A bold, new initiative is under way across the U.S. to create a pathway for Black and Hispanic students to become future leaders in hospitality, one of the world’s largest industries.
The Alliance for Hospitality Equity and Diversity (AHED), led by the Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management at Florida International University (FIU), is on a mission to create a nationwide recruitment infrastructure to increase diversity among students at member universities. Targeting university recruitment is the first of many initiatives that will address the diversity pipeline that leads to hospitality C-suite opportunities. The Alliance brings together higher learning institutions and top hospitality brands and associations.
Black and Hispanic students represent less than one percent of all industry CEOs and presidents, and diverse student enrollments are down at almost all hospitality four-year colleges and universities. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, only 5.8 percent of U.S. hospitality students identified as Black or African American. Additionally, women comprise less than 12 percent of hospitality leadership positions.
AHED serves as an immediate call for leading hospitality companies to diversify at the highest levels of leadership. The Alliance, through its council, will offer strategies and implement concrete solutions to enhance pathways for Black and Hispanic hospitality management students to become leaders.
“Our alliance is focused specifically on bridging the diversity gap confronting our industry, we plan to create social equity by channeling directed resources to lower socio-economic Black and Hispanic students. We plan to form equitable and broad access to higher education that leads to executive leadership positions,” said Brian Barker, FIU Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management Endowed Diversity, Equity and Inclusion professor and director of the Alliance.
As the leading minority-serving institution in the country and a Top 10 hospitality school, FIU Chaplin School is initiating the establishment of the Alliance and will oversee the group’s national efforts. The Alliance is made up of universities designated as Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU), Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSI), and other four-year hospitality universities. Organizations represented in the DE&I Alliance Council include: Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits, Hilton, Marriott International, Bacardi North America, Bloomin’ Brands, JLL, CBRE, Castell Project, NABHOOD, AHLA Foundation, Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau, and The Advanced Leadership Institute. These organizations have pledged their support and commitment to the Alliance.
Barker, the nation’s first endowed DE&I professor of hospitality, is building the groundwork to support and encourage Black and Hispanic students towards executive leadership and professorships in hospitality, which is part of the school’s ongoing commitment to addressing inequalities in the hospitality industry.
“In order to effect positive change and create a level playing field for our future hospitality leaders, it is crucial that we address this ongoing challenge to leadership potential in the hospitality industry with intentionality and purpose by reaching out to those students with less access to financial, educational and social resources,” said Michael Cheng, dean of FIU’s Chaplin School.
The Alliance announcement comes as the International Council on Hotel, Restaurant, and Institutional Education (ICHRIE) will meet Aug. 3 – 6 in Washington D.C. One of the areas the conference will focus on is the enrollment decline in four-year hospitality programs, which have been trending down over the last five years, with Black and Hispanic enrollments at disproportionately lower rates. Income disparities, lack of upward mobility, and lack of promotions are contributing factors leading to Black and Hispanic students electing not to pursue a hospitality education and careers. These factors further compound existing challenges these students face, such as lack of institutional commitment, academic preparedness, role models, and financial aid.
The Alliance and its council members will invite ICHRIE members, other higher-learning institution academics, industry professionals, and hospitality association leaders to join.
To learn more about the Alliance, please visit the AHED alliance website for more details.