Red Roof, an award-winning leader in the lodging industry, hosted over 200 attendees at its 2023 SHE Leads Forum in Dallas. From sound baths to sound advice and student scholarships, attendees – mostly women in the hospitality industry – left the Forum inspired and armed with insightful information and tools to support, help and elevate themselves for future success.
This year's SHE Leads Forum was based on SHE, inspired by Red Roof'sSM pillars of ownership, personal branding, and wellness brought to life, with support from HBO, through interviews, a stellar lineup of speakers and workshops, networking, and even a meditative sound bath. Program leader and founder, Red Roof Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Marina MacDonald opened the Forum celebrating the growth of women in the hospitality industry and at Red Roof.
"In recent decades, there has been an evolution, a growing emphasis on women's professional development as part of broader efforts to close gender gaps in the workforce. And while hospitality is still a male-dominated industry, even that is evolving," said MacDonald. "Last year, we celebrated 31 percent of our Red Roof properties owned or partially owned by women, and this year, that number is over 35 percent, thanks in large part to participation in Red Roof women initiatives throughout the year."
The Forum also celebrated the future of the hospitality industry by presenting seven deserving students with 'SHE Leads Forum Student Scholarships,' sponsored by DISH Business. Each student was selected by their school, including Cornell University, Florida International University, Howard University and University of Nevada, Las Vegas, to attend the SHE Leads Forum free of charge.
Dr. Lalia Rach, Founder and Partner, Rach Enterprises and best-selling author of Managing the Book on You! Rewriting Your Leadership Story, moderated the two-day Forum. "Red Roof's 'SHE Leads Forum' is in a class all its own! It is jam-packed with interesting speakers, iconic women leaders sharing information, and a passionate leader, Red Roof CMO Marina MacDonald," said Rach. "The biggest difference is the engagement of the attendees, all successful professionals, who want to learn, be inspired, meet new people and connect with those they know. The energy, the desire to be more, is so inspiring."
Keynote speaker Dorothy Dowling, Founder of Introspect Strategic Advisor Services, helped motivate the crowd with her inspirational thoughts. "Women's leadership events such as 'SHE Leads' are like having a trusty guide on our journey, whether it's climbing the corporate ladder or venturing into the world of hotel ownership. They're not just about empowerment, they're about real-world guidance. These events let us tap into the experiences of women who've been there, done that. It's like getting insider tips for navigating our own unique paths," said Dowling.
Through a session on Red Roof's Strategic Initiatives, with Red Roof Director of Strategic Initiatives Lina Patel and Chief Development Officer Matthew Hostetler, attendees also learned about SHE, inspired by Red Roof's sister program, RIDE with Red RoofSM. While SHE is intended to motivate, RIDE is intended to activate — providing access to capital, educational resources and the connections needed to build a strong network of industry partners.
SHE Leads attendees also heard from experts offering business advice. Jyoti Sarolia, President and CEO at Ellis Hospitality gave an informational talk about how attendees can fine tune their lending skills and be ready to finance their next project. Christine Taylor, Claims Consultant & Strategic Insurance Partner at Lockton Companies, spoke about the state of the property and casualty insurance market, educating attendees on the importance of insuring their assets and understanding risk.
Listening to and interacting with so many enthusiastic and seasoned business owners left many inspired. AAHOA EVP of Communications and Chief Strategy Officer Heather Carnes, who also spoke at the Forum, was struck by the collective fearlessness in the room. "When I looked at the strength, intelligence and the daring nature of the women in attendance, I know that the future of the hospitality industry is in great hands. The can-do attitude and entrepreneurial spirit in the room was palpable and contagious. I left feeling like, in conjunction with this amazing group, I could change the world," said Carnes.
Forum speaker Marti Winer, Executive Leader and General Manager of Casa Bonita said, "Programs like SHE Leads are crucial to women in hospitality and beyond for three important reasons. The first is that they provide a forum for conversation. They are a safe space to meet, explore and create the critical relationships that advance careers. The second reason is education. These forums provide much needed and customized learning opportunities for women that are largely unavailable elsewhere. The final reason is innovation. Dedicated time away from the day-to-day allows for more focused thinking, processing and collaborating. As a result, great ideas are born and given space to germinate."
The annual SHE Leads Forum kicks off a year-long infusion of inspiration for women primarily in hospitality that facilitates sharing professional experiences and provides collaborative learning opportunities to continue to foster change in the industry. 'SHE' provides thought leadership, access to resources, and serves as a platform, sharing content and best practices through a dedicated website.