YARMOUTH, N.S. – At eight years old, after one of the best days of her life, Xoe Nickerson knows what she wants to be when she grows up.
“I want to be a construction worker,” she said, after spending the day on Nov. 9 mentoring in the woodworking trades with Freshco blue-collar CEO Mandy Rennehan at the RennDuPrat shop in Yarmouth.
(Oh, and she also wants to be a karate instructor a couple of evenings a week. She already has an orange belt with a full black stripe.)
The truth is, the possibilities of what Xoe and other girls can be is endless. And therein lies the beauty of the message that was being sent to young girls on this day: You can be anything.
The day was a special collaboration between Rennehan, Frescho, Mattel and Barbie, aimed at empowering girls and placing focus on careers that may not be seen as traditional for women – the trades. RennDuPrat and the Yarmouth Mall were among others that also played a key role.
Throughout the years Barbie has taken on 180 careers, and counting, and now includes Construction Barbie, which was being celebrated on this day.
Rennehan, who has repeatedly been recognized as one of the top female entrepeurneurs in Canada, knew when she had the opportunity to take part in this mentorship experience she wanted it to be in her hometown of Yarmouth. She was thrilled with how the day went.
“The fact that we can bring a global brand like Mattel and a kind of, I would say, a North American brand like me, that came from a small town and combine us together and see these young girls in pink, happy, I mean look at this, this is just incredible,” Rennehan said at a Barbie Pop-Up Party held at the Yarmouth Mall as part of the day. “The energy is off the charts.”
The Pop-Up Party included various activities and 300 Barbies were given out for free from Mattel. Staff throughout all the stores in the mall sported the pink Barbie You Can Be Anything t-shirts as a show of solidarity for the message, as did the many event volunteers. The mall was packed with kids and their families for the event.
Rennehan said the day’s message was an important one.
“I want people to love who they want, be what they want and live the life that a lot of people before us couldn’t live,” she said.
Asked if she sees more women going into the trades, she says not as many as she would hope. She wants to change this.
“I would like to tell you that the numbers are staggering, but they still aren’t,” she said. “But I feel like somebody like me is giving women permission to be who they want, when they want. And so we’re steadily seeing that number climb one day at a time.”
Xoe Nickerson, who is a Grade 3 student at Meadowfields Community School, won a You Can Be Anything Barbie Contest that gave her the opportunity to mentor alongside Rennehan for the day. They painted, they hammered, they screwed doors on a cabinet, and on it went. The excitement was infectious.
Yarmouth Mayor Pam Mood was thrilled to see this event come to Yarmouth.
“It is an amazing opportunity for any little girl to see you actually can be anything you set your mind to. There is no glass ceiling, you just break through it,” she said, wearing the chain of office that her grandfather wore when he was mayor of Yarmouth. Further proof, she said, that anything is achievable.
“At a very young age at 11, I looked up at him home – I called him Ghiddi – I said ‘Ghiddi, one day when you’re not the mayor, I’m going to be mayor,’” she said, saying he told her he had no doubt that she would be.
Mary Thompson, the principal of the NSCC Burridge Campus, spoke at the Pop-Up Party about the many types of trades programs that are offered at the community college in Yarmouth.
“While traditionally some of the trades have been male dominated, we’re seeing big changes and we’re seeing a lot of women coming it the trades,” she said. “It is truly one of the careers of the future. We’re really excited to be a part of this.”
When Rennehan and Mattel decided to partner on this You Can Be Anything event, it could have happened anywhere – except that Rennehan knew there was only one place for it to be.
“Whether people want to admit it or not, a lot of the rural areas in Canada and other places get left out of many things,” she said. “Mattel and I very much had an understanding that if they wanted me to be the construction Barbie mentor, that it was going to be in my hometown.”
Rennehan, whose nickname is Bear, said she and Xoe had a great day together and are definitely BFFs (best friends forever) now.
“We are Bear and Bear Jr., we are absolutely crazy about each other,” Rennehan said. “She never took her eyes off anything we were doing today and that shows a passion. I know she will be in our field.”
It certainly was a whirlwind day. In addition to the construction work there was a lot of filming and interviews, which Xoe took in stride, asking at one point late in the day if everyone was, “Ready to Roll” – her cue that it was time to get ‘er done.
She also got to ride in the Barbie-Mobile, escorted to the Yarmouth Mall by dump trucks.
It’s little wonder she couldn’t pinpoint her favourite part of the experience. When asked what the best part of the day was, she replied, “Everything was good about it.”