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Get To Know OWA Lifetime Achievement Awardee, Marge Axelrad

Get to know the 2023 OWA Lifetime Achievement Awardee

2024 Lifetime Achievement Awardee: Marge Axelrad

Editor-in-Chief, Vision Monday Magazine (retired)OWA Founding Board Member

Marge’s charity of choice: SUNY College of Optometry Foundation


Learn more about Marge:

 

Portrait of Marge Axelrad

What does winning this award mean to you?

It is immensely gratifying and so humbling. I’m only thinking of the hundreds of incredible women from throughout the optical industry and profession who found and discovered each other and got involved with the OWA since a group of us started this some 27 years ago.  I think how amazed these founding leaders would be if they were able to see this organization today and its theme of ‘We See You’ and ‘Imagine’. The OWA’s range of activities and programs, such very broad industry support  — more than 65 companies plus even more individuals — is collectively fueling the constant energy of OWA now. 


Each year there has been even more commitment called up to continue to strengthen this group, including inspiring professional development, learning, mentoring and, recently, even the exploration of opportunity to  bring its strengths and ideas to women in the industry in Europe! There’s so much that can still be deepened and expanded it’s, honestly, thrilling.


Which achievements are you most proud of?

In my own career….? Probably just being able to continue it for so long, LOL. I started at the bottom, worked through several business areas before unexpectedly coming to optical. I’m indebted to the editorial team and colleagues and the business leaders  of our Jobson Group who all shared the same passion and interest in this business and who enabled me to do it in a way that was authentic to me and also productive for them, too. 


I’m proud of the many, many relationships I’ve cultivated and built. Of the privileges and unique access I’ve had to some of the most dynamic individuals this business has ever seen. These range from special independent creators to entrepreneurs and executives. The most fascinating have been those entrepreneurs-turned-executives and what their efforts have in turn meant for so many.


I’m proud of the OWA , what’s it’s become and is still becoming!


Is there any guidance, person or event that has inspired you to reach this point in your career?

I’ve been so fortunate to meet dozens of business leaders, entrepreneurs, owners, optometrists who practice, who research, serve, mentor, who communicate, who strategize. All of them were people I learned from and had an impact on me. 


But in the end, formatively my family — my mom, who spent her life as a dedicated mom and didn’t work, didn’t understand that world at all but was confident I could DO it. My dad, who was the best, most charming salesman in the world and ‘got a kick’ out of his smart-mouthed daughter — who was consistently encouraging and teaching me. My sister, we are so close, who started working with special needs adults, bringing compassion to her working world, moving into education in an elementary school  — her down to earth reality taught me, too.


I went through rougher times, although nothing in comparison to women supporting families and children.  My personal challenges spurred me on, helped me no longer dim my own light but seek out new adventures, new new ideas and travel.


Marge Axelrad recieving the lifetime award

What has been the most surprising change you’ve witnessed during your 35 years in optical?

There are a lot of these, hahaha. Honestly, I’ve been surprised many times.


Companies grew or combined, new upstarts have continued to challenge the status quo, new leaders emerge, the balance constantly is changing — this is still happening on many fronts.


Perhaps what’s most surprising is ‘not a change’ — it’s that after so much work among so many, that eyecare and eyewear is still not that well understood by the public, by decision-makers. We need to elevate access to eye care as a human right, help it serve more and diverse groups, and we need to speed up how those in the field and the business describe what eyewear and vision correction does from a design and expression point of view, why it’s all good from budget and value to luxury and premium. How eyewear and technology contribute to help people SEE their lives, how it helps them BE productive, contribute, create, be happy. There’s more to be done, here, and a lot of great people out there are doing it now, in new ways.


As a founding member of the Optical Women’s Association, what advice do you want to share with OWA members – current and future?

Upon reflection, I have a lot of advice, LOL! 


My path to and through eyewear/eyecare was unplanned and unexpected. So first of all, BE OPEN. TRY it. You might stumble but then you learn and next time you can stand stronger. 


Recognize the power in numbers. In most industries and professions today women do have opportunities to learn from each other through associations, groups, collabs, with the support of those women and men who get it.  They’ve made progress but can make even more. Find those groups, like the OWA and others.


There continues to be a new energy among creators, rebels, fighters, thinkers, hard workers, leaders, introverts extroverts among you all. It’s an exciting time for women to shape their own paths, find or build the companies, professional practices, find the right allies, men and women, to help bring others along and do rewarding work, 


Continue to learn. Be confident. Be authentic. Be inclusive. Own your power. Cultivate empathy. 


The theme for the event is ‘IMAGINE’ — let’s imagine you could go back in time, what advice would you give your younger self?

Watch and learn. Get in there and collaborate with people. You deserve a place at the table and a voice, too. It took me too long to find mine


One more ‘IMAGINE’ question for fun — if you could develop any superpower for use in retirement, what would it be and why?

Hmm, as one of the world’s expert procrastinators, which is odd for someone who’s lived with too many deadlines and commitments, I’d like to take things a bit easier. So maybe I’d love to have a superpower that doesn’t speed up time but slows it down without losing too much of it — so that I could still do wonderful new things …and feel the time to enjoy them.

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