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Toxic Workplace Allegations: DeShields Terminated by Tourism Diversity Matters; Founder Gamble Steps Down

Graphic of Greg DeShields with text reading DeShields Terminated By Tourism Diversity Matters on the right.

Tourism Diversity Matters (TDM) terminated the employment of Executive Director Greg DeShields after accusations of a toxic work environment, most notably among women of color, at the tourism and hospitality DEI-advocacy organization. The allegations came to light in a report in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

TDM Interim Board Chair Adam Burke, who is president and CEO of Los Angeles Tourism, confirmed that DeShields was “terminated with immediate effect” as a result of an independent investigation retained by the Board and following a February 16 board meeting it unanimously decided to terminate DeShields’ employment and notified him of such February 18. Founding CEO Mike Gamble voluntarily stepped down.

TDM released a statement detailing the situation and both moves.

[Read the official TDM Leadership Changes Announcement]

“...Mr. DeShields’ employment with TDM has been terminated effective immediately,” the statement read. “While we conduct a nationwide, independent search for Mr. DeShields’ successor, TDM’s founding CEO Mike Gamble has elected to step down from that role as we identify an interim CEO to lead the organization through this transition.”

The Philadelphia Inquirer story reported that eight women had signed an open letter accusing DeShields of engaging in disrespectful and bullying behavior both at TDM as well as during his tenure at the Philadelphia CVB.

“Despite claiming to exemplify the principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion, regrettably, both entities have failed to uphold these values and have participated in enabling Greg’s behavior,” the letter stated. 

The open letter effort was led by Dr. Brandi Baldwin, former TDM Chairman of the Board. She alleged that in 2023 she addressed allegations of a hostile work environment created by DeShields with TDM founder Mike Gamble, who is also a co-founder of executive search firm Search Wide Global, was SVP of sales and marketing for the Philadelphia CVB and has held various leadership roles with Marriott International.

The letter, which Baldwin first delivered to the TDM Board January 15, included alleged examples of inappropriate management behavior from interns, staff members and consultants who worked with TDM and the Philadelphia CVB going back to 2014, and included a submission from Zoe Moore, a noted meetings industry DEI expert who co-authored a series of DEI-focused columns with DeShields for Meetings Today.

In the letter, Baldwin said that Gamble acknowledged the issue and had spoken to DeShields about it but refused to take any official action to address the situation.

The Board of Directors of TDM is a comprised of some of the most powerful leaders in the meetings and events industry, including the heads of major industry associations such as PCMA, MPI, Destinations International, U.S. Travel Association, EIC and ASAE, as well as leaders of many top DMOs.

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About the author
Tyler Davidson | Editor, Vice President & Chief Content Director

Tyler Davidson has covered the travel trade for nearly 30 years. In his current role with Meetings Today, Tyler leads the editorial team on its mission to provide the best meetings content in the industry.