Celebrating The Third Annual #HerHalton International Women’s Day Breakfast

The below article was first published on haltech.ca

Milton, ON, March 5, 2020 – Halton Region Celebrates Third Annual #HerHalton International Women’s Day Breakfast.


On Thursday, March 5, 2020, over 175 professional women and men from Halton Region joined co-organizers HaltechTechPlaceBurlington Economic DevelopmentHalton Region and Yellow Robot for the third annual #HerHalton International Women’s Day Breakfast at the RattleSnake Point Golf Club in Milton, ON.

“HerHalton began when Haltech noticed a large increase in female clients. Now in its third year, this annual event celebrates International Women’s Day through the recognition of female-led initiatives and achievements in Halton Region.” says Shann McGrail, Executive Director of Haltech.

Aligned with this year’s International Women’s Day theme, ‘Each for Equal,’ HerHalton speakers spanned a diverse range of entrepreneurs, corporate professionals, mentors, and community leaders, and this was the first year with male speakers! The morning was full of thought-provoking guest speakers, a panel discussion moderated by Yellow Robot’s Co-founder and Director of Marketing and Communications Kimberly Calderbank, and a keynote speech by Professor Maja. The talks covered the role of inclusivity, mentorship, and confidence building to move towards a gender-equal future.

To start the morning, philanthropist and advocate David Vandenberg, addressed the importance of ‘mentorship as a catalyst for change’, discussing the impact that female mentors have had in his life, and the opportunities for female empowerment and male education through mentorship between men and women. As a male speaker, David addressed his inherent privileges, and outlined actions that men can take to forge gender equality, as outlined by Plan International.

Guest speaker, mathematician, and inventor Sherry Shannon-Vanstone gave a motivating talk outlining action steps to create equality and parity. In response to feelings of helplessness about gender equality, Sherry spoke to easy, and accessible actions that we can take as women. By choosing to act, and join voices with others, to not stay quiet, and to take action to join the boards of nonprofits, or other local companies, women can share their voice and create change.

Expanding upon the importance of mentorship, Angel Investor and Mable’s Labels co-founder Julie Ellis took the stage with mentor Karen Hanna, followed by COO of ATA Inc., and leader in technology Sandeep Soni accompanied by her mentor Judy Lindenbach. These discussions gave insight into the importance of mentorship as a tool to not only forge strategic connections and education, but as a strong confidence building and motivating relationship for women.

Julie Ellis shared how Karen Hanna’s mentorship was able to keep her accountable, shift her toward a growth mindset perspective, and push her to think big with her goals. Sandeep Soni shared her learnings from mentor Judy Lindenbach on the importance for women to be seen and heard by making invisible work visible, asking for clarification when needed, and moving away from fear-based decision making.

This year, keynote speaker Professor Maja, sociologist, author and TEDx speaker, took the stage to present an engaging and vibrant speech on why women should ‘Stop Apologising!’ as a method to build confidence, and forge a path toward gender equality. Professor Maja outlined how apologies undermine female confidence and plant seeds of doubt in the mind of the listener. As Canadians, we are already primed with habitual ‘sorry’s’, and women are much more likely to deliver unnecessary apologies than men. Professor Maja expressed the toll that unnecessary apologies have on female confidence, as she offered constructive, mindful, and confidence-building alternatives to habitual ‘sorry’s’ including saying ‘thank you’, ‘excuse me’, ‘go-ahead’, or ‘I have an idea’.

To celebrate local opportunities for female leadership building in Halton Region, Monique Belair, Town of Oakville Deputy Fire Chief, championed Camp Molly, a free, 3-day firefighting training program in June for girls aged 15-18. Monique Belair illustrated the opportunities for women in firefighting, explaining that the typical ‘wet on hot’ role of the fire service is only one component of a range of roles, including communications, administration, and fire prevention education. The HerHalton community expressed support with a charitable contribution to Camp Molly, in lieu of speaker gifts.

Haltech Executive Director, Shann McGrail shared additional local community events for confidence-building and leadership skills in Halton Region. This included the new Haltech and Silicon Halton collaboration event Women in Tech Peer2Peer. This Peer2Peer will be open to all women in tech ranging from freelancers, SME’s, executives, and entrepreneurs, and more details will be coming soon. Another local event happening on March 25th is the Halton Industry Education Council’s HIEC  Women as Career Coaches event which brings together young women and local female career coaches through mentorship.

During closing remarks, Olympic gold medalist, and MP of Milton, Adam Van Koeverden, expressed the importance of female mentors in his life, specifically thanking MP Pam Damoff for her encouragement and motivation to go into public service. Burlington Economic Development Executive Director, Anita Cassidy, closed the event, celebrating female achievement and women-held leadership roles in the City of Burlington.

The HerHalton community was pleased to have MP of Oakville North—Burlington, Pam Damoff, welcome an astounding 17 elected officials from the Halton Region to the event.

HaltechTechPlaceBurlington Economic DevelopmentHalton Region and Yellow Robot would like to thank the #HerHalton community, and this year’s event sponsors for their participation, support, and advocacy. Anyone interested in getting involved with #HerHalton are encouraged to sign up here to become a member and stay in the loop regarding upcoming news and events.


Professor Maja

Professor Maja is a sociologist, author, and confidence-researcher. Her TEDx Talk “How Apologies Kill Our Confidence” was featured by TED IDEAS in their 2019 article “Do You Say ‘Sorry’ too Much?” She is also a regular guest expert on television. Professor Maja runs a leadership organization that trains women to improve their confidence, communication, and mindset. Maja also speaks to women of all ages on topics such as confidence, perfectionism, people-pleasing, imposter syndrome, time-management, and body positivity. Professor Maja holds a Ph.D. in sociology from McMaster University where she also teaches. Her new study “Women’s Confidence and Communication Styles” is a global study exploring what strengthens and weakens women’s confidence, and how apologies, deflection of praise and self-compassion impacts our confidence and communication.

Julie Ellis

Julie Ellis has 15 years of experience in the financial services industry and was most recently the Chief Operating Officer for a privately held omnichannel retailer in Canada, responsible for driving the company’s growth toward operational excellence, team integration, and market expansion. She is the co-founder of the successful Canadian small business Mabel’s Labels and has been involved in the business and startup communities for many years. She was Chair of the Board at Innovation Factory in Hamilton, ON., which offers programs that accelerate the innovation process for up-and-coming companies through collaboration with community-based resources from business, science, government, academia, and finance. She is the current Board Chair at Angel One Investor Network, one of the most active angel groups in Canada.

David Vandenberg

Currently enrolled at McMaster University in Political Science, David Vandenberg is a passionate community leader and speaker in the Halton Region. David has worked in both the senior living and government relations industry during his tenure at McMaster University. David continues to be engaged in many facets of the community, focusing specifically on charitable and political campaigns. David’s deep commitment to innovative community and city-building has inspired him to pursue a career in the real estate investment industry. He continues to be a strong advocate for youth and poverty relief in the Halton Region, having served on many boards and committees such as Pythons’ Pit, the Halton Industry Education Council and the Compassion Society of Halton. David previously chaired the re-election campaign for former Mayor Rick Goldring in 2018. His values towards volunteer work and community involvement, harmonized with entrepreneurial passion expresses his desire to give back to the community while excelling in the business sector.

Sherry Shannon-Vanstone

Sherry Shannon-Vanstone is a Mathematician, entrepreneur, inventor, philanthropist, mentor, and corporate board member. She has been involved in three very successful start-up ventures — Cylink, Certicom, and TrustPoint Innovation— and recently launched a new company called Profound Impact. Sherry is currently the co-chair of the Perimeter Institute’s Emmy Noether Council, the co-chair of the Waterloo Region chapter of Women in Communications and Technology (WCT) and is a member of the board of directors and advisory boards for several private and public companies and associations. In June 2019 Sherry received an Honorary Doctorate of Laws from Western University, Canada, and in 2015 she was awarded – WOW – the World Waterloo Region’s Female Innovator of the Year. In Nov 2019, Sherry was named one of the 100 women/100 years in Milton. She holds a Master of Science degree in mathematics from the University of Tennessee and was a cryptologic mathematician with the US Government.

Sandeep Soni

With over 20 years of experience in the IT industry, Sandeep has demonstrated success in product innovation and entrepreneurship. She is an innovative, strategy-driven leader with an established track record for boosting profitability, expediting time to market, reversing poor financial performance, and driving progress for start-up, early-stage, high growth, and emerging technology companies. A passionate advocate of Women in Technology, Sandeep helps organizations promote a culture of inclusivity and acceptance, to build a more productive, innovative and successful workforce.

About #HerHalton

#HerHalton is a peer-to-peer community for women who live or work in the Halton Region. Members support and empower one another through respectful and honest discussions, collaboration and networking opportunities. The annual Women’s Day Breakfast aims to bring the community together and celebrate female-led achievements in the region.

About Haltech Regional Innovation Centre

Haltech is part of Halton Region’s innovation ecosystem, working with technology companies to accelerate innovation for business growth. We support technology entrepreneurs and companies to grow and scale their business with a wide range of free services that include: Business Advising & Innovation Support, Entrepreneur Skill Development through Education, and Corporate Innovation Partnerships.

About TechPlace

TechPlace is a one-stop destination for new and growing technology companies. With the support of partners from across the public and private sectors, it is dedicated to connecting, developing, and advancing entrepreneurs at all stages. This means providing access to space, programming, mentorship, networking, and resources that are fundamental to growing a business in today’s technology-driven marketplace. Led by Burlington Economic Development, TechPlace exists to help technology, talent and ideas come together under one roof to create and promote opportunities for economic growth.

About Burlington Economic Development

Burlington Economic Development has the mandate to enhance the growth prospects of existing companies and bring new high-value firms to the community. Burlington Economic Development’s focus is on growing the economic base to sustain Burlington’s competitive and prosperous community. Burlington Economic Development is the first point of contact for companies looking to expand, start-up or locate in Burlington.

About Halton Region

The Halton Region Small Business Centre offers a suite of services to entrepreneurs and small business owners across industries and in all stages – from formulating an idea to starting and expanding a business.  For global and scale-up clients, the Halton Global Business Centre provides a hub of resources and support for local small to medium-sized businesses that are looking to grow and export/import.  Services include one-on-one consulting, business plan review, market research, seminars and events, grant and mentoring programs, and a public-access resource centre.

About Yellow Robot

Creative. Strategic. Impressive. Yellow Robot is a boutique marketing agency located in the heart of Burlington, Ontario.  We provide all the services you would expect from a big agency, with a hands-on, focused approach. We work tirelessly as your marketing partner to help you achieve your goals.