Have the courage to succeed, Manjit Minhas tells U of C women in work conference

It’s not like they’d never seen a black bear before. This time, though, one got a little too close for comfort.

“We decided to stand there with our bear spray,” says Manjit Minhas of the day she and her brother Ravinder encountered the wild animal on a mountain trail. “We watched this beautiful animal eat the buffalo berries from the tree. He climbed up the little stump and he sat there for about 15 minutes, grabbed more berries, and away he went.”

For the Calgary-born entrepreneur, the bear encounter served as a metaphor for her then-nascent career as a brewer. “We decided we would always be cautious and conservative, yet also be courageous,” she says. “We were going to forge ahead and continue this journey ahead of us.”

Years after that moment of revelation courtesy of one of Mother Nature’s majestic beasts, Minhas is now famed as the Beer Baroness of Canada. On Tuesday morning, she shares her never-say-die story of business success with about 200 female students at the University of Calgary’s MacEwan Student Centre.

The 37-year-old entrepreneur is at her alma mater to kick off the second annual Women in Work conference, a three-day event that is hosted by the school’s career services team.

This year, the theme of the conference is Disrupting the Status Quo, which Nora Molina says is vital to ensuring greater equity in the workplace.

“Our message is really about encouraging the young women here today to take opportunities where they can lead more,” says Molina, the U of C’s career services manager.

“We want to encourage them to expect more in salary negotiations and get them thinking about their negotiating skills when it comes to new opportunities that can help advance their careers.”

Indeed, the statistics on a large video screen speak to the challenges that lie ahead for these business-minded female students, who on this day come from the U of C as well as other post-secondary institutions in the city.

Female university graduates earn 90 cents for every dollar their male counterparts earn; nine per cent of the top jobs in Canada are held by women; and women still only comprise 15 per cent of corporate board members.

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