden passing of Arne Sorenson. At times when the hospitality community looked to its leaders for direction, Arne stood tall as a beacon of visionary leadership and innovative contributions. His presence will be greatly missed. Arne drove remarkable advancements in the hospitality industry, promoting diversity, equal opportunity, and inclusivity. As we celebrate Arne’s life and dedication, let us look to the legacy and impact he has left and seek to further it in his memory.

I am challenging myself – and invite you to do the same – to reflect upon the lessons Arne and others have left us. Growing up, my parents dedicated themselves to provide me with resources and support so I could pursue opportunities that circumstances did not afford them. Both my mother and father operated small businesses; Dad ran a shoe repair store, and Mom helped start a small mortgage banking company. My mother was the matriarch of the family, demonstrating relentless drive and enthusiasm both in the workplace and at home. I draw inspiration from her daily as President & CEO of AAHOA, and I strive to direct our association to empower others with the opportunities toward leadership and success.

From my previous endeavors in the private industry and academia, I can attest to this fundamental principle: Leadership quality, company culture, and operational performance are strengthened by diversity. AAHOA is committed to elevating the future generations of leaders in the hospitality industry, and I am proud of our efforts to promote and program conferences and events specifically for women hoteliers and young professional hoteliers. When I joined AAHOA, Jagruti Panwala was the first woman to serve as Chair of the AAHOA Board of Directors, and current Executive Vice President & COO Rachel Humphrey was the Interim President & CEO. Internally, women comprise more than half of the AAHOA team and lead the association in six leadership roles.

Recently, the Castell Project, Inc. released its third annual report on women in hospitality industry leadership, showing upward trends in our industry’s performance on the gender diversity in executive and leadership roles. As our industry works to recover from the pandemic, we will find strength in diversity and success in promoting leadership-opportunity initiative programs to empower members of the hospitality community to lead confidently in any context, at AAHOA and beyond.


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