Colleges Band Together for Women’s Leadership Hospitality Course

‘From the Classroom to the Boardroom: Leadership For Women in Hospitality’ course expands to three campuses Fall 2021

By Melissa Gill

The Women’s Hospitality Initiative (WHI) and Culinary Institute of America (CIA) came together to build an academic partnership supporting a new course that aims to help break the glass ceiling for women leadership roles in hospitality careers. Recently, they announced an expansion on their partnership welcoming the San Diego State University (SDSU) L. Robert Payne School of Hospitality and Tourism Management, which now offers the class beginning Fall 2021. This college joins their list of existing partnerships with Florida International University (FIU) Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) Harrah College of Hospitality.


Many Leadership positions in the hospitality industry in the US are still predominantly held by men. According to Castell Project’s research, with support from the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) Foundation, the “Women in Hospitality Leadership Report,” says that the overall odds of a woman reaching the executive leadership tier, such as CEO or president, was generally 1 woman to 5.7 men at the end of 2020. The report says that although women tend to be the majority in fields like Human Resources, the number of women leadership representation is lacking in other departments such as investment/development and technology/information.

Fun Fact: The Women’s Hospitality Initiative was Co-Founded by Elizabeth Blau (Blau & Associates), Mary Choi Kelly (MCK Leadership Talent Group) and Jolene Mannina (SecretBurger).


What is the Women’s Leadership Course?

“From the Classroom to the Boardroom: Leadership for Women In Hospitality” is a three creditbachelor’s degree levelcourse analyzing women leadership in the hospitality and restaurant industries. The course includes a rotating series of guest speakers, expands students’ knowledge on business and leadership skills, provides strategies on mitigating unconscious bias and other obstacles that stifle women from upward mobility in leadership and ownership positions in the hospitality field. The course’s goal is to give students a chance to experience “face-to-face conversations with women making transformative contributions to their industries” and designed to help pave a path for more future women leaders.

Fun Fact: QS Top University has consistently ranked The UNLV Harrah College of Hospitality as one of the top hospitality programs in the world as number one in the nation and as number two worldwide.


Some of the topics that guest speakers will cover from the perspective of women leaders  include leadership branding, emotional intelligence, navigating politics and power dynamics, building relationships, networks and allies, and building an inclusive team culture.

The course will be taught by Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management Associate Professor Lisa Cain at all three campuses. Cain is the author of two hospitality textbooks. She is also the associate editor for International Journal of Consumer Studies and assistant editor for the International Hospitality Review. Additionally, she serves as the President of the Southeast, Central and South American section of the International Council on Hotel Restaurants and Institutional Education.  The class at SDSU and UNLV will be a joint virtual format and in a virtualformat at FIU.

When did the Leadership Course Start?

The women’s leadership program first launched at UNLV Harrah College of Hospitality and the CIA in Fall 2020. Then, FlU Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management added the program to their curriculum in Spring 2021. SDSU L. Robert Payne School of Hospitality and Tourism Management joined the growing list this Fall 2021. For the first time ever, the course is now offered at all three campuses. 

This course is a huge step towards building a more inclusive workspace featuring more women in higher levels of the corporate realm with the chance to be heard and make more progressive changes in the hospitality industry.


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