PHL Diversity Podcasts

Welcome listeners,

PHL Diversity Podcasts are brief insights, views and opinions from tourism and hospitality leaders, meeting/convention professionals and academics regarding specific hospitality, tourism and diversity topics.

Join us to learn more about strategies and initiatives to raise Philadelphia’s image as a premier diverse/multicultural destination for meetings and convention.

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Episode 20

PHL Diversity is excited to speak with Brennan Tomasetti, Co-Owner of Civetta Property Group which recently opened The Guild House Hotel. The Guild House Hotel, a national historic landmark, is an elegant, lovingly refurbished rowhome in the heart of Philadelphia, and was once the headquarters for one of the oldest and most remarkable women’s organizations in the country, the New Century Guild. Each room in the hotel pays special homage to the ladies of the Guild.

Brennan has been investing in real estate with her husband Mike since 1999. They have acquired over 70 properties, developing both single family and multi-unit buildings. Brennan is a board member of the New Century Trust.

Episode 19

PHL Diversity is excited to speak with Dr. Jen O’Ryan, Founder of Double Tall Consulting. Dr. O’Ryan is an Inclusion and Diversity strategist focused on helping people build authentically inclusive and welcoming companies.

Leveraging two decades of experience in organizational change and a PHD in human behavior, she understands the challenges leaders can face in developing a culture of inclusiveness for employees, clients, and consumers. A data geek at heart, Jen has an extensive understanding of how people interact with technology, with each other, and with change.

Dr. O’Ryan is also the author of “Inclusive AF: A Field Guide for Accidental Diversity Experts” — a three-part roadmap for anyone implementing inclusion and diversity initiatives in the workplace.

This is a MUST LISTEN podcast addressing organizational culture changes, why inclusion and diversity is so important.

Episode 18

PHL Diversity is excited to speak with Hilina D. Ajakaiye, Executive Vice President of the Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau and Founder & Executive Director of R.I.S.E. Women’s Leadership Conference. R.I.S.E (Realizing Inspiration & Sustaining Excellence) envisions a world free of adverse social norms that impact all women and girls in the workforce.

Hilina, who immigrated to the US from Ethiopia at the age of 12, has achieved astounding success as a trailblazer for female leaders. Her accolades include being recognized as a Big Brother’s Big Sister’s Magic Circle Award Winner, 40 under 40 winner, member of Leadership Rhode Island, and graduate of The Partnership in Boston, Massachusetts.

Hilina shares her views of the tourism industry and the importance of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. She also discusses her experiences on how women can navigate the workplace and entrepreneurial landscape. Her message to women leaders of tomorrow: “Be Bold, Take Risks and Make Mistakes – Failure is not something a woman should be afraid of.”

Episode 17

PHL Diversity is excited to present a conversation with Andrea Custis, President & CEO of the Urban League of Philadelphia. Dedicated to creating a self-reliant African American community, the Urban League of Philadelphia advocates for policy changes and provides direct service programs to promote economic independence. Since 1917, Urban League of Philadelphia has been a leader in empowering African Americans offering career services, assisting home buyers, and supporting entrepreneurs.

Andrea Custis was named President and Chief Executive Officer in July 2017. A seasoned corporate executive, Andrea has 30 years of sales, marketing, human capital, and operations experience with fortune 50 companies. She has been recognized as “One to Watch”- Ebony Magazine, “One of 25 Influential Black Women In Business”- Network Journal, and “Executive of The Year” – Consortium of Information and Telecommunications Executives and Hispanic Support Organization.

During the interview she discussed the importance of the return to meetings and shares her recommendation for two conventions to return to Philadelphia; The National Urban League Conference and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated National Convention.

Episode 16

PHL Diversity is excited to present a conversation with Tony Coles, President of the Black Information Network and Division President for Metro Markets at iHeartMedia. Black Information Network is the first and only 24/7 comprehensive national audio black news service dedicated to providing an objective, accurate and trusted source of continual news coverage with a black voice and perspective.

Tony has been recognized as an industry leader in leadership and management. He is a two-time recipient of the World Wide Radio Summit Senior Programmer of the Year award. He volunteers with and works with several industry organizations, including the National Association of Broadcasters and the Alliance for Women in Media. An advocate for educating the next generation of media leaders and personalities.

Episode 15

PHL Diversity is excited to present a conversation with Gregg Caren, President and CEO of the Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau (PHLCVB) and Mike Gamble, President and CEO of SearchWide Global and Founder and President of Tourism Diversity Matters.

Mike co-founded SearchWide Global, one of the hospitality industry’s leading executive search firms. He is also the founder of Tourism Diversity Matters (TDM), an exciting and important initiative launched in February 2021. Prior to SearchWide Global, Mike was SVP of Sales and Marketing for PHLCVB and held various leadership roles with Marriott International. Gregg is approaching one year as President and CEO of PHLCVB. He joined the destination marketing organization with more than three decades in the tourism industry, most recently as EVP, Sales and Strategic Business Development with ASM Global (formerly SMG). PHLCVB is a founding partner for this collective impact model dedicated to eliminating disparities in the tourism and meetings industries through advocacy and education. TDM’s mission is to be a resource to foster diversity, equity and inclusion practices in collaboration and cooperation with all industry initiatives.

Mike and Gregg join Greg DeShields (TDM’s Executive Director) for an inspirational and thought-provoking conversation highlighting the importance of diversity and inclusion within the tourism and events industry operations.

Episode 14

PHL Diversity is excited to speak with David L. Cohen, Senior Advisor for Comcast and Chair of The Philadelphia Award. Created in 1921, The Philadelphia Award is among the most meaningful, and prestigious awards conferred by, and for the Philadelphia community. The award is given each year to a Philadelphia citizen who has acted and served on behalf of the best interest of the community.

David shares his thoughts on the 2019 Philadelphia award recipients include Reverend Luis Cortes Jr., Dr. Amy J. Goldberg, M.D., and Nicole Klingerman. They were presented the award for their dedication and service to improving the lives of underserved people and communities in Philadelphia through community development, anti-gun violence, and domestic workers protections. Additionally, David discusses the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion to the Philadelphia Award.

Episode 13

PHL Diversity is excited to speak with Pranam Lipinski, Co-Founder of Work With GEN Z. Work with GEN Z is an organization devoted to educating employers on practices for creating effective work environments for the next generation of workers. Based on real-world experience, Work With GEN Z built a Gen Z-focused college recruiting online platform that connects employers to diverse college student organizations.

Pranam is passionate about bridging the understanding gap between GEN Z and other generations to create more empathy and effectiveness in the workplace. Join us for an in-depth discussion about the core characteristics of Gen Z (1995 – 2012), what they want and how Inclusion, Stability and Authenticity (ISA) is key to the chain collaboration. Pranam further discusses their role in the hospitality industry and common mistakes employees make when recruiting them.

Episode 12

In this episode, join us for an in depth conversation with Marlinda Henry, CEP, Chairwoman of the Board for the National Coalition of Black Meeting Professionals and Richard Lee Snow, Regional Development Director of the United Negro College Fund.

Marlinda Henry is the current Chairwoman and Richard Lee Snow is Chair Emeritus of The National Coalition of Black Meeting Professionals (NCBMP), founded in 1983, is a. non-profit organization dedicated primarily to the training needs of African American meeting planners. NCBMP is the preeminent organization educating African American association executives and meeting planners in all aspects of the meeting planning profession.

Richard Lee Snow is the Chair of PHL Diversity leading the charge in diversity and inclusion efforts and connects meeting and convention planners with the region’s diverse business community to ensure successful events.

They join Greg DeShields to discuss the impact of the pandemic on black meeting professionals, the current state of black meetings and conventions, and the future of those meetings after COVID-19.

Episode 11

PHL Diversity is excited to speak with Melissa Cherry, Chief Operating Officer of Destinations International. As the world’s largest resource for official destination organizations, Destinations International represents over 6,000 professionals from nearly 600 destination organizations globally.

Melissa has 20 plus years of experience in the industry and is responsible for the development and execution of strategies to promote and elevate the association’s mission and brand to drive awareness of its impact to advance the success of the destination marketing and management industry worldwide. Before joining Destinations International, Melissa was the Senior Vice President of Marketing and Cultural Tourism for Choose Chicago.

Join us as we discuss the future of tourism, Destination International’s recently released 2020 Equity, Diversity and Inclusion study, and much more.

Episode 10

Diversifying Travel: A Conversation with Roni Weiss

PHL Diversity is excited to present a conversation with Roni Weiss, Executive Director of Travel Unity, a nonprofit focused on diversity in travel. Travel Unity connects community groups and individuals with travel, cultural, and educational experiences to promote personal and professional growth. A key focus of Travel Unity is collaborating with organizations in the world of travel to broaden their Diversity, Equity and Inclusion efforts, including aligning with best practices for DEI.

Through years of world travels, Roni has visited over 70 countries, including every country in Europe, six of seven continents, and taught English in Italy, France, Taiwan, and Chile, both to youth and professionals. From 2011 to 2016, Roni worked with Africa Tourism Association, assisting with, and speaking at a ATA’s events in NYC, DC, and multiple African countries.

In 2013, RW Social launched the New York Travel Festival, an event focused on innovation and sustainability in the world of travel, which served as the genesis for Travel Unity, where Roni Weiss now serves as Executive Director.

Special Announcement:

Comcast RISE program, Comcast’s initiative to help business owners of color struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic, will be awarding grants of $10,000 each to minority-owned small businesses in Philadelphia and Chester. Eligible businesses in Philadelphia and the City of Chester can apply from March 1 to 14 for a $10,000 grant; 100 recipients will be selected. More information and the applications to apply for either the grant program or the marketing and technology services are available at

Episode 9

PHL Diversity is excited to speak with Chris Mullins, Sr. from McGillin’s Olde Ale House. Shortly after the Liberty Bell cracked and long before ground was broken for City Hall, McGillin’s threw open its doors. Its beer taps have been flowing since 1860 (the year Lincoln was elected) — making it the oldest continuously operating tavern in Philadelphia. McGillin’s has outlasted Strawbridge’s, the Civil War and even Prohibition. McGillin’s celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2010.

Family ownership is definitely one of the reasons for McGillin’s longevity and success over the years. Join us as Chris shares his insights about operating a restaurant during the Covid-19 pandemic (the tavern’s second pandemic), his favorite three memories and McGillin’s iconic sign collection.

Episode 8

The Future of Philadelphia

Join PHL Diversity for our first podcast of 2021 as we speak with George R. Burrell, Partner with Kleinbard LLC, Attorneys at Law. George talks about the future of Philadelphia, its tourism and hospitality industry, current cultural events, his experience as a panelist on 6abc Action News Inside Story, and the always popular “Burrell – Smyler – Pratt – Smalley Multi-Cultural Networking Breakfast” (a must attend).

George Burrell has been a leader in the business, civic, and political affairs of Philadelphia for more than 30 years. He served as a ranking official in the administrations of two mayors; a member of Philadelphia City Council; president of a minority-owned investment management business; general counsel to one of America’s premier African American-owned businesses; and a partner in two prominent Philadelphia law firms. George brings the knowledge and experience he has developed as a lawyer, businessman, and public official to clients as Of Counsel member of Kleinbard’s Business and Finance Department and a member of the Firm’s Government Relations Group.

George advises clients on building effective relationships with state, local, and federal officials; advocating on public policy and legislative initiatives; and competing for public and private sector procurement opportunities. He also serves as a strategic adviser to for-profit and nonprofit executives and board members on issues with public implications related to long-range planning and crisis management, and the development of coordinated corporate messaging for public affairs and government relations departments.

Episode 7

A Conversation about Health Care Post COVID-19

In this episode, we are excited to speak with Neil Goldfarb, President and CEO of the Greater Philadelphia Business Coalition on Health.

The Greater Philadelphia Business Coalition on Health seeks to increase the value of health benefit spending for its employer members by improving workforce and community health, increasing healthcare quality and safety, and reducing health care costs. The coalition represents employer interests in working with health plans, health care providers, benefits consultants, suppliers and other system stakeholders to address population health priorities and to ensure that when health care is needed it is accessible, affordable, high-quality, and safe.

Mr. Goldfarb spent over 30 years in healthcare research, quality improvement, and management positions. As Associate Dean for research in the Jefferson College of Population Health, he was responsible for leading the school’s research agenda, while concurrently serving as director of ambulatory care performance improvement for Thomas Jefferson University’s faculty practice plan.

Join us for a timely conversation about the consistent concern by employers regarding healthcare quality and reducing health care costs and the future of healthcare plans and healthcare providers post COVID-19.

Episode 6

PHL Diversity is excited to speak with Dr. Michelle McMurry-Heath, President and CEO and Elliott Francis, Director, Diversity, and Inclusion with Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO). BIO is the world’s largest biotechnology organization, providing advocacy, business development and communications services for more than 1,200 members worldwide.

BIO produces the BIO International Convention, the world’s largest gathering of the biotechnology industry, along with industry-leading investor and partnering meetings held around the world. The BIO International Convention is a repeat customer having been hosting in Philadelphia four times. Most recently held in 2019, the Convention welcomed more than 17,300 attendees. BIO will return in 2027 and 2031.

Michelle McMurry-Heath assumed the leadership of BIO as President and CEO in June 2020. A medical doctor and molecular immunologist by training, Dr. McMurry-Heath is the third chief executive to steward the world’s largest biotechnology advocacy group since BIO’s founding in 1993.

Elliott Francis is a seasoned professional with over 20 years of progressive and successful experience in both the private and federal sectors. Elliott joined BIO in April, as the Director, Diversity, and Inclusion, providing leadership and driving change through the development and implementation of strategic diversity and inclusion initiatives in the biotechnology and life sciences industry and within BIO.

Join us as they share their insights regarding changes to the association industry during this challenging time as well as advancements biotechnology have made to produce a Covid-19 vaccine.

Episode 5

PHL Diversity is excited to present a conversation with Erin Morton, Director of Development and Strategic Partnerships and Felicia Rinier, Administrative Director, both of the Philadelphia Collaborative for Health Equity (P-CHE) with Thomas Jefferson University/Jefferson Health.

The Philadelphia Collaborative for Health Equity is a broad-based community collaboration, and action network that addresses health inequity challenges in Philadelphia. By taking a grassroots approach to build trust, the Collaborative is committed to empower communities by investing in the right resources, infrastructure, and partnerships to reduce health disparities in and around Philadelphia.

Erin Morton is the Director of Development and Strategic Partnerships. In her role, she is a contributing strategist on all aspects of development and implementation, working directly with Jefferson senior executive leadership to design and launch discreet community-driven projects at Jefferson and secure the financial resources necessary to implement and operate them.

Felicia Rinier serves as the Administrative Director. She facilitates the daily operations and works across the Jefferson enterprise to implement the collaborative’s strategic vision.

Together, they share their thoughts on their work and how it impacts Philadelphia.

Episode 4

In this edition of the PHL Diversity Podcast, we are excited to speak with Kyrus Keenan Westcott, Motivational Influencer & Producer of the “Vibe with Ky.”

Born and raised a Jersey guy, Kyrus loves telling stories and sharing his life experiences with the world. An actor, model, writer, producer, visual artist, and motivational influencer, Ky works day-in and day-out to encourage positivity, offer reassurance, and put a smile on your face.

Episode 3

Shani Saunders serves on Brandywine Realty Trust’s Property Management team for FMC Tower at Cira Centre South, and leads the company’s diversity and inclusion affinity team, voices. Bjorn Henriques is a veteran media advertising executive and host of the “Philly ADCAST”, the official podcast of the Philly Ad club.

The African American Chamber of Commerce is the leading advocate for minority owned businesses in the Delaware Valley and Southeastern Pennsylvania. For the first time in 27 years, the Chamber will host its Annual Meeting and Awards Ceremony virtually! Last year, over 800 leaders from across the City of Philadelphia joined the Chamber for its annual event. On Thursday, October 29 at 8:00PM guests will experience the Chamber’s Annual Awards Ceremony, virtual art exhibition, live music performance by Suzann Christine, and special remarks from regional leaders.

Episode 2

In our second episode, we feature PHL Diversity Brain Box and Lead Generation Committee members Tami Sortman, Vice President of the Philadelphia Gay Tourism Caucus, Janice Sykes-Ross, Director of The Belmont Mansion and Carol Watson, General Manager Kimpton Hotel Palomar Philadelphia.

The Brain Box Committee guides PHL Diversity’s journey of innovation by creating new ideas, concepts, and practices. The Lead Generation Committee cultivates and filter leads to increase Philadelphia’s share of the diverse/multicultural meetings and conventions. Together, they are producing our upcoming webinar “Welcoming Multicultural Meetings and Conventions Back: How Philadelphia’s Transportation Hubs are Preparing for Visitors” scheduled for Wednesday, October 14th. Register Here.

Episode 1

We are thrilled to launch our sixth season of PHL Diversity Podcast with Alissa Carpenter, a multi-generational workforce expert, author, speaker and training facilitator. Alissa is the owner of Everything’s Not Ok and That’s Ok, where she provides training, consulting, and speaking services to organizations all over the world. Alissa is also the author of “How to Listen and How to Be Heard: Inclusive Conversations at Work”.

She works to help bridge communication gaps across generations, job functions, and geographies, and she has worked with organizations ranging from non-profits to multi-billion-dollar enterprises. She has been featured in multiple media outlets including Forbes, ABC, FOX, NPR and CBS.

Alissa joined Greg DeShields for a in depth conversation about working from home, being heard and the importance of an inclusive workforce.

Listen to past seasons of the PHL Diversity Podcast.


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