This Virtual Hospitality Conference Is Focused on Mentorship and Equity
Since its founding in 2017, Women in Hospitality United (WIHU) has worked to create community for women in the hospitality industry. On April 9 and 10, WIHU is putting on a two-day event in partnership with Gourmand, a podcast founded by two University of Pennsylvania students that features interviews with power players like pastry chef Paola Velez and cookbook author Erin Jeanne McDowell.
The virtual summit is called Hindsight 2021: What I Wish I'd Known, and it's focusing on the next generation of hospitality professionals, with appearances from chefs Asma Khan, Adrian Lipscombe, and more industry visionaries.
WIHU has hosted all kinds of events focused on building equity in the hospitality space, but past events have largely centered veteran members of the industry. This time, they're reaching out to women who are in college or graduating and about to start their careers.
Alaina Chou and Maggie Tang, the Penn students who founded Gourmand, reached out to WIHU in fall 2020 for advice on how to grow their community. It became clear that the two groups could work together to put on an event that expanded WIHU's reach to younger women and allowed Gourmand to grow their network. That's how Hindsight 2021 was born.
The two-day event will kick off with a keynote speaker and a cooking class with League of Kitchens. After panels, lunchtime sessions, and another keynote speaker, there will be a closing activity—an hourlong vision-mapping exercise that will encourage participants to think about their futures in the industry.
The speaker lineup is broad in both experience and career trajectory, featuring tastemakers like Dana Cowin, founder of the Speaking Broadly podcast (and former EIC of Food & Wine); restaurateur Ellen Yin of High Street Hospitality Group; Asma Khan, chef and owner of Darjeeling Express; and chef Adrian Lipscombe, founder of 40 Acres & A Mule Project.
Chou and Tang spent four months talking to other students around the country, asking them their biggest concerns about entering the hospitality industry. They found that their hospitality-minded contemporaries were looking for mentorship and opportunities to connect with veteran members of the industry—particularly as they figured out what hospitality careers might look like in a post-pandemic world.
"This community was there, but we didn't really have a space to connect in," Chou said. "Being able to connect people in our generation has been really rewarding because this is an industry that thrives on connection and mentorship."
In the days leading up to the event, WIHU and Gourmand will be posting videos on their Instagram feeds of hospitality world veterans sharing advice to the tune of "What I'd Wish I'd Known."
"The value of community and shared experience is really important—that's why we're called Women in Hospitality United," said Liz Murray, a co-founder of WIHU. "Even when you don't feel like it, there's all of these women standing behind you and beside you, and there's power in that."
Both the WIHU team and the Gourmand team hope to continue this initiative after the event. As for a round two, an in-person version of "Hindsight" is something they'd love to work toward. "We'd have more opportunities to go deeper into issue areas and have some of those harder conversations," Tang said. "But on the flip side, a virtual event means more people have access."
Sign up here for Hindsight 2021: What I Wish I'd Known.