Wonder Women converge on Halifax | News | Halifax, Nova Scotia | THE COAST

Wonder Women converge on Halifax

800 women packed the Halifax Convention Centre for the eighth edition of the Wonder Women conference presented by the Halifax Chamber of Commerce

With men in powerful positions running amok, if ever we needed a superhero to swoop in and save the world, it’d be now. Luckily, there were over 800 of them crammed inside the Halifax Convention Centre on Friday.

They wore different disguises—stilettos, blazers, wide rimmed glasses—and went by different aliases—communications manager, non-profit director, family lawyer—but they were all on the same mission: to inspire and empower each other.

They were gathered for the 2024 installment of the Halifax Chamber of Commerce’s Wonder Women conference—its biggest one yet.

“Our first event was in the fall of 2018 at the Lord Nelson with 130 people attending,” said Becky Davison, vice president of marketing at the Halifax Chamber of Commerce. “To see 800 people here today is amazing. We are excited to see this event grow and to have new attendees every year!”

As with most great ideas, the one for this conference came from three women talking. They shared about how they always heard amazing stories of local women facing challenges and accomplishing great things. There were so many women in Halifax flying high—but under the radar.

“We decided that we needed to provide a platform for women to tell their stories and to connect with each other,” said Davison. “The Wonder Women Conference was born in under six weeks.”

It seems like a quick turnaround from idea to execution, but if the energy harnessed within the convention centre is any indication, there’s literally nothing that can’t be accomplished when women are fueled with a powerful ‘why’.

Jenn Harper—founder and CEO of Cheekbone Beauty Cosmetics —spoke in her keynote address about just that. Her brand gracefully paints the ideals of sustainability and inclusion onto a global canvas. From the germ of an idea that started in her basement (newly sober) in 2015, Harper has watered Cheekbone Beauty into a B.Corp Certified force that is a mainstay on the shelves of Sephora and JC Penny.

click to enlarge Wonder Women converge on Halifax
Julie Lawrence / The Coast
Jenn Harper addresses 800 wonder women in her keynote.

“The idea came to me one night when I dreamed of three little native girls with brown skin and lip gloss all over them,” said Harper. “I just woke up thinking about creating a product and using a portion of the proceeds to do something to help Indigenous communities.”

It was facing the most uncomfortable of life’s challenges that she credits with helping her achieve her goals. From the loss of her beloved brother to a nerve-wracking pitch on Dragons’ Den, she took it all in stride and—despite proclaiming she has “no idea” what she’s doing every day—turned her discomfort into confidence.

“Scary moments are so important because they help us grow and transform,” said Harper. “If you know the why of what you’re doing—like creating a new narrative for Indigenous people—then you’ll always have the fuel you’ll need.”

One member of the enraptured audience was 22-year-old Becca MacAulay, an office administrator at the Downtown Halifax Business Commission. She wanted to come to the event because she loves any professional development opportunity that will help her carve out her career path.

“I feel like I’m pretty ambitious and I want to grow into a leadership role of some sort because right now I’m very low on the totem pole,” said MacAulay. “I love any opportunity to hear other women’s stories and I usually get very inspired by things like this and when I leave, I feel like I want to change the world.”

MacAulay has aspirations of starting her own business—one day. She is admittedly risk-averse, but said she was motivated by the stories she heard.

“I liked when Jenn said that she didn’t know anything about the industry that she got into, but she just started researching because that’s very much my energy,” said MacAulay. “Oh, and you can pretty much learn anything on the internet! That was a big takeaway for me.”

It wasn’t all entrepreneurship all the time though.

Justine Colley-Leger—standout athlete and current athletic director at the Halifax Grammar School—explained how in sports, you are given so many real life experiences that are transferable into other parts of our lives, including our work.

click to enlarge Wonder Women converge on Halifax
Julie Lawrence / The Coast
Justine Colley-Leger says in basketball, as in life, every new possession is a new opportunity.

“Those first few years on the basketball court shaped me into the person I am today because I had to make up for the extra pounds and inches my opponents had on me with skill,” explained Colley-Leger. “I learned about dealing with stress and anxiety when I had a free throw to win or lose a game, and about managing disappointment. But in basketball, and in life, each new possession is a new opportunity.”

It was the first time a person from the sporting community delivered a keynote at the Wonder Women conference and her message was received loud and clear: do what you love and you’ll never go wrong.

“I love living on the edge of my limits,” said Colley-Leger. “That’s where the fun takes place.”

Along with the two keynote speakers, the Wonder Women conference included a panel discussion on investing in women, as well as two breakout sessions where attendees could meet, network and share ideas. All with a keen focus on inclusivity, inspiration and support.

“Some of the themes that we talked about today were around supporting entrepreneurship, the role that mentorship plays in supporting women and taking risks on younger women and placing them in stretch roles,” said Davison. “We also talked about combating burnout, securing funding, building connections and women in sport.”

Fully armed with knowledge and a shield of unwavering support, these women poured onto Argyle Street at the end of the day poised and emboldened, with an undeniable air of invincibility.

As Wonder Woman herself says “I am the man who can.”

Julie Lawrence

Julie Lawrence is a journalist, communications specialist and intersectional feminist from Halifax, N.S. She is the Editor of The Coast Daily.
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