Industry NewsBrandsDavidson Hospitality Unveils New Initiatives, Partnerships for DE&I Council

Davidson Hospitality Unveils New Initiatives, Partnerships for DE&I Council

Looking to build on a longstanding commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, Davidson Hospitality Group has unveiled some new initiatives and partnerships designed to reinforce its efforts. Kenny Imafidon, VP, operational excellence, recently detailed for LODGING the newly created DE&I Council he leads, the company’s continued investment in DE&I training programs and workshops, and a strategic partnership with the college-based National Society of Minorities in Hospitality (NSMH).

Rooted in the belief that “the hospitality industry thrives on diversity and the unique perspectives and talents that individuals from different backgrounds bring,” Davidson had previously taken “a holistic approach” designed “to capture a diverse cross-section of our community,” he said.

However, he continued, it became clear in recent years that a more robust response was needed to address realities that hampered the hiring and advancement of women and minorities in an industry where they made up the vast majority of team members but were sorely underrepresented in the C-suite.

“To help build confidence and forge a clear path for women,” he said, in 2019, Davidson created its Women in Leadership Development (WILD) group, a team member resource group for women in the corporate office that included monthly social and educational sessions meant to help them gain the mentorship, skills, and personalized development they need to progress in their careers. WILD’s objectives include investing in high-potential women through the American Hotel & Lodging Association’s ForWard Build and Elevate Program, increasing female team member engagement, building a spirit of collaboration, and increasing effectiveness of current female leaders to maximize their reach.

Following the May 2020 death of George Floyd, Davidson sought to redouble its DE&I efforts with the Council, what Imafidon termed “the lynchpin.” “At that time, we felt it was crucial to fortify the commitment we made with intentional and deliberate action,” he said. Calling the DE&I Council “the leading force in driving efforts within the organization,” he explained that the initiative can be broken down into three different segments: learning and development, recruitment, and community engagement. “We believe these are the things that will help move the needle,” he affirmed.

The Council, which is composed of 17 individuals from all areas of the organization, seeks to provide an advisory role from a diverse perspective, integrate initiatives to inspire, and create processes that will optimize accountability. Areas of focus include training and development, community outreach and engagement, and attraction and recruiting.

Imafidon particularly stressed the pivotal role the learning and development programs play in empowering team members with knowledge and tools to understand, respect, and appreciate the rich diversity within the hospitality workforce and world. Courses such as “Hiring for a Diverse Workforce,” “Understanding and Strategies for Tackling Unconscious Bias,” and “LGBTQIA+ Inclusion in the Workplace” encourage continuous learning and adaptation, which he called “a necessary part of breaking down biases and promoting acceptance.”

Although the DE&I Council was initially made up of corporate team members, he said the process of “trickling down” to the hotels in Davidson’s portfolio has begun, starting with The Camby, Autograph Collection, which has launched its own council.

Davidson has also reached out beyond its corporate offices and properties to the next generation of hoteliers through its partnership with NSMH, a leading professional organization dedicated to promoting diversity, inclusion, and career advancement for minorities in hospitality and related fields. The mutually beneficial alliance, he said, fosters inclusivity, drives innovation, and contributes to long-term success of both the organization and the diverse professionals it serves.

The student-led organization provides access to knowledge, tools, resources, and industry leaders for the benefit of its members. It also hosts an annual conference that provides numerous professional development and networking opportunities for attendees.

At this year’s conference, held at Cornell University, Davidson led a session about the role of and importance of third-party hospitality management companies such as Davidson in the hospitality arena. They also reached out to graduating students with a job fair booth, which enabled Davidson to interview students for future employment and compile a student resume bank. He mentioned, too, that there are plans to award a Davidson Scholarship.

Imafidon stressed the importance of DE&I to his company and the industry overall. “I’ve always been a strong believer in having a team made up of those with different backgrounds and experiences, bringing their talents and skillsets to elevate what we do within the hospitality space,” he said. “It’s mostly about being able to bring different values and points of view to how we operate and take care of our guests, creating a hospitable environment to offer our guests genuine love and care.”