The Luxury of Life
Who thought celebrating motherhood would get me in trouble? This week we are continuing with our theme this week of women who are doing extraordinary things within somewhat traditional roles. But first… a word about those traditional roles and why I think discussing and celebrating them is not contrary to supporting women and speaking out against gender bias. And why this week did not fall closer to Mother’s Day ….
There is no disputing the fact that women give birth to baby humans. In discussing this I am reminded of an old country store I used to visit with my grandparents. It was the only store within a ten mile radius and had been operating for over forty years. The owner originally did not plan to have a store. He took an old homesteading cabin that was a hundred years old and made one of the first “man caves”. In short, his wife told him he could not hang the mounted head from his last hunting trip.
The owner gradually added a counter for tanning the hides and friends dropped by. Seeing a market, the owner added some treats and later expanded his candy selection to include other grocery staples and small hardware items. Before he knew it, he was spending less time farming and hunting and more time running his country store. His minnow pond was almost as popular as the candy and soon his store was supporting his family.
I remember driving up to the store and remarking on how it looked like it was going to fall down. Even the steps to the front door looked like that would fall in with my weight. My grandfather told me not to be so quick to judge and held the door open for me. Stepping inside, I was instantly wrapped in the owner’s arms and then received smiles from the others hanging around the counter. There was a keg upended upon which sat the obligatory checkerboard and two oversized wooden rockers for those wishing to play. A similar set-up was on the other side of the store with a game of dominoes being played fervently and passionately.
I spent many hours visiting my grandparents and always begged to go visit that country store. Free candy notwithstanding, I remember it as a place of acceptance and love, of laughter and warmth, of being welcomed and also taught a few things. Motherhood reminds me of that old country store.
Not every female wants to have children but for those that do, they open themselves and their offspring into a lifetime that, hopefully, is one similar to what I experienced at the old store. Not every mothering experience ends with all smiles. Life is a fragile thing and sometimes the balance is too great for success. We forget that fragility and often take it for granted. Childbirth is still the most dangerous personal health experience many women will ever face.
Today we will discuss three women who are doing “typical female things” (I really hate that description but let’s face it, such a phrase exists and must be addressed.” And have become very successful by doing it. We all do the same things – breathe, eat, need healthcare, need affordable housing, etc. Educating women is good for the world and offering such can only improve a nation’s end game.
Ask most men to describe a little girl’s wishes for when she is grown up and most will say something about being beautiful, maybe being a ballerina, getting to wear pretty clothes. Oh, a few might throw in getting an education. Aslung Magnusdottir is a native of Iceland but also spent time growing up in Los Angeles, California. She studied law at the University of Iceland and excelled, winning a Fulbright Scholarship that brought her back to the U.S.A., studying at Duke University. She received her Master of Business Administration from Harvard University, becoming the first women from Iceland to do so.
While in college, Magnusdottir had begun a modeling agency. She worked as a tax and corporate attorney in Iceland and London but returned to fashion when she went to work at an investment firm and handled several fashion accounts. She then relocated to New York City and worked with fashion and merchandising great Marvin Traub and the two began their own investment business financing up and coming designers. Then Magnusdottir had an idea.
Aslung Magnusdottir began her own company Moda Operandi which allowed women to directly order clothes right after they walked the fashion runway. Women could then get the latest designs directly from the designers. In 2013 she left that company and started another called Tinker Tailor. This company lets women alter or redesign designer clothing to fit their own bodies and lifestyles. She has not confined her activities to only law and fashion, however. Magnusdottir was nominated as the Chairwoman of the National Ballet Company of Iceland, has served as Vice-Chairman of a political party and even cofounded a political movement within the Independence Party of Iceland promoting women’s rights.
Tracy Sun describes herself as a “west coast gal with an east coast heart.” Holding an MBA from Dartmouth College, Tracy Sun launched Poshmark in 2010, an iPhone app that allows a person to browse, buy, and sell clothing and accessories. Poshmark is, according to their website, “Poshmark is the largest community marketplace for fashion where any woman can buy, sell and share her personal style. With over 700,000 sellers and millions of shoppers, Poshmark brings together a vibrant community of women every day to express themselves and share their love of fashion.”
Poshmark has been described as a way to “turn your closet into cash” but the company focuses on more than just their bottom line. They are committed to creating a welcoming workplace, a productive and caring environment much like that old country store I described earlier. “We are obsessed with our team and our community, working together to build an entirely new way to shop. That way, when we win, we all win together.” And did I mention Tracy Sun loves border collies?
Women are the only ones in the species of mankind that can give birth, that can ensure the future of the beings we call men and women. That doesn’t mean we have to make their traditional roles a prison, though. These two women discussed her are just two of our thousands that have taken those traditional roles and habits and made them successful businesses.
Not only are they prosperous professionally, they have created loving families and are sharing their abilities in ways that encourage other women. In recent years there has been almost a competition among women with traditional roles and those with nontraditional roles. Such competition is senseless and completely self-defeating. We need to work together – all of us, female and male. We need strong people to lead us into the future. We need strong women. That is the best luxury of life we could experience.