Industry legends David Kong, Rachel Humphrey, and Lan Elliott have joined forces to launch DEI Advisors, an Arizona-based non-profit organization to support diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in hospitality. The mission of newly-formed DEI Advisors is to empower personal success and help women and minorities that “continue to face a broken rung at the upper levels of management.”
DEI Advisors is focused on gathering learnings and advice from accomplished leaders to help and empower individuals to be in the driver's seat of their own journey, where they get to truly help create and advocate for their own destiny.
"Our industry is diverse, however, when you envision the organizational hierarchy as a triangle, this diversity is mainly at the bottom layers of the triangle. Not only is it not right, but it also stifles innovation and is simply not good for business. To continue to advance the industry, we need more diversity, equity, and inclusion (“DEI”) at all upper executive levels of the hospitality industry," says DEI Advisors founder and principal David Kong.
The first step includes the launch of 12 videos, full of practical advice to help individuals:
Overcome conscious and unconscious bias
Learn to use assertive tactics when seeking promotions
Triumph over structural barriers
Establish networks, advocates, and mentors
Find strength and resilience in the face of adversity
Manage work-life balance
Among the first episodes are interviews with heavy-hitters: Heather McCrory, CEO of Accor Hotels North and Central America; Geoff Ballotti, President & CEO of Wyndham Hotels & Resorts; Renie Cavallari, best-selling author of HEADTRASH, accomplished speaker and executive coach, and entrepreneur.
David, Rachel and, Lan are experts in their own right, with David having just retired as the President and CEO of Best Western, where he grew the company from one brand to 18 distinct brands in every chain scale segment. Rachel is a former trial attorney who recently served as the EVP and COO of AAHOA, the nation's largest and most influential hotel owners association, where she was often recognized as one of the most “Influential Women in Hospitality” with numerous awards for her leadership and service to the industry. Lan co-founded Acacia Hospitality LLC, a hotel investment company, which owns interests in five city-center convention hotels; over the course of her career, she’s overseen billions of dollars in hotel transactions. We chatted with the three of them about this exciting new venture.
Congratulations on the new non-profit and the launch of these insightful videos. How did you pick people to interview?
There are so many leaders doing amazing work in hospitality, who also have interesting personal stories. We wanted to create a platform for their learnings. For example, Heather is the first female CEO of a major hotel company, who shares lessons she learned on the way up. Geoff has had a lifelong dedication to helping women and minorities succeed; in 2022, under his leadership Wyndham was recognized by Forbes, Newsweek, DiversityInc, and Human Rights Campaign for its ESG and DEI efforts. With Renie, we wanted an expert to discuss useful and beneficial strategies on overcoming the ugly negative voices in our heads that inhibit our potential, which is also the basis of her best-selling book, HEADTRASH: The Leading Killer of Human Potential.
What are some key takeaways from these episodes?
Heather gives strategies for women to broaden their knowledge base and skill set, also how to pay it forward and help other women.
Geoff shares insights on how to take charge and ask for a seat at the table, he also gives practical advice on how to find and interact with a mentor.
Renie offers up very useful tips on changing the mindset from being negative to being constructive.
Wow, these all sound amazing! Where can people find the videos and subscribe?
We plan to release interviews on a weekly basis with links on our website. Please join the DEI Advisors Facebook Group, subscribe to the DEI Advisors YouTube Channel, and follow the DEI Advisors LinkedIn Page.
We have 12 completed already, other interviews include: Mark Hoplamazian, President & CEO of Hyatt Hotels Corporation; Mary Beth Cutshall Founder & Managing Partner, Amara Capital; Jagruti Panwala, President & CEO, Wealth Protection Strategies; 2019-2020 AAHOA Chair; Melissa Maher, Senior Leader in Travel + Tech, Inclusion & Diversity Change Agent; Sylvia Douglin, Founder and Principal, Refined Training & Consulting; Clara Carter, President, and Founder MCCSN; Peggy Berg, Founder, Castell, an AHLA Foundation Project, and Tracy Prigmore, Founder TLT Solutions and She Has a Deal.
This week you'll be spreading the word about DEI Advisors in person at the 44th Annual NYU International Hospitality Industry Investment Conference, where David will also be honored at the UJA Hospitality Division Event on Tuesday, June 7, congrats! As many of our readers are heading to the NYU conference, we're curious what are your favorite things to do in the Big Apple?
What is your favorite thing to do in NYC? Broadway shows
NYC restaurant you love? Nobu and Joe's Home of Soup Dumplings
Favorite song about NYC? New York State of Mind
In NYC or at home, what time do you get up/ what is your normal morning routine? Usually early to get in a workout, then I keep myself busy with the news, WSJ, and whatever is on the list from my wife.
What podcast do you like best? How He Built This
Last book you read? HEADTRASH by Rene Cavallari
What is your favorite thing to do in NYC? Walking, I just love to walk around NY
NYC restaurant you love? I love any I am at with other people - family, friends, colleagues - it's the people who make it the best!
Favorite song about NYC? Empire State of Mind
In NYC or at home, what time do you get up/ what is your normal morning routine? Too early! Breakfast and espresso, a walk, taking care of things for my family, getting ready for my day
What podcast do you like best? Glenn and Anthony on No Vacancy - it keeps me up to date on all things hospitality
Last book you read? Becoming by Michelle Obama
What is your favorite thing to do in NYC? Discover new restaurants
NYC restaurant you love? Gabriel Kreuther - my foodie cousin recommended it, and it’s amazing: gorgeous room, inspired food, and impeccable service
Favorite song about NYC? Alicia Keys’ Empire State of Mind
In NYC or at home, what time do you get up/ what is your normal morning routine? I’m not a morning person! On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, the first thing I do is teach an online Jazzercise class - that really gets my day off to a great start! Followed by a giant latte.
What podcast do you like best? WSJ Secrets of Wealthy Women
Last book you read? The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip William