Industry NewsRed Roof Hosts Forum for Rebranded Women’s Leadership Program

Red Roof Hosts Forum for Rebranded Women’s Leadership Program

Red Roof reported that its 2023 SHE Leads Forum, held Sept. 28-29 at The Fairmont, Dallas, sold out in record time—a testimony to both the quality of the conference and the heightened focus on empowering women in hospitality. LODGING was on hand to cover this dynamic event, attended by hotel owners, GMs, developers, investors, and industry professionals.

Marina MacDonald, chief marketing officer at Red Roof, is the leader and founder of SHE, inspired by Red Roof, a program designed to Support, Help, and Elevate women. Speaking at Thursday’s Forum Opener, MacDonald cited the “growing emphasis on women’s professional development” in recent decades. “As part of a broader effort to close gender gaps in the workforce, we’ve all seen the online resources and communities emerging to support women’s professional growth and skill-building. And while hospitality is still a male-dominated industry, even that is evolving,” she asserted, providing stats from the AHLA Foundation’s 2023 “Women in Hospitality” report. “At the director level, women now occupy an equal number of positions as men. The disparity in representation increases as one moves up the organizational hierarchy. There are still 11.4 men at the level of partner or principal for every one woman at that level in hotel companies, but women have made gains since 2019. …. Your participation in our women’s initiatives is a big part of this evolution. Last year, at our women’s forum, we celebrated 31 percent of our properties owned or partially owned by women. This year, over 35 percent. We are moving the needle. And at the corporate level, 48 percent of our leadership positions, director and above, are held by female team members.”

Photo Credit: Red Roof

Complementing this evolution is a rebranding of Red Roof’s Forum on Leadership for Women Entrepreneurs, launched in 2016. “We said goodbye to a program that’s been with us for nearly a decade, and hello to SHE, inspired by Red Roof,” MacDonald announced. And while the annual gathering is a key element of the program, “You need more than an annual forum to support your evolution,” she said. “You need greater accessibility to resources that will help you on your journey. You need a network of like-minded women to elevate you and your work—Support, Help, Elevate. That’s what SHE stands for. And that’s what SHE will do.” The program’s content is based on four pillars of professional development for women hoteliers—Capital, Networking, Education, and Partners & Vendors—and speakers throughout the Forum addressed topics within these areas.

Forum moderator Dr. Lalia Rach, a hospitality industry consultant and former founding dean of the New York University hospitality program, discussed SHE’s sister program, RIDE (Road to Inclusivity and Diversity in Entrepreneurship), explaining, “SHE is intended to motivate; RIDE is intended to activate.” Rach then introduced Matthew Hostetler, Red Roof chief development officer, who related, “RIDE was a lot of years in the making in my mind.” As he and his wife, Kia, “grew together in life, she’s helped me understand more about things from being a minority and being a woman in the workplace, and then us being in a diverse, if you will, relationship. This sparked me to think about what happens in our workplace, not only with coworkers, but also in the business field and how people are treated, how they are not treated equally, and it became a passion.”

The Forum also brought attendees personal and professional guidance from keynote speaker Dorothy Dowling, founder of Introspect Strategic Advisor Services and former chief marketing officer at Best Western. Dowling’s “first and most important tip” was to “choose your partner wisely. They define your life. … HBR wrote an article several years ago [stating that among] women that are truly successful, two-thirds of them have an incredibly supportive partner in their life.” Second, she advised attendees to “hire your boss carefully. They define your career. … All of us have had a great boss. And as I got older, I became very selective.” Among many other bits of wisdom, Dowling offered, “For women, it’s always about trusting your inner voice. … We talked a lot about our personal mission; we talked a lot about our values. But your inner voice is actually calibrating hundreds of thousands of pieces of data of your life; it’s generated in your gut, your brain—all of these experiences that you have. … We always have to listen to that inner voice. And we have to be careful that we don’t let other voices drown it out, because that is our truth. … I think as women, we have a hard time with this.”

At the conclusion of the Forum, MacDonald noted that Red Roof had donated on attendees’ behalf to the American Cancer Society in recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

George Seli
George Seli
George Seli is the editor of LODGING.