AHLA Foundation expands ForWard initiative

AHLA Foundation, the charitable arm of the American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA), has launched its new ForWard initiative to support the advancement of women into hotel industry leadership and ownership. The ForWard initiative represents the merger of ForWard— which began as an AHLA event—and the Castell Project into one brand offering a suite of resources, events, professional development opportunities and community-building forums to develop a pipeline of women leaders in hospitality.

The Castell Project, a legacy brand focused on accelerating the advancement of women leaders in hospitality, was acquired by the foundation last year.

The ForWard initiative’s new portfolio includes:

  • ForWard BUILD & ELEVATE (formerly Castell BUILD & ELEVATE): a year-long curriculum of skills-based workshops, career coaching and leadership coursework to develop a foundation for career success.
  • ForWardThinking (formerly Castell@College): a speaker series to help hospitality students envision future career opportunities.
  • The ForWard Network: a community of women leaders that brings together ForWard Ambassadors with the Friends of Castell and Castell Luminaries.
  • The ForWard Conference will continue under this combined initiative as an AHLA Foundation event.
  • The Peggy Berg Castell Award (formerly the Castell Award), which celebrates remarkable women leaders in the hotel industry, was renamed to give tribute to the legacy and commitment of the Castell Project’s founder.

“There is tremendous opportunity for us to do more to celebrate, champion and create a community for women,” said Anna Blue, president, AHLA Foundation. “AHLA Foundation is uniquely positioned to collaborate across industry and invest in the women who are advancing hospitality.”

The merger of ForWard and Castell complements AHLA Foundation’s industry-wide diversity, equity and inclusion goals and allows for unified strategic oversight and greater programmatic impact. The foundation plans to grow the ForWard Network locally and nationally, expanding its professional development offerings to provide more regular opportunities for women to connect both in-person and online.

The first recipient of the Peggy Berg Castell Award is…

At The Lodging Conference in Phoeniz, the AHLA Foundation revealed Julienne Smith, chief development officer, IHG, as the 2023 Peggy Berg Castell Award winner. The award honors female trailblazers in the hospitality industry who are creating opportunities for more women to rise to the top of their fields.

From overseeing the growth of IHG Hotels & Resorts in the Americas region to her role on the AHLA Foundation Board of Trustees, Smith’s values as a leader have paved the way for her success as well as the success of others, according to the foundation. She also serves on the Global and Americas Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) Councils within IHG.