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Industry Diversity Group Fires Executive Director for Cause

Tourism Diversity Matters acted after staffers’ accounts of "demeaning" interactions with Greg DeShields became public. TDM founder and CEO Mike Gamble resigned as well.

Founded in late 2020 by Mike Gamble, president and CEO of SearchWide Global, Tourism Diversity Matters has a stated vision “to be an industry resource for diversity expertise in order to achieve inclusive excellence.”

However, accounts from at least nine female employees who worked for Greg DeShields, TDM’s executive director, charge him with “demeaning” and “humiliating” behavior towards them. Those accusations were part of an open letter released on February 15 and posted online. As a result, DeShields was suspended by TDM the next day, and on February 19 he was fired.

In addition, Gamble resigned his position as CEO of TDM after it became public that Brandi Baldwin, a diversity consultant and the former board chair for TDM, had left the board in January, saying she could no longer work there after no action was taken against DeShields. Internal e-mails show that Baldwin had stated to Gamble her concerns about DeShields’ behavior in summer 2023, according to this article in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

FiredExecDeShields.pngDeShields, an openly gay African-American man, has been active in the tourism and meetings industry’s diversity, inclusion, and equity movement for several years. But according to the Inquirer article, “some who have worked for him over the past decade, including several interns, say that [DeShields] made inappropriate comments about their appearance, demeaned them in front of clients, and retaliated when they attempted to speak up.”

The open letter notes the “dissonance between professed values and actual practices” at TDM, saying that management’s failure to act “not only undermines the credibility of the industry, but also casts doubt on the sincerity of leaders who purport to prioritize [diversity, equity, and inclusion] as a valuable business strategy.”

Tourism Diversity Matters was founded by Gamble, a former sales and marketing executive for the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau, after the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer in 2020. DeShields also worked at the Philadelphia CVB prior to becoming executive director of TDM.

TDM is presently searching for an interim CEO.

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