With the gender pay gap, the fight for women’s equality and the #metoo movement in the spotlight, a conference for female powerhouses could not be more timely or topical. Cue the inaugural Women in Wellness Leadership Conference by American Spa magazine. Held on 6 March, two days before International Women’s Day, in New York, the event attracted 230 spa professionals from across the US and beyond.
Recharging and reinvention were the focus of three keynote sessions. “Many people who get into the spa business are looking for healing themselves,” said Emme, a model, TV personality and women’s advocate whose infectious zest and joie de vivre inspired women to be more accepting of themselves and others in relation to body image, self-esteem and overcoming negative thought.
Lesley Jane Seymour, former editor of women’s magazine More, spoke about the importance of reinvention and preparing for unexpected opportunities for change. Since leaving More in 2016, she’s set up the Covey Club – an on and offline hub for the 40-plus set. “Ageing isn’t a disease. It’s not something you can outrun or outsmart. It will happen to you,” she said. “After starting Covey Club, I’m learning that I don’t have to build consensus. And I’m still learning that I can try anything I want that’s new.” Seymour plans to launch spa retreats for her subscribers – something they’ve been very vocal about needing to incorporate into their lives.
Sallie Krawcheck, CEO and co-founder of women’s investment platform Ellevest addressed the need for women to create a financial future through smart investing and planning. The room was filled with laughter thanks to her unique style of storytelling, along with a not so funny anecdote about losing her life’s savings and job when the market crashed in 2008.
What the attendees say
Between keynotes, breakout sessions ran with topics ranging from brand building to embracing feminine traits. Dana Campbell, CEO of Optimize Corps, who led a session on transcending burnout said: “Taking control of our lives and careers is one of the best ways to improve our overall happiness and to make an impact in the world.”
Discussions were also held throughout lunch, with 24 tables focusing on different subjects. Sara Jones, editor of Spa & Wellness Mexicaribe, encouraged women to join the Global Wellness Institute’s Women in Leadership Initiative (see p20). Meanwhile, spa PR Debra Locker focused on how to manage toxic working environments and brand and wellness activist Joanna Roche hosted the topic of cultural sustainability and self-care.
Of the day, Michelle Gamble, VP global business development for the Global Wellness Summit, said: “It was an extraordinary event on so many levels – inspiration, information and connections with women I admire and respect. I’m already looking forward to next year!”
Fellow attendee Glenny Legendre, executive VP of sales and marketing for LaFlore Probiotic Skincare agreed. “I came to the conference to celebrate my years of friendships with women in the spa and wellness industry, get a little work in and make new friends,” she said. “My takeaways are threefold: to take control of my financial destiny; to commit to indie beauty as a vendor; and to create a partnership with a potential new spa partner for our brand that I met here at the conference.”
Not to be forgotten are the men who came to support Women in Wellness – several of whom were sponsors. Michael Pugliese, CEO of Circadia noted: “as a male owner of a skincare brand, I feel it’s incredibly important to support this event – unlike any of its kind – that focuses on the women of our industry.”
Empowerment and inspiration
Julie Keller Callaghan, editor in chief and publisher of American Spa, who’s behind the event said inspiration for it first came when she was inundated with more than 400 nominations for the magazine’s Women in Wellness Awards last year.
“I’ve been at American Spa for 14 years – what I love most about the industry are the women in it,” she said. “I’ve always been empowered and inspired by you. I wanted to put something positive in the universe.”
In her closing remarks Keller Callaghan added, “I hope that everyone left today with powerful tools to help them grow and evolve and be better leaders and better people and to spread the word of women empowerment and wellness.”
Join American Spa’s Women in Wellness Leadership Group on Facebook for ongoing updates and news about future conferences and events.