For the first time in person since 2019, the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) hosted its ForWard Conference at the Hilton Chicago. In a nearly sold-out space, professionals from all facets of the hotel industry networked and participated in career development opportunities. Convention programming included keynote speakers, panels, and breakout sessions designed to give attendees information to implement in their roles. Themed “ForWard momentum,” the event focused on lessons learned from the past few years and propelling women into the future of hospitality.
Vice President, Conferences and Events for AHLA Katie Moore said there were “a few reasons” that “momentum” served as ForWard’s theme. “First, ForWard itself has benefited from enormous momentum since its start. We’ve invested greatly in the program, not just by joining forces with industry leaders like Castell Project, but also in the development of new programs and resources for the advancement of women in the hotel industry.”
Moore continued, “Our hope is that attendees leave this event with actionable tips and insights to improve their businesses and build momentum in their careers, make connections that last beyond this room, and engage with AHLA throughout the year, especially in our ForWard investor program launched last year to build regional ForWard networks.”
In a video address, Executive Vice President and Chief of Human Resources for Hilton and the outgoing ForWard Advisory Committee Chair Laura Fuentes shared that choosing “momentum” as a theme worked for the conference because “we wanted to pause, honor, and celebrate the resiliency of women over the pandemic and the fact that they have worked harder and pushed further than ever before. That momentum, that velocity, that speed has brought us to where we are today.”
President and CEO of AHLA Chip Rogers shared statistics from the past year, including that while there are more women in the hotel industry than previously according to the Castell Project’s 2022 Women in Hospitality Leadership Report, the numbers of those in leadership aren’t moving quickly enough to make actionable change. Rogers added that the merger between the AHLA Foundation and Castell will assist with elevating more women in the industry. “AHLA and the AHLA Foundation along with the Castell Project have had a long history of investing in and advancing women in hospitality…Together, we will continue to elevate women and create forums and programs intended to advance women in hospitality,” he said.
In addition, Rogers shared results from a report by AHLA in conjunction with Morning Consult, which reviewed the job preferences and needs of today’s workforce. “A good salary and consistent schedule are considered the most significant drivers of the desire of the workforce. Women are more likely than male workers to report a good work-life balance and a consistent, predictable schedule. However, men are more likely to report satisfactory pay,” he explained. These are just a few insights Rogers shared that highlight the inequities discussed throughout the conference and encourage attendees to form possible solutions.
Incoming ForWard Advisory Committee Chair and General Counsel, Real Estate Asset Management for Blackstone Ama Romaine recalled as she attended her first ForWard convention in 2019, in the first panel hosted, the panelists were all men and that subsequent panels lacked women of color. For the 2022 convention, AHLA planned a more inclusive lineup. Romaine added, “I’m really thrilled to share that because of our collective feedback…we are moving forward with intention to make this organization more inclusive, which will make our industry more impactful. And the nugget here as we’re all in this room is to remember that we can each make a difference by using our voice, sharing our perspectives, and being open to change. And this is how we’ll positively impact our work environment and our industry.”