WHEN PEGGY BERG founded and grew The Highland Group, a hospitality consulting and advisory firm based in Atlanta, industry conference organizers began to request her presence at their events, either as a speaker or a panel participant or moderator.
This was more than 30 years ago, and Berg said once she arrived on the scene she thought other women just like her would soon arrive. But few showed up. And it’s been that way for decades.
Berg eventually sold her company and became a hotel owner. She sold her hotels and founded Castell Project Inc., a nonprofit organization dedicated to accelerating the careers of women professionals in the hospitality industry.
The program brings mid-level hotel professionals together for a week-long training and exploration event and creates an ongoing coterie of participants and mentors to help the women hurdle barriers to advancement.
In January, a ground-breaking study by AHLA Education Foundation on behalf of Castell Project showed only one of every 10 hotel industry professionals promoted in corporations are women.
The study also revealed the low number of women recruited to speak at industry events or serve on panel discussions.
“As we researched the speaking opportunities awarded to women, we found that top events, including ALIS, NYU, the Lodging Conference and the Hunter Hotel Conference, have been working to open the podium to female leaders and experts,” Berg said.
“However, women still are severely underrepresented. Less than one in six speakers at hotel investment conferences are women, even though women comprise 21 percent of attendees, 52 percent of industry employees and 67 percent of the industry’s talent pipeline.”
To speed things up, Castell Project has created a roster of qualified women experts from which program and event planners can draw. The Women Speakers in Hospitality – or WSH – List is “a growing list of female hoteliers and hospitality real estate executives with the knowledge and experience to offer unique perspectives on today’s changing marketplaces,” said a news release.
“Conference organizers and sponsors have found it difficult to reach outside of their traditional networks to identify diverse speakers. The WSH list is a resource to broaden speaking opportunities for women and create more diverse and interesting programs,” Berg said.
Castell Project views the podium as “critical to showing prospective employees that the industry offers a future for women. Opportunities to speak lead to recognition and opportunity for our rising female executives. The Castell Project is focused on providing industry leaders, as well as on-the-ground associates, with points of view that might not otherwise be considered.”
Castell Project and Georgia State University track the progress of women at hotel industry conferences. The running tally can be found on the home page at www.castellproject.org. As it stands today, men comprise 81.1 percent of industry conference attendees in 2018 and women make up 18.9 percent. Of all attendees, 10 percent of men have participated as speakers compared to 1.3 percent of women.
The WSH list was distilled from lists of executives in the industry. Women who wish to be added to the list may submit their name, contact information and speaking experience/background to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The AHLA benchmark report, Women in Hospitality Leadership, can also be found on Castell Project website’s home page.