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Scoop: AHLA Foundation Expands and Rebrands Initiatives Aimed at Elevating Women in Hospitality

AHLA Foundation, the charitable arm of the American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA), has given hertelier the scoop on its new ForWard initiative to support the advancement of women into hotel industry leadership and ownership.

AHLA ForWard for Women in Hospitality

Merging ForWard and the Castell Project


Building on the legacy started by industry icon Peggy Berg with the Castell Project, the new AHLA Foundation 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. Mark your calendar: next dates are May 6-8, 2024

  • 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 –– see our coverage of the 2023 conference –– will continue under this combined initiative as an AHLA Foundation event. Mark your calendar: the next ForWard Annual Conference will be held at the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place in Chicago from April 29 – May 1, 2024.

  • The Peggy Berg Castell Award (formerly the Castell Award) that celebrates remarkable women leaders in the hotel industry was renamed to give tribute to the legacy and commitment of the Castell Project’s founder. This year’s award winner, Julienne Smith, Chief Development Officer, The Americas for IHG Hotels & Resorts, was announced at The Lodging Conference in Phoenix, Arizona.


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.


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


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. To learn more about ForWard and register for upcoming events, click here.

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