The Delaware Tourism Office was proud to partner with the Delaware Restaurant Association to hold the first-ever Women of Hospitality conference on Oct. 22 at The Queen in Wilmington.

The sold-out conference featured a day of inspirational and informative panel speakers to empower women working in the hospitality industry.

Speakers included Dawn Sweeny, CEO of the National Restaurant Association; Julie Coker Graham, president and CEO of the Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau and Denny Marie Post, CEO of Women’s Foodservice Forum and former CEO of Red Robin restaurants.

Kara DioGuardi, Grammy-nominated songwriter, former American Idol judge was the keynote speaker.

The day was preceded by a screening of the award-winning documentary film “A Fine Line,” about the challenges for female chefs, followed by a Q&A with the director, Joanna James.

Women of Hospitality PanelThe panel discussions at the conference were on topics including the importance of mentorship, gender equality and achieving work-life balance. They featured women in the regional and local hospitality industry, including Carlie Roberts, owner of One Coastal restaurant in Fenwick Island.

“It was a literal dream come true to sit in front of a room full of my peers and tell my story in all its messy magic and chaos,” Roberts said. “The truth is, the conference gave us all an opportunity to be a part of something bigger than ourselves; to witness a synergy that, like a good hug, continues to lift you up long after it ends.”

Another panelist, Xavier Teixido, owner of Harry’s Hospitality Group, praised the conference as valuable learning experience.

“It was exciting to be part of the inaugural Women of Hospitality event where talented professionals shared their industry experiences and provided guidance on professional development,” Teixido said “Tremendous energy filled the room as participants exchanged their stories and future opportunities.”

The Delaware Restaurant Association plans to host smaller networking groups throughout the year to continue the conversations started at the conference. To receive information about Women of Hospitality networking groups, contact alexa@delawarerestaurant.org.