Karen Wagner & Erica Baird met in the early 80’s at a networking event for the few female lawyers who had entered the profession in the early 70s. Fast forward three decades, with successful careers and family under their belts. And then came the next chapter.
RETIREMENT… Was it what they expected? How did they adapt to carefree days from having worked fulltime for so many years? They were Career Women! Who were they now? So, they joined forces and decided to create Lustre, a platform addressing Modern Women & Modern Retirement. ♥
– as told to The Silver Women
What made you want to create the platform?
We both retired at about the same time, after working for four decades as successful corporate lawyers. We were both members of a relatively small female legal community and had known each other for years. Neither of us thought much about or planned for retirement, other than casually agreeing that we would at least be able to occupy some of our time by having lunch- not at our desks. After we retired, and after some rest, we started doing things together. Lunch, for sure, but also going to new places and doing new things. We began to network with other similarly situated recently retired or soon to be retired career women. We talked with others about retirement, and how we were feeling about it. When we started putting words to our reactions, we noticed that almost everyone we talked to was feeling the same way. There was the identity question -“who am I,” now that I am no longer a lawyer, doctor, teacher, producer… There was the purpose question- ‘what is my purpose now’ that I have no job and want still to be engaged and part of the larger world?
“How will I occupy my days?
What will I wear?
What is my image if it isn’t related to my work and my title?’
We both became interested in why this was happening. Why weren’t we thrilled by the prospect of having decades to do what we want, when we want? Why were we feeling less confident, more round-shouldered, when we met new people? Why did we not like answering the “what do you do” question by saying “we are retired.” Why were we all of a sudden feeling badly about ourselves? One day on the top of the world. Next day out of it entirely. We did a lot of thinking, a lot of reading, a lot of talking and research. We came to realize that there were a number of things going on, all at once. None of them is based in reality.
First, assumptions about what retirement is and looks like are outdated. They were formulated in the 50”s when people didn’t live long after retirement and looked forward in their few remaining years to taking advantage of all sorts of good new things–televisions, resorts, the national highway system and affordable cars. But now, 80 years later, you are more likely than not to live until you are 90. That means you have decades to live in retirement status. We didn’t want just to play for 30 years!
Second, a lot of today’s retirees are women. That’s new. And it seems that older women are viewed differently than older men. When you want a “gray hair” in the room, you mean you want an experienced, distinguished older man. Not a gray-haired woman with the same experience. Older men, maybe because they can still procreate, are silver foxes full of sex appeal. Older women, maybe because they can’t, are tired out and have lost their sex appeal. Of course, our observations are entirely different. The women we see are much more out and about, stylish and with it than the men!
Third, having been part of the first wave of women who worked for decades and are now in a position to retire, we value that part of our identity that is based on the fact that we worked full time. We loved working and all the things that went with it. Interesting people, hard issues, great colleagues. We loved the confidence, financial security, sense of pride and accomplishment that came with our careers. People expected us to just go chill. We had no interest in that. We wanted to fill the big hole left when we stopped working.
Finally, we didn’t see any role models who were living the dream in a way that made sense to us. We didn’t see ourselves reflected anywhere. Pictures of older women who seemed still sentient were actually of famous women who were still working–like Helen Mirren and Lauren Hutton.
No pictures of women like us, still engaged in the world.
We learned that not having authentic positive images in the media is neither good for the physical and mental health of the people portrayed nor good for society. We want to be givers, not takers. And we need to feel good about ourselves in order to do that.
So we decided to do something about it. When our generation of women entered the workforce, we believed, because of the success of the Women’s Movement, that we could be and do anything. It turned out that making the choice to have a career and a family, and working until retirement, wasn’t as easy as we thought it would be, but it sure was worth it. We changed the working world by our presence. We realized we needed to do the same thing again, this time by changing what it means to be a retired woman–showing us as the active, vibrant, engaged people we are, with decades of knowledge and experience that we want to continue to contribute.
– Karen Wagner & Erica Baird
“And that is why we created Lustre.
It’s our platform to change images of older women, and of retirement and, by doing that, to create opportunities for all of us.”
Before we say goodbye…
MY FAVORITE QUESTIONS!
Women who inspired you as a young girl?
Women, who inspire you now?
As a young girl: Marie Curie, Amelia Earhart, Billie Jean King and Eleanor Roosevelt. Curie because she was a path-breaker in the scientific world. Earhart because it was so cool to see a woman flying a plane. Billie Jean because she won the battle of the sexes. And Roosevelt because she was a champion of human rights.
Now: Michelle Obama, Angela Merkel, and Sally Ride. Michelle because she was an iconoclastic first lady. Merkel because she has convictions, and takes risks for them. Ride because she went into space.
As a young girl: Audrey Hepburn, Jackie Kennedy, Gloria Steinem, and my grandmother. Hepburn because she had grace and style. Jackie because she gave a mourning nation hope. Gloria because she is Gloria and we all wanted to be her. My grandmother because she was always curious, she wrote books called “Yes”, she believed in girls and women and was always doing her own thing too.
Now: Jane Fonda, Michelle Obama, and Katherine Graham. Jane Fonda because she continues to work, be engaged and be beautiful all at the same time. Michelle because of her grace and ability to keep her own counsel and speak, both at just the right time. Katherine Graham for her bravery and patriotism – EB
Many Thanks to Karen Wagner and Erica Baird.
Truly Inspiring Women!
They certainly Caught My Eye.