Speakers at the recent Independent Lodging Congress recognize there’s a need for more diversity and inclusion inside and outside of the hotel industry, and employers need to go above and beyond to make change.
LOS ANGELES—The hotel industry has more work to do when it comes to diversity and inclusion, which starts with creating a seat at the table for people of all backgrounds.
During the “Diversity and inclusion from every angle” panel at the Independent Lodging Congress, Christine De La Rosa, co-founder and CEO of The People’s Dispensary, said “it’s not enough to hire black and brown folks … LGBTQ folks.”
“You actually have to have people in your C-suite and in your management team that are culturally competent,” she said. “It is so important because I see a lot of companies in my space and also in other spaces where they're like, ‘Oh, we'll just have some people (of) color up (on stage) and we'll take pictures of them.’ ... That doesn't fly.
“It didn't fly when I was going to college in the ’90s, it doesn't fly now, and it really is important. If you don't have that person in your team that can help you with cultural competency, find them yesterday.”
Damon Lawrence, CEO of Homage Hospitality, said it’s a misconception that diverse talent in the hotel industry doesn’t exist.
When it comes to designing a hotel, Lawrence said, “there’s not a diverse group of designers in hospitality because there aren’t a diverse group of owners in hospitality.”
Homage is working on a project and is commissioning five artists for it to give people the opportunity to build their portfolios.
“If that doesn’t happen, who is going to give them that shot?” he said. “The talent exists. The talent is out there. I get emails daily, people opting into work for our company all over the country. They are just not getting the opportunity or they’re at a job they just aren’t happy at.”
Diversify the C-suite
To be more diversified and inclusive, companies need to start at the top by creating a culture that trickles down from the C-suite, Lawrence said.
“If you create that culture within the company, people are going to want to work there,” he said. “You’re going to have an easier time finding the talent. But if you don’t, I’m not going to work there.”
Lawrence said he’s worked for many different hotel brands, and diversity isn’t always reflected at all of them.
“If you create that environment, people will come,” he said.
When asked how people in positions of higher power can make changes and adjust what’s happening in society, Lawrence said higher ups should “invest in people of color.”
“I'm inspired by a lot of great entrepreneurs in the industry,” he said. “Unfortunately, most of them are white men. I'm excited to see the future look a lot more diverse.”
He added he would like the see more women involved in big industry conferences such as the Americas Lodging Investment Summit and to see more diversity reflected across the board.
“I’m excited to help mentor,” he said. “I am excited to see the creativity that actually comes with more diversity.”