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Working for Inclusion

Brooke Thomas, Vice President, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Seminole Hard Rock

Working for Inclusion

If Brooke Thomas had to choose a single word to describe her first quarter century, the word would be music. She started playing piano at 4 years old.

“I never stopped, and when I graduated high school, I was playing multiple instruments and singing in six languages,” says Thomas, a native of Buffalo, New York.

She attended the Crane School of Music, a conservatory at the State University of New York, Potsdam. Indeed, Thomas cites music school as the main reason for her strong work ethic.

“No one works harder than an opera singer,” she says. “You are in class all day, rehearsal all night, you are practicing and doing homework while also remembering to eat and sleep.”

Thomas graduated with a bachelor’s degree in music and sang professionally. But she realized this was not the pathway she wanted. She became more involved in the business side of the arts, particularly concerning inequities.

“I started mediating and working with artists and management to create more equitable work environments with policies that were reasonable and sustainable for management,” Thomas says. “During one mediating session with a professional theater, one of the singers asked me, ‘Why aren’t you a lawyer?’”

The following year, Thomas enrolled in law school at Ohio State. While in law school, she worked on civil rights issues each summer. Those experiences opened the door for entry into the diversity, equity and inclusion field, where she serves as a vice president with Seminole Hard Rock.

“From representing incarcerated individuals bringing civil rights cases against the state to meeting with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, I brought people together to find their common humanity while representing those who didn’t have a voice,” says Thomas, who volunteers for LGBTQIA+ organizations, working pro bono to assist taking on inequality. “Those formative experiences led me to pursue a diversity, equity and inclusion career.”

Before joining Seminole, Thomas worked as a DE&I consultant, dealing in a number of industries, including hospitality and gaming. “I would integrate into organizations, immerse myself in the culture, and collaborate with executive teams to advance culture and inclusion initiatives,” she says.

Thomas fell in love with the hospitality and gaming industry. The tenacity, the ingenuity, the grit. She gravitated to tribal companies, captivated by the spirit of each tribe, and how that story flowed into organizational culture and the business. “The story of the Seminoles was deeply moving to me. So when Seminole Hard Rock called, I couldn’t say yes fast enough.”

Stephanie Piimauna, senior vice president and chief diversity officer at Seminole Hard Rock, has mentored Thomas. “She challenges me, prompts me to see things from different perspectives, and, most importantly, moves through inclusion work as an act of service.”

Humility is integral to this side of the business, she says.

Bill Sokolic is a veteran journalist who has covered gaming and tourism for more than 25 years as a staff writer and freelancer with various publications and wire services. He's also written stories for news, entertainment, features, and business. He co-authored Atlantic City Revisited, a pictorial history of the resort.

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