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Tourism Diversity Matters Hires Interim CEO

Graphic featuring photo of Hattie Hill on left and Tourism Diversity Matters logo on the right.
Photo of Hattie Hill standing in a red dress.
Hattie Hill

Tourism Diversity Matters (TDM), a nonprofit organization founded to address systemic inequities within the travel and tourism industry, named Hattie Hill as its interim CEO after a leadership shakeup sparked by toxic workplace allegations.

Hill, a published author, entrepreneur and consultant, has more than three decades of experience developing DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) strategies for a variety nonprofits, corporations and foundations, and earlier in her career worked for meetings industry organizations such as MPI and the Dallas CVB (now Visit Dallas).  

Hill enters the interim position in the wake of toxic workplace allegations revealed in an open letter targeting former Executive Director Greg DeShields from six women of color who either worked for the nonprofit or were closely associated with it. The open letter effort was led by Dr. Brandi Baldwin, former TDM chairman of the board.  

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

The resulting scrutiny resulted in the February 18 termination of DeShields and the resignation of founding CEO Mike Gamble, who was accused in the open letter of not being proactive in adequately resolving the complaints.

Moving Forward After Allegations

“When I reviewed everything that [TDM board chair] Adam [Burke] and the board did, I thought they handled the disruption—it was really an HR disruption,” Hill said. “So, me coming in behind that, my goal was just to focus forward and to really help TDM be productive and go back to its mission.

“One was just to make sure our board reaffirmed that they were committed to this work, and there's been a full commitment from the board that we want to continue to move forward,” Hill continued. “And then the second thing is the board reached out to bring me in because I'm a seasoned DEI leader. I've spent my entire career in this work, as well as in the industries that are represented. I'm past chair of Visit Dallas, so I understand the business case. And honestly, when I looked at the board of directors of this group, they're all people I've known and respected for so many years, so I know that if they feel like they want to stay and contribute to this work, then I was willing to jump in and help them support it for all of the industries involved.”

As interim CEO, Hill will be responsible for duties such as operations, programming, marketing, stakeholder relations and business development, according to TDM, which said she will also work with the nonprofit’s chair, board and team members to strengthen its governance framework, growth strategies and help facilitate the search for a long-term CEO.

DEI Challenges

Hill takes the reins of TDM as the concept of DEI is under fire in many quarters, and especially in the political realm.

“I think now, more than ever, that the vital work of TDM is important because there is an attack,” Hill said. “We have to go back to our business case in travel, tourism, hospitality, meetings. We need diversity of thought and ideas. We need experiences for our customers so they continue to come back, and you've noticed a lot of the impact on the meetings industry when [states] would come out and be against diversity, and groups wouldn't go there. That’s really important, and creating culturally competent leaders is more important than ever before.”

Plans for the Immediate Future

Hill said that like many new leaders, her first task will be to embark on a listening tour with key stakeholders.

“I'm doing listening sessions, starting with the board and other stakeholders, to understand what some of the challenges are and also understand what the stakeholders need,” she said. “And then I want to take that fact-based learning and go out and address the strategy. I've done this type of work many times, so it's strategy, and then from strategy, you move into structure—how does the organization need to be structured to go forward?—and then we talk about who's going to do it. TDM has a wonderful collective impact model that is originally a part of the mission, so I want to bring together the stakeholders and let me hear from them how they think this organization can contribute to the industry going forward.”

Hill wants to let the industry know that TDM, and DEI, are here to stay, and we all should stay the course.

“For any of our CEOs and leaders that are sort of shaken by all the noise, this is what I would tell you,” Hill said. “First of all, see TDM as an ally and utilize the organization's assessment tool to really understand where they are within their organization, and then let us help them optimize their strategy, because you do have to take a different look at your strategy based on the noise. At the end of the day, this is really around driving business growth. You need to attract and retain talent and make sure that we have these customized cultural experiences for all the different groups that come to meetings. And then focus on the future.”

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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.