LAKE BUENA VISTA — Hard Rock International has been ranked by Forbes as one of the “best employers for women” in the United States.
HRI, owned by the Seminole Tribe of Florida, was mentioned as a leader in the travel and leisure category and is one of two Native American-owned enterprises on the 2018 list. (The other is the Chickasaw Nation Division of Commerce of Ada, Oklahoma).
Forbes and market research firm Statista surveyed 40,000 employees of companies with more than 1,000 workers to compile a list of 300.
Respondents were first asked to rate their organizations on criteria such as working conditions, diversity and how likely they’d be to recommend their employer to others.
The surveys included men and women and were anonymous.
HRI ranked No. 177 on the overall list. Among the 11 organizations in the travel and leisure category, HRI ranked ahead of Expedia Group (No. 186), MGM Resorts (No. 199) and Intercontinental Hotels Group (No. 284).
The overall No. 1 spot went to Principal Financial Group of Des Moines, Iowa. The rankings were published in late July.
“All of us at Hard Rock are honored to be named by Forbes as one of 2018’s Best Employers for Women,” David Carroll, senior vice president of Human Resources for HRI said in a statement. “We are working hard to increase management opportunities for women through mentorship and training programs. While this ranking reflects our recent success, we consider it a starting point and we intend to build on it.”
Carroll told The Seminole Tribune that there has been a steady increase in female directors and vice presidents throughout the company.
The Women of Seminole Gaming was created a few years ago by a group of Seminole Gaming senior executives to mentor, develop and educate Gaming employees.
Carroll said the Women of Seminole Gaming mentorship program has helped to boost the percentage of women vice presidents from 20 to 27 percent, while the percentage of women working at the director level has grown from 28 to 32 percent.
One of those executives is Meaghan Ryan – the vice president of Global Talent and Team Member Relations for Seminole Hard Rock Support Services. She’s been in the position for more than four years after starting with the company as corporate director of Talent Acquisition.
“It was really exciting that Hard Rock got that ranking,” Ryan said. “It’s only going to get better.”
Ryan thinks it will get better with the expansion and evolution of the mentorship program.
She describes the program as all about the employee-team member engagement, performance management and performance coaching. The group holds mini-conferences, teaches public speaking, financial wellness, personal branding, brand awareness, social media presence and how to dress for success, among other topics.
“It’s an opportunity to network and know people outside their normal day to day,” Ryan said.
Thus far the program has more than 100 mentors and mentees. There have been two main sessions and two graduation events.
“We’ve seen the success for the women in the program who have been promoted. They’ve become mentors in other programs,” Ryan said.
The program is formally set up for salaried team members, but Ryan thinks it will expand to hourly employees at some point – and hourly employees are still invited to come to events.
One of Ryan’s mentors and an executive sponsor of the Women of Seminole Gaming is Tracy Bradford, senior vice president of Purchasing for Seminole Hard Rock Support Services.
Bradford has been with the Seminole Tribe of Florida and Seminole Gaming for more than 13 years. She began in 2005 as the director of Purchasing for the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Tampa and was promoted to VP of Purchasing three years later at the Seminole Gaming corporate office.
She’s now transitioned to Support Services to “build the bridge to Hard Rock,” she said.
“I wouldn’t want to work anywhere else. I’m probably to the extreme of passionate, because they (Hard Rock) say what they mean and do what they say,” Bradford said. “I love this company. I trust the leaders; appreciate the relationships, direction, goals, and communication and the successes.”
Bradford said it was important to create a program that enabled women to find a “constructive, professional and appropriate” way to use their knowledge and experience and feel empowered.
“To pay it forward and educate,” she said. “I like to mold team members and hone in on their strengths. There’s so many different ways to look at it and I love the diversity of the program.”
Bradford said some tweaks are being installed before the next session takes place, including adding a section on how important it is to stay positive and to “try and get to ‘yes.’”
She said the next round of sessions should take place in September or October. Applications will be available and accepted at all six Florida gaming properties. Bradford and her team read through them all.
“I want people to feel they matter and make a difference. You can go anywhere to make a paycheck,” she said.
HRI now has a presence in 74 countries, including 185 cafes, 25 hotels and 12 casinos.