For many, Hilton’s name is synonymous with exceptional hospitality. But what does it mean to truly be welcomed on your own terms? We sat down with Cameron Smith (she/her), a transgender woman and longtime Hilton employee, to hear how the company’s DE&I efforts have shaped her experience in the hospitality industry. From her early days at Hilton nearly 18 years ago to celebrating her authentic self today, Cameron’s journey reflects the evolution of inclusivity at Hilton.
Join us as we explore her personal story, a testament to how Hilton welcomes every individual, regardless of their background or identity.
Cameron Smith - Hilton employee
- Can you please give us an introduction of who you are, where you come from and what you do at Hilton?
My name is Cameron Smith (she/her) and most people I know call me Kamee. I was born in Texas and grew up in Arizona. I started at Hilton the year I turned 30 and have been with Hilton for nearly 18 years. I have worked within many facets of Hilton, from Customer Care, Mentorship, Client Representative to now Revenue Specialist where I assist a portfolio of hotels in growing their RevPAR (Revenue Per Available Room).
As part of my role in Client/Business Development, I attended Hilton’s Owner’s conference to discuss the options and services available to our hotel partners and owners. This pic was taken shortly after a dinner celebration with colleagues and leaders for another successful event.
- Can you share with us your personal journey working at Hilton and what it represents to you to work at one of the most important hospitality companies in the world as an openly transgender woman?
From the age of 12 (conservatively), I knew I was different than most children. I knew I had different thoughts and what I knew to understand about who I was and the struggles I would face if I truly wanted to be my authentic self. Fast forward to starting at Hilton, I had no idea the impact it would have on me to work with such amazing groups of people, who really did care that every employee had the ability to be themselves without fear of discrimination. Eight years in, Hilton was the first of many companies to publicly announce their stance on not allowing any discrimination to any employee and this also specifically covered transgendered individuals. This bold move from Hilton gave me the courage to start my journey through transition and be my authentic self. Being able to represent myself wholly, without hesitation, allows me to focus on what matters most: our clients/partners, customers. I feel safe, protected, and supported knowing Hilton has my back.
HRCC’s first year introducing Team Member Resource Groups brought Signature Events for each group to celebrate their community’s culture. Pride parades have been an outlet for many to feel accepted, loved and even a sense of family and this was the turn out for our very first Signature Event.
- Hilton's mission statement includes being "the most hospitable company in the world." Can you provide examples of how Hilton has extended this mission to its employees, particularly its transgender community, making it a welcoming and safe place to work?
The meaning of ‘hospitable’ is to be welcoming, friendly, and open, and Hilton goes above and beyond with making sure the LGBTQIA+ community knows, hears, and sees this continuously. From the team member resource groups to HR resources and even an Employee Assistance Program to help with any concerns/challenges any employee may have. When I made the decision to transition, I knew this would affect more than just myself and the people that sat around me. My subordinates, my leaders, and even the clientele I worked with would be part of this change. Sitting down with my HR director, I was assured every measure would be taken to continue to provide me with support to do my job with the assistance I needed and that each step of the process was seamless. Suffice to say, it could not have gone any smoother.
This was an event sponsored by Hilton during the Travel With Purpose Week where employees gathered and assembled 55,000 meals for the Hunger Project. This was also Hilton’s 100th year in service.
- DeShaun Wise Porter, Hilton's Vice President of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Recognition, emphasizes the importance of diverse perspectives in shaping the company's culture. Can you share how Hilton's commitment to DE&I has been reflected in your personal growth and development within the company as an openly transgender team member?
Echoing my last response, I have never been made to feel like I need special attention because I am transgender or because I transitioned at work. I am seen as an employee with the same rights and entitlements as any other cis-gendered employee. As an employee, I have many opportunities to take advantage of learning platforms and curriculum that would aid in advancing my skills and/or career development, including tuition reimbursement.
ROMBA is a conference for MBA Graduates and/or students entering MBA programs and provides them an opportunity to network with big name companies as future candidates for open roles. I was asked to speak about mental health on being an out LGBTQIA+ at work and the benefits to look for when applying to their company of choice. This pic was the career booth where we got to meet and interact with all the students/graduates.
- Hilton has a strong commitment to DE&I and has been recognized as one of the World’s Best Workplaces. How does the company foster such a supportive and inclusive culture?
I would say first and foremost the team member resource groups are a huge part of Hilton’s dedication to foster a welcoming experience for all employees. Whether you identify as someone belonging to a specific group (i.e. LGBTQ+, military, etc.) or you are an ally, Hilton supports employees to express themselves to the best of their ability each and every day.
This was Hilton’s 3rd pride event where we brought together area hotels to walk with HRCC and celebrate Pride in the community and as a company.
This was a corporate event and another Signature Event for Hilton’s Pride TMRG group. The goal was to raise awareness to our fellow TMRGs and co-workers on the importance of Allyship and to have fun in the process.
- For transgender individuals who may be considering a role at Hilton, could you share your insights about the workplace culture and the meaningful experiences you've encountered at the company and some key aspects of Hilton's inclusive environment?
I think my tenure alone could answer this … celebrating nearly 18 years of a sense of family and community, acceptance vs tolerance, and the right to just be! Knock wood, I have never encountered a situation where I felt threatened or alone in my journey. There has always been someone to lend an ear, a shoulder, a helping hand, and they have all provided an understanding that shows me I belong here.
- To other members of the transgender community who are considering their career paths, could you offer a message of encouragement based on your remarkable journey within Hilton's culture of inclusivity?
Everyone comes out or comes to an understanding when it is their time to transition. Only you can decide that, but when you do, I hope that a company like Hilton will be waiting on the sidelines to help cheer you on, give you an extra push if you need it, or simply be there as a sounding board to help lead you in the right direction. There’s no hurry, but why wait. 😊
- Considering your successful journey at Hilton, what impactful lesson do you believe other companies can take away from your experience, not only to promote diversity but also to foster an environment where every individual, including the transgender community, feels valued and included?
Don’t just say what you think employees want to hear. Show them in your actions. Stand up for human rights as a company, stand up for equal rights, stand up for justice against discrimination and use the power of your company to show others you accept, embrace, and fight for DE&I.
Out and Equal is similar to the Creating Change conference where companies send their representatives to learn, discuss and create safer work spaces and opportunities to those who identify as LGBTQIA+. The conference is open to all and truly supports Allyship and Diversity. This pic was a center piece at the evening reception.
This conference is for any and all who want to create positive change in the community and it is a space for all to come together to discuss how we can work together to make those changes in equality. This pic captures a closing ceremony with special guests and a Ballroom Competition. So exciting
This was a fun shot from the conference on the Rainbow stairs, just before the closing ceremonies and dinner. All pictured are/were leaders within Hilton supporting the DE&I efforts.
Photo credits: Cameron Smith
IGLTA would like to thank Cameron for joining this conversation and sharing her inspirational story. IGLTA would also like to thank Hilton for their continued support as a Global Partner since 2010.