SHE Leads Forum and 3 ways to kick off your personal growth
by Elaine Simon
Evolution has been a hallmark of Red Roof’s approach to women’s leadership and entrepreneurship, starting with its first Forum on Leadership for Women Entrepreneurs in 2016. Its current iteration, SHE, inspired by Red Roof, has expanded to a 360-degree program to Support, Help and Elevate women that includes the SHE Leads Forum and the SHE Leads website.
Marina MacDonald, Red Roof’s chief marketing officer as well as the leader and founder of SHE, inspired by Red Roof, kicked off this year’s SHE Leads Forum this month at the Fairmont Dallas in front of a sold-out crowd.
“Everything evolves—our industry and your place in it is evolving,” she said. “Our program needed to evolve as well. You need more than an annual forum to support your evolution. 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.”
MacDonald stressed that many of the speakers during the event would touch upon takeaways learned from past events: take risks and be comfortable being uncomfortable. Other topics included personal and professional development.
“These areas now serve as our four pillars of SHE, inspired by Red Roof. Entrepreneurship and ownership—this is core to who we are and combined with our sister program, RIDE, SHE will inspire you to take the next step in your entrepreneurial journey.
“Personal branding is all about our leadership style, owning it and being comfortable evolving it through your life. Wellness—this became a priority for women out of COVID when self-care as a selfless act became one of the biggest learnings. We take care of ourselves so we can take better care of those around us. Side hustles—we introduced this concept of side hustles as part of our women's initiative last year and I was shocked, literally shocked, at how many already had side hustles so as we rebranded [SHE], we thought, how do we honor that? So now we provide tools and access to best practices to help you develop your side hustle.”
During her opening session, MacDonald highlighted the work of Women in Hospitality Leadership Alliance, a consortium of 30 organizations advancing women in hospitality. Founded in 2021, the WHLA is led by founder Rachel Humphrey, former leader of AAHOA (including interim president and CEO) and principal and board director of DEI Advisors. Humphrey pointed out two things that attendees can do to help raise the profile of women in the hospitality industry.
“One is amplifying the messages of each of the organizations [in the Alliance],” she said. “We have found that there are a lot of organizations out in the industry doing great work, but it's very hard with limited resources, with limited human resources. For many of the leaders of these organizations, these are in fact their side hustles. They're just trying to help one another by showing up at events, by signing up for newsletters, working on LinkedIn, doing all of these things to help get that messaging out there.”
The second way the Women in Hospitality Leadership Alliance is working to advance women in the industry is by collaborating with conference organizers and sponsors to increase women representation on stage at conferences.
“That's really important for two reasons. One is conference attendees, of course, want to be hearing diverse thought, they want to be hearing from different speakers, and so that's a win-win for the conferences,” Humphrey said. “But it's also a win because to elevate each of our personal brands, we need to be seen as thought leaders. We need to be seen as subject matter experts, not just on [diversity, equity and inclusion] panels and women in leadership panels, which are important, but on what we actually do in the industry and having relevance and being known throughout the industry. It's a huge win, as women are advancing their careers, whether it's in ownership or corporate level. There's so many other ways that we can be involved in the industry to have a lot more recognition for some of our great female leaders.”
1. Set aside an hour each week to go to the Women in Hospitality Leadership Alliance website and click on the links of the member organizations. “Spend some time getting to know them. See if there are resources out there networking events, podcasts, webinars—so many different types of resources they’re offering, most of them for free,” Humphrey said.
2. Volunteer. “You'll find that volunteerism within the industry is also a great way to elevate your career and your brand [and] a lot of those organizations are also looking for volunteers,” she said. “Take some time to get to know them, see if there's a place [where you can] help. They are here to help all of us elevate so see what you can do.”
3. Focus on public speaking. “That is a really important part of everybody's progression and the thing we probably hear the most that holds people back from what they want to do,” Humphrey said. “[So commit] to your own development as public speakers. You don't have to start off with a conference of 6,000 people; you can start off with a staff meeting, a management meeting, speaking to a board, volunteering on a board where you may get speaking opportunities, your local Chamber [of Commerce], things like that. Let your management or your other team know that you want to be speaking. We need a lot more women to say yes, both when they're asked but also to affirmatively reach out and say, ‘You know what, this is something I would really like to do.’ So whatever way you can, make this the year that you say ‘yes’ to more public speaking.”
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