Women have been breaking down barriers since they were first erected. Mothers, sisters, daughters, cousins, friends–women make up nearly 50% of the world's population and over 50% of the U.S. workforce, and yet throughout history their achievements and influence have often been minimized or overlooked altogether.
A Brief History
Women's History Month began as a week-long local celebration in Santa Rosa, California in 1978. Over the course of the next few years, momentum grew through communities and counties, which led to President Jimmy Carter officially designating the week of March 8th as Women's History Week in 1980, a fact few may know. Later in the decade, the week expanded into Women's History Month and was originally conceived to recognize the vital roles women have played throughout history, women whose sacrifices paved the way for future generations. Now, Women's History Month generally celebrates the contributions of all women, past and present.
CEOs, directors, political leaders, athletes, scientists, teachers, moms, and sisters–women play a significant part in shaping the world in which we live. In the last days of Women's History Month, we had the chance to chat with several colleagues working in SoCal's design industry about the challenges they've faced as well as advice they have for other women looking to break into the field.
No Risk, No Reward
Entering a new field, particularly one dominated by men, can be daunting.
This is exactly what West Hollywood-based designer Karen Harautuneian of Hub Of The House Studio had to contend with when getting into the luxury kitchen design space in the mid-1990s, "There were no serious female role models in that niche at that time," Karen explains. "As a female in my early 30's, my peers were men in their 50's selling kitchen cabinetry, not full kitchen design–I had to define my career path for myself."
While the challenges of breaking into a new field often presents challenges and risk, our own Pasadena showroom manager Tina Avellano advises, "Learn to be comfortable with the uncomfortable–it's where you learn and grow. The bigger the challenge, the bigger the opportunity to evolve."
Architect Julia Morgan, the first woman to receive her architect license in California and an early pioneer in our state's architecture (including her work on Hearst Castle in San Simeon, CA) is a hero of Viking sales rep Maree Glaser. "It took Julia three 3 tries to get into the Beaux Arts de Paris in the late 1800s," Maree shared. Julia's feat wasn't a small one, she was the first woman to be admitted into the highly competitive male-only program—but, as Maree adds, "she persevered and made it happen."
Creative Thinking Matters
Creativity is the ability to look and interpret situations through a different lens–being able to transcend traditional ideas and come up with new rules, ways of doing things, and ways to solve problems. The design world is an inherently creative space across all its corners, so it's no surprise the women we spoke with were quick to mention its importance.
Migdal Design Associates
Malgosia, the founder of Maglosia Migdal Design, believes that the key to innovating and breaking barriers is "always thinking outside the box and standing confident in my decisions while remaining open to others' creative ideas and knowledge."
"Thinking outside of the box with creative ideas, options, and or solutions," is Maree's most important advice for overcoming obstacles and tapping into innovation, even in her role as a sales manager, which may not be perceived as being overtly creative.
The usefulness of inventive, creative thinking came up time and time again in our conversations, Karen singled out her grandmother, "Rose was a creative, before the word 'creative' was coined. In today's world, she would have owned a lifestyle business, but at the turn of the century, that was not an option. Rose made her world beautiful on a budget, she sewed drapery and bed linens, embroidered towels, and crocheted complex throws. She expanded her skills into fashion, grew to own a shop that had household items as well as dresses, coats, hats, and purses–she was a true source of inspiration."
The Power Of Perseverance
It goes without saying that luck and other variables often play a role in achieving 'success', however you might define it. However, when it comes to reaching goals, whether within or outside of the design arena, we were reminded not to omit the blood, sweat, tears, heart, and soul that surely will be called upon along the journey.
Avellano shared her belief that reliability, steadfastness, and work ethic were keys to success: "When my husband and I divorced in 2010, I was faced with the challenge of getting back into the workforce–when no one wanted to take a chance on me, I took a part-time, temporary, seasonal position and quickly moved into a leadership role."
Maree's key to success? "Work hard, remain positive, retain your sense of humor, and always go the extra mile for your clients and customers." Persevere, exert and apply yourself, and consistently go above and beyond "by making yourself indispensable to your clients, by responding to them immediately, and by always looking out for their best interests."
We All Need Role Models
Role models help depict how we all would like to fit into the world by shaping many of our behavior and decisions. With that said, the U.S. workforce is still male-dominated, and women continue to lag substantially behind them in terms of their representation in leadership positions. So, it's as critical now as ever that female role models have the voice and visibility to offer career advice and support to those that need it.
If you face a hurdle along the way, try to improve yourself in any way you can. "Education, knowledge, and authentic certifications that set you apart from the rest," are crucial areas in which to grow as an interior designer per Malgosia.
More than anything else, always remember, "You can do anything you set your mind to," Tina encourages, "the sky's the limit! My motto is 'I can & I will!' If you want something, go after it with all that you've got!"
As a writer in L.A.'s design world, Kelly states "Your familiarity with the latest 'new media' of any sort, no matter how emerging, is likely to be an asset (and no matter in what form you tell a story, it's good practice). But above all else, stay curious."
Karen offers "find your passion, find the profession that feeds it, and then set a clear and precise vision for how you plan on serving that profession."
Thanks for reading–we believe March, Women's History Month helps serve as an important reminder that if it weren't for women, everything from cellular phones (thank you Heady Lamar) to nuclear energy (and you Marie Curie) would not have been possible, and the list goes on and on. Watson and Crick would never have been able to revolutionize our understanding of biology without Rosalind Franklin's still largely unrecognized work on the structure of DNA before it, one of the main reasons she's a personal hero of Luxe regional editor Kelly Badal. "There's almost always more to the picture than the popularized or 'accepted' version of history," Kelly cautions, "it's important to not let these stories be forgotten."
Kelly Phillips Badal is an L.A.-based writer and editor with nearly 20 years of experience and a particularly deep expertise in interior design, architecture, travel and lifestyle editorial work. Currently the Los Angeles, SoCal and Colorado regional editor for Luxe Interiors + Design, she's also been the editor-in-chief of Interiors California, the executive editor of Angeleno, a senior editor at Country Living and the lifestyle editor at Better Homes & Gardens. Her work has been published in Sunset, California Homes, BBC Travel, Travel + Luxury, CondeNastTraveler.com and TravelandLeisure.com, among other outlets. Originally from Indiana, Kelly spent a decade living in New York City before relocating to Los Angeles, where she now resides with her husband, photographer Tanveer Badal, and 4-year-old daughter, Aria.
Tina lives in the foothills of Glendale with her second husband, Robert, a fine art dealer at Galerie Michael in Beverly Hills. They’ve been married two and a half years and collectively have three adult children. Tina’s two, Connor (28) & Amanda (30) are both engaged to be married. Her step-son Anthony is 24.
She loves living in the San Gabriel valley. Being close to the mountains and the ocean is amazing. She’s lived in the area (South Pasadena, Monrovia & Glendale) for over 30 years and has restored three historic homes; one in LA and two in South Pasadena.
In her spare time, she enjoys gardening, hiking, and reading. She also loves to travel and immerse herself in other cultures.
Malgosia Migdal was born and raised in the town of Gdansk, Poland, on the coast of the baltic sea. From an early age, she enjoyed making her surroundings warm and inviting, and was naturally drawn to the dynamics of interior design. One of her mother’s closest friends was in the design business and Malgosia fondly remembers listening to tales of the latest design trends—all the while wanting to be a part of this exciting world.
Malgosia is an avid traveler, having visited over 40 countries. Each trip that she takes usually ties into an upcoming project or the need for additional research on a specific era or style. Travel also allows Malgosia to step outside the box and view the entire interior design industry as a bigger entity. She attributes her rich understanding of culture and design to her many travels and upbringing in Europe.
Malgosia is able to meld old and new in any setting, giving even the smallest space a personalized sense of beauty.
Maree was born and raised in Carmel, California, and has now lived in San Francisco, New York, and currently resides in Los Angeles.
A passion for Luxury and Design has always been part of who she is which led to working for several iconic brands. First in the Fashion Industry (Levi’s, Armani, and Marc Jacobs) and, after purchasing and renovating her own home on the Westside 14 years ago, she began the transition toward the home space.
While working for Williams Sonoma in college and seeing all the famous Chefs come in to perform demonstrations, she began her lifelong love affair with cooking. This helps make her current position so rewarding, as she has a true affinity for Viking and Middleby Residential’s luxury portfolio of brands.
For more than two decades, Karen Harautuneian has offered personalized home interior design services. She believes that a successful interior comforts, calms, and enhances the wellbeing of the family that occupies it. From the initial space plan, to the last accessory, her interiors reflect its occupants and where they are at this moment in their lives.
Karen has created a specialty niche for herself designing distinctive, individualized; "one off" kitchens. She believes that the kitchen is the "Hub of the House'' and deserves special attention.
Karen is a Certified Interior Designer; a Kitchen Specialist with 36 years in practice; founder of Hub of the House Studio and co-founder of Hart & Toth Cabinet Co. both in West Hollywood, California; a member of the California Council for Interior Design; and a graduate of the UCLA Architecture & Interior Design Program as well as having received her Bachelor of Arts in Communications Studies from UCLA.