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News | February 14, 2020

Sands is Founding Sponsor of Women’s Hospitality Initiative

In Las Vegas, a new program is launching to help more women achieve leadership positions within the culinary and restaurant fields in the hospitality industry, with the support of Sands and other Las Vegas area partners. The Women’s Hospitality Initiative (WHI) seeks to accelerate both the career development and advancement of women working in the industry, through advocacy, networking events and more. Sands, through our charitable giving and community engagement program Sands Cares, is a founding funding sponsor.

A component of the Nevada Community Foundation, the WHI is cofounded by a group of local powerhouses from the food and beverage industry, including Elizabeth Blau, founder and CEO of Blau + Associates, owners of famous Las Vegas-area restaurants Andiron Steak & Sea and Honey Salt. Blau + Associates also has partnerships with many acclaimed restaurants, including Buddy V’s Ristorante at The Venetian® Resort Las Vegas.

Several local industry professionals, representing different Las Vegas resort and restaurant companies, are founding board members of the new nonprofit, including Philippa Fryman, vice president of food & beverage at The Venetian® Resort Las Vegas. “It’s unusual but wonderful to see representatives from all the different resort companies working together on this,” she said. “Not only that, but the range of disciplines represented is impressive as well, from front-of-house professionals such as myself, to professional chefs like Lorena Garcia from Chica at The Venetian® Resort. We’re all bringing our expertise together to help women grow in leadership positions in the food & beverage industry.”

We sat down with Philippa to get more information on this exciting, and important, new community initiative.

Why is the Women’s Hospitality Initiative so important to our community?
Throughout the industry, there is a lack of women in leadership positions. The WHI is designed to develop women in leadership positions and help them grow professionally. First and foremost, we want to inspire women, to let them know they can be leaders in the field, and to provide them actionable steps for how to get there. Las Vegas is at the epicenter of culinary talent, and our city is a leader in the industry, so where else but here to affect real, lasting change?

How did the WHI get started?
All of us in leadership positions in hospitality have been aware of the issue of a lack of female leadership for a long time, but there wasn’t anything being down about it. So some prominent local leaders, like Elizabeth Blau, Mary Choi Kelly of MCK Leadership and Jolene Mannina of Secret Burger, decided to finally make a change. They got together and realized that, if they worked together, collectively they had the skills and resources to make a difference. So they reached out to some of their contacts in the community, and we got to work. Pretty soon, we began receiving key support from the community, including Sands through Sands Cares.

What are some of the goals of the WHI?
Other board members and myself are working both with each other and through community outreach to implement solid programs, advocate for policy changes and do whatever is possible to increase leadership opportunities for women in hospitality. We’re looking not just at what can be achieved over the long term, but how progress can be made now. For instance, we’ve worked with University of Nevada, Las Vegas to launch a course entitled “From Classroom To Boardroom,” which will feature board members and culinary professionals sharing their stories, and helping attendees learn the steps to take to grow into leadership positions.

If someone in the community is interested in learning more about the WHI, or wants to help out, what should they do?
Anyone interested in the mission of the Women’s Hospitality initiative, either as a participant or a supporter, should visit the website,, to learn more about the organization, get information on attending our events or donate.

The WHI officially kicks off their mission on Tuesday, February 18 at University of Nevada, Las Vegas, beginning with the premiere of the award-winning film A Fine Line, which explores the issue of the limited number of female head chefs and restaurant owners, and featuring some of the most accomplished female chefs and restaurateurs in the world. From there, some chefs featured in the film, along with local chefs and WHI leadership, will host a panel discussion. The kick-off wraps up with a culinary event featuring food and cocktails prepared by more than 50 of Vegas’ best women chefs and mixologists.

Sands is proud to support this new initiative through Sands Cares. As part of our commitment to corporate responsibility, we believe in making our local communities better places to live and work, both through charitable and in-kind giving, and support of those looking to enter, or advance in, the hospitality industry.