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Blog Article

2024 AHLA ForWard Conference

May 08, 2024

Davidson Hospitality Group was proud to participate in the 2024 ForWard Annual Conference, hosted by the AHLA Foundation last week at the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place in Chicago. This event aims to empower women in the hospitality industry, providing a space for attendees to learn from industry leaders, participate in growth-oriented breakout sessions and expand their professional networks.

Davidson’s Women in Leadership Development (WILD) program, launched in 2019, focuses on empowering women through mentorship, skill-building, and development opportunities. WILD has held numerous professional and social sessions to enhance leadership skills and foster team connections. This year, 25 leaders (the largest representation yet) were thrilled to participate in this event, incorporating women from corporate as well as hotels and resorts that we operate. We at Davidson Hospitality Group pride ourselves in fostering a workplace that empowers female leaders to shine and be their best selves at work and beyond. Read below for key takeaways from our team members about this year’s ForWard Conference:

Our Key Takeaways

I was running through my notes, and I noticed that 2 separate speakers spoke about failure and challenges in the same way. Shola said it best though. Be the buffalo, not the cow. The cow tries to outrun the storm which is never successful and prolongs the storm. The buffalo perseveres and grows stronger from outlasting the storm and doesn’t stay in the storm for very long. I don’t know who said it, but one of the ladies in the Breaking Boundaries panel said “fail fast.” Lean into failure and learn from it and then jump right back in. Don’t be afraid. – Shannon Bader, HRIS Analyst, Davidson Hospitality Group

The ForWard Conference is always inspirational and filled with great learning opportunities. Being able to spend three days with 25 of our amazing female leaders was the highlight of the conference. Investing in our team is at the heart of Davidson’s culture and ForWard provides us with a great learning and development platform. The keynote speaker, Shola Richards challenged us to Reimagine Resilience and to surround ourselves with “Someone who will feel with you,” “Someone who will LAUGH with you” and “Someone who will STAND with you.”  I’m so proud to work with a company that is filled with people who exemplify these characteristics. – Crystal Beasley, Chief Administrative Officer & General Counsel, Davidson Hospitality Group

I loved Shola Richards presentation, advocating changing how we treat each other at work. Specifically, I liked the idea he explained that all bad behavior is an unskilled expression of an unmet need. It also resonated with me his analogy that no single raindrop thinks it caused the flood, and how that can be applied to the need to challenge the part we play in workplace culture. – Toni Cabrera, Strategic Operations Manager, Davidson Hospitality Group

The only people that are upset with you for establishing boundaries are the people that benefited from you not having boundaries in the first place. The boardroom should look like the breakroom. – Jenny Carr, Corporate Director, Food & Beverage, Davidson Hospitality Group

The ForWard conference helped shed light on opportunities I can lean into within my own role today. I learned how to turn some of my self doubt into confidence and help build up others along the way. As usual anytime I get to spend time with other women Davidson leaders, I’m always inspired and better for it. – Kalynn Dodd, Team Member Experience (TMX) Manager, Davidson Hospitality Group

It was so great to spend time with Davidson team members who are not usually in my day-to-day orbit. I felt invigorated and inspired from being around them! Additionally, there were several moments from the panel discussions and breakouts that I thought were valuable. One in particular that resonated with me was “The Art of Negotiation: Finding Your Everyday Superpower” with S. Lucia Kanter St. Amour. I loved Lucia’s energy and overarching message: we inherently as humans already know how to negotiate. It’s a matter of refining skills, creating trust, and building rapport. And practice! – Carrie Drost, Vice President, Communications & Social Media, Davidson Hospitality Group

When doubt arises remember to look at how far you’ve come instead of how far away you are. – Ashley Glass, Area Director of Revenue Management, Pivot

“Just Today” from Shola’s presentation. My new mantra for my property is Just today, lean into the power of going together. – Breanna Jones, Area Director of Human Resources, Hilton Alexandria Mark Center

UNHUSTLE – The importance of disconnecting and the impact that stress has on our daily lives. I will be striving to try to disconnect more even if it is just a walk in the sunshine during my lunch break ? – Tonya Jordan, Director of Human Resources, The Park Vista, A DoubleTree Hotel

The ForWard Conference was an amazing experience – showing how powerful women coming together to inspire and support each other can be. At our Resort, we have a W.I.L.D. (Women in Leadership at Davidson) group that allows us to showcase our strong, female leadership team and create a workplace that empowers us to shine and be our authentic selves. I’m excited to share all of the ForWard conference sessions and panels with the W.I.L.D. ladies, including guest speaker Shola Richards’ powerful message, “If you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go together.” – Genevieve Kelley, Director of Finance, Margaritaville Hollywood Beach Resort

Right the narrative.  Take up space with your story. Exercise self-kindness. Intentionality. – Barbara Lippert Readey, General Manager, Don CeSar and Beach House Suites

On the final day, author, influencer, and podcast host Liz Plank was on the mainstage in a panel discussion regarding Female empowerment, but one thing she noted that resonated with me was her perspective on equality. She said, equality isn’t about treating everyone the same. True equality relates to equality of outcome: treating everyone differently to give equal opportunity to achieve the same outcome based on the individual’s needs. She gave an example about having a race. If we provide every participant with the same running shoes, some will say that’s fair, but when you really think about equality, how would those running shoes help someone who really needed a wheelchair to complete the race, or a guide to see the course. I had never thought about equality in terms of equal opportunity to achieve the same outcome, and that really resonated with me that we should approach an equal workplace and society by meeting people with their individual needs, and not a one-size-fits-all approach to equality. – Megan Maul, Senior Director of Openings & Transitions, Davidson Hospitality Group

I thoroughly enjoyed the conference and while there were many tidbits of inspiration that I brought home with me – the one thing that resonated the most was that I currently have “zero life balance” and that it is likely affecting my productivity and creativity in a negative manner.  My goal is to find ways to unplug and refresh my mind – sort of clear out my cache so to speak, so that I have room for things that make my heart smile and that are calming to my soul.  While I love my job and the work the that I do, and I absolutely love my team – I know that my personal well being is key to ensuring that I bring 100% of my creative skill set to the table in order to make us successful. – Sharon Rinehart, Director of Sales & Marketing, The Park Vista, A DoubleTree Hotel

The highlight for me was strengthening the network within our Davidson family, having and nurturing connections with individuals you collaborate will make us even more successful. The workshop I enjoyed was Unhustle because all of us need a way to rest our minds and enrich our body and spirit to fuel creativity and be more productive. I liked when the speaker walked us through the 7 types of rest. Spiritual, Physical, Emotional, Mental, Social, Creative, Sensory. Though I feel that I do practice a few of these, I’m going to strengthen Sensory “Blue Mind.” – Marisa Serrano, Senior Vice President, Operations, Davidson Hotels

My biggest takeaways is that you don’t have to have a big title to be a leader.  No matter where you are or what you do: lean in, use your voice and be an example of what you want to see in the workplace and the world. Social media is filled with examples of bad female relationships: pettiness and shallow, critical comments.  Let’s re-frame that view and be an example of the good ways we can support each other. – Beth Smith, Vice President, Risk Management, Davidson Hospitality Group

My key takeaway as a senior leader here at Hyatt Centric Mag Mile, was the inspiration other leaders at Davidson gave me just by being in the same room. It’s rare for us to meet with such leaders and executives from Davidson making this week more enjoyable by getting to know them personally and professionally. Loved it! – Megan Smith, Senior Sales Manager, Hyatt Centric Chicago Magnificent Mile

The connections that the ForWard conference offers are invaluable and can be life changing. It’s always a good event when you leave it with so much inspiration, life reminders, and “AHA” moments that you feel it for days. To hear it and feel it thought the eyes of the other 24 Davidson women filled me with so much joy. In today’s busy world, we sometimes forget to slow down and make time for ourselves but also for those closest around us. Davidson has amazing women and men leaders within its organization and to be able to represent them at this conference is always a privilege. – Michele Smith, Senior Vice President, Accounting & Finance, Davidson Hospitality Group

I am so honored to have attended the ForWard Conference for two consecutive years, and I am looking forward to attending it again. Moreover, I am planning to invite some more female leaders to join us next time – Of course, if my budget allows…I truly appreciate all the general sessions, and I find the conversations and the smart questions asked by the host very engaging. Just like many other ladies, I didn’t stand up on the last day when the host asked who had a degree in hospitality. Despite not having a degree in hospitality, I have worked in the industry for 22 years, from China to the US. I have learned that we are never fully prepared for the next challenge, promotion, role, or project. However, having faith, patience, a desire to learn, and the trust of our managers and teammates is essential for our growth and development. – Joyce Yun, General Manager, Hotel Zephyr