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American Spa’s Julie Keller Callaghan is Leading The Women In Wellness Empowerment Movement

Jenna Bascom Photography

“I believe in abundance – one woman’s success does not and should not take away from another’s—any woman’s success is only good for us all.” 

Empowered women empower other women, who then go on to empower the world. The American Spa’s Women in Wellness Leadership Conference proves that the road to success is paved with networking. After the 2016 election, instead of feeling powerless, Julie Keller Callaghan decided to become a cheerleader for women. The idea for the conference began to hatch. The American Spa Magazine’s editor-in-chief and publisher is an inspiration to women like me; women who are willing to share resources and tips in order to contribute to a greater good. Julie’s initiative to help women lift each other up does not end with the conference. She has created a network of women who support each other all year long, along with a scholarship that provides career assistance for one lucky recipient.

Jenna Bascom Photography

My personal takeaway from the first New York City 2018 conference was to take matters into my own hands and make things happen, then pass on the wisdom. Last year’s message of empowerment did not stop with career advice. Women from all walks of life and industries came together to spread positive energy and encouragement. Some of last year’s notable speakers include: Sallie L. Krawcheck, a well-known CEO of Ellevest and owner of the Ellevate Network; Emme Aronson, the world’s first plus-size supermodel and body image advocate; and Lauren Clifford Knudsen, senior vice president of J Public Relations.

The lineup for this year’s conference is just as impressive. Among the revered speakers are financial and career experts, award-winning journalists, wellness and medical professionals and marketing gurus. View the entire list of leading experts for the 2019 Women in Wellness Leadership Conference NYC and register here to attend. This year’s New York conference is not to be missed. Next stop, West Coast.

How was the idea of Women In Wellness Leadership Conference born? Was there a specific aha! moment?

The idea came about for a lot of reasons. Throughout the course of my career, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting incredible women in the wellness space who become much more than colleagues. They have taught me so much, not only about the industry but about life and relationships and motherhood. I am simply in awe of the women in our industry and for years have been thinking about what I can do to give back even a fraction of what I’ve received. Then, the fall of 2016 happened, and I felt, frankly, gross and disappointed and disheartened about how women in general were being treated and discussed and marginalized. And this was even before #metoo and #timesup happened. Like the millions of women who were galvanized by the state of the world, I felt like I wanted to do something good and put something positive back into the universe, and my team and I came up with the American Spa Women in Wellness Leadership Awards, where we acknowledged women who are transforming the spa and wellness industry with their contributions. Although I knew it would resonate, I was so thrilled with the fact that we got more than 400 nominations for deserving women. I knew we had struck a chord, and I knew I wanted to do more. There are some wonderful events in our industry, but I felt like there wasn’t anything that was addressing the things that we as women need to do to address truly troubling disparity in salaries, leadership positions, growth and entrepreneurial opportunities, networking options, and more in a meaningful way that would help women make changes that matter. And I also think that women, when they do get into leadership positions, have such incredible talents and inherent positive qualities that need to be cultivated and celebrated. I wanted to create an event that provided a safe, nurturing, powerful, and informative environment that would help enact change. So that is where the seed germinated, and I have to say I am so proud of how it has come to fruition. The first event was even better than I imagined it would be, and we are continuing that amazing momentum into the next one.

What did you learn from the first conference and how will that effect this year’s program? 

I learned that women are craving this kind of information, and my knowledge that they are smart, savvy, and demand excellence was reinforced. They love leadership and entrepreneurial topics but don’t want any 101-type education. They want speakers who are going to provide tangible, powerful tips that they can take back to their lives, both professionally and personally. As such, we knew that we had to be very thoughtful in speaker recruitment and find topics that would truly resonate. Also…we all LOVE to talk and network. So, we are leaving more time for that and creating some really fun opportunities for networking, photos, and more. It’s going to be an unforgettable day.

Why do you believe it is so important to spread the message of women empowering women and networking? 

I believe that women are making great progress in creating paths toward leadership roles and being more proactive in their careers. However, we have a long way to go. There is still a troubling salary gap and the percentages of women in leadership in business, government, and, closer to home, hospitality, are still significantly skewed. It important to keep up the momentum, to loop in women AND men to create awareness and conversation and to enact real change. I think the best thing women can do is to truly take on mentorship roles and bring other women up. One thing that truly enlightened women do well for other women is offer support and encouragement. I believe in abundance – one woman’s success does not and should not take away from another’s—any woman’s success is only good for us all.

In what ways has the publishing and wellness industry changed since you first started your own career? 

Oh my goodness, it has changed so much on both counts. I came up in print journalism, and American Spa used to be a print publication only. Now it is very much a brand with a magazine, websites, newsletters, social media, video, events, and more. It is sometimes daunting but it’s also exciting. I also think it is amazing, both for myself and my team, to become experts in so many different things and develop our skill set in such a unique way. It certainly has taken me out of my comfort zone, which can be scary, but for the most part, it’s exciting. As for the wellness industry, that has also changed spectacularly. When I first started with American Spa about 15 years ago, my dad thought I was working for a magazine about hot tubs. I certainly don’t get that reaction these days. 

What message would you give to young women looking to work in publishing? 

I think that in this time of social media, texting, and immediate communication, the art of writing well has gone to the wayside a little bit. I think those who are good writers can really stand out nowadays, so I encourage you to hone that skill. But I also think you need to become an expert in many things to be successful and have a career with a future, because publishing has changed and will only change more and at a faster pace. You need to be able to write, take photos, feel comfortable jumping in front of the camera, and understand and be able to work across social media platforms. I think it is so important to do multiple internships, cultivate relationships, do the work, and expect to put in the time. Also, don’t forget that while talent is vital and something that will take you far, contacts and networking are just as important. I also truly believe in the power of mentorship. Find a mentor, and take advantage of every bit of advice and guidance they can provide.

2018 was a great year for the beauty and wellness industry, resulting in a higher number of female CEOs. Where do you foresee this movement going? 

I think it really can only move forward and get bigger. I think women bring such a unique perspective to leadership that can drive a company to success. Of course, I also think that collaboration is so important. I think the companies that involve men and women working together collaboratively and being compensated fairly and equally is an important part of that equation.

What do you wish for attendees to take away from this year’s conference? 

I want attendees to leave the conference feeling inspired and motivated to make changes in their lives. I go to a lot of events, and I always say that if I leave with one tool or idea, it is worth is. I want these attendees to leave with a notebook full of tools and ideas and inspiration. And I want them to leave with solid strategies that will help them personally and professionally.

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