Leslie Hale Makes History as First African American Female CEO of RLJ, Proving Business Isn’t a Man’s World
Leslie Hale (courtesy photo)
Earlier this year, Compton native, Leslie Hale became a history maker after becoming the first African American female CEO of RLJ Lodging Trust, a publicly traded real estate investment trust in the United States. This recent accomplishment is a major step in Hale’s career and for other women of color who come behind her.
Recently, the Los Angeles Sentinel Newspaper spoke with Hale to discuss her new position and the changes she plans to implement within the company.
Hale and her siblings grew up in an environment where people of color struggled. However, she is proud of her city and still carries the grit and perseverance that was instilled in her while she was there at such a young age. Her experiences have contributed to her outlook on life and view of success.
“When you grow up in South Central Los Angeles, you have to really have grit in order to succeed and so my upbringing helped instill in me a level of perseverance in an otherwise tough environment,” said Hale.“Growing up in Compton or L.A., there were a lot of reasons for me to become a statistic. Whether it was teenage pregnancy, high school dropouts, drugs, or gang violence, all of those things were around and[I]easily could have succumbed to that…”
Despite the adversity that surrounded Hale in the city of Compton, she developed a passion for business.
“I was in a household with two parents who were entrepreneurial and they helped me see that there is more to life then what was around me and[helped]me to avoid becoming a statistic,” she said.
After graduating from Gardena High School, Hale attended Howard University where she studied finance. Later, Hale began working at General Electric(GE)in the financial management training program. After graduating from the GE financial management program, she moved over to real estate where she received experience in international domestic real estate. Later, she began attending business school at Harvard University. Shortly after business school, Hale worked for investment bank company Goldman Sachs. Her career journey brought her back to GE where she stayed for two years before working at RLJ in 2005.
Leslie Hale (courtesy photo)
When asked her thoughts on becoming the first African American to hold her current position at RLJ she stated:
“I am honored and humbled by the opportunity to hold this position and lead this great company,” said Hale.“WhileI’m honored to be the first, I have no interest to being the only. I think it is great to do something for the first time but my obligation is to make sure that there are more opportunities for women and minorities to ascend to this level and these ranks.”
Hale goes on to say that the“companyis on solid ground” and headed in the right direction.
“RLJ is a company with a long history of making very bold moves, she said.“Iwould say under my leadership, I expect that the company will continue to make bold moves in the future. Having said that, our strategy right now is to continue focusing on compact and limited service hotels that are in urban markets that have high margins.”
During the interview, the L.A. Sentinel asked Hale if she had any piece of advice that she would tell her younger self.
“I would tell my younger self no matter where you are, there’s more to the story, meaning that there are more opportunities to come,” she said.
“I think often times people achieve one objective and they settle in as oppose to recognizing that there are more mountains to climb and that there are more things that can be accomplished.”
Hale goes on to say that she would encourage her younger self to dream big!
She closes the interview by telling readers her recipe to success which begins with hard work.
“The other two pieces of that are having a strong faith and recognizing that I can do all things through Jesus Christ who strengthens me,” she said.“Finally,it’s family. In the final analysis, I get up every day and I work as hard as I do for my family.”