wegg® showcase: Andrea Wagner

wegg® showcase: Andrea Wagner, Ph.D., CEO and Founder, LuxLined™

wegg® showcase magazine cover: Andrea Wagner takes on teh world one sweater at a time.

Issue 1: June 2024

What inspired you to start LuxLined™?

The story starts with my fortieth birthday. A friend of mine who is a Rhode Island School of Design graduate wanted to know what I wanted for my birthday, so I asked her to make me a lined sweater. I have sensitivities to wools and cashmere and have always wanted a lined sweater so I didn’t have to wear a turtleneck or shirt underneath it. My friend said it would be no problem to make. My birthday comes, my friend and I are at dinner, and she gives me a Tiffany necklace instead of a lined sweater. The necklace was great and I appreciated the thought, but I wanted to know what happened to the sweater? She apologized and said that it turned out to be too difficult to make.

Fast forward more than a decade. I’m in the process of selling a biotech company that I co-founded and I’m thinking I’d still like to have a lined sweater, but I couldn’t find one anywhere. So I contacted my friend again, and this time she felt she could make it. So I hired her, she designed some samples, and when I saw them and put them on, I was sold. I realized this could be a business. Things are going well, I’m learning a ton and am going into mentorship with other women who have done this before.

You are a strong advocate for women in STEM, but effecting real change can sometimes seem impossible. Can one individual make a difference?

One individual can make a difference because everything has a ripple effect. I recently watched a film called The Way Back. In it, Ben Affleck is the coach of a high school basketball team that hadn’t won a state competition in like twenty years. To motivate the team, he told them that all the little things they do will add up to become the great thing.

That got me thinking about gender equity in general and in STEM in particular. If everybody, men and women, worked to elevate gender equity in everything they did every day, it will ultimately add up to the great thing. Still, one individual can be the coach or the motivator, but it is going to take the entire populace, if you will, to make the little steps add up to gender equity. For example, we need to stop using the term ‘girls’ when we speak of women. That’s just one little thing that can add up to the big thing.

The movement to involve more women in STEM has made strides but we have a way to go. During the 1970s, there was a low number of female physicians. Today, the number of female physicians is fairly equal to male physicians. On the other hand, leadership positions in the field of medicine are still mainly held by men. About 60 percent of biology graduates are women, but only 15 percent of engineers are women. Further, women who graduate college with a STEM degree don’t get elevated to leadership positions. I’m not talking about managers, I’m talking C-suite level. Gender inequality is a problem and we need to do something every day to fix it. And not just men, women need to support other women. I say this often: I don’t have to like every woman that I meet, but I need to support her because she is a woman.

What’s the best piece of advice you can offer a woman who wants to take her business global?

Join Women Entrepreneurs Grow Global because wegg not only shows you how to go global but introduces you to women who have done it and who are going to do it. They will encourage you, from experience, to push through the barriers so you reap the fruits of your labor. If the barrier is insurmountable, they will show you how to sidestep it.

It’s easier when you know the path. I helped build and sell two biotech businesses. One was not great, but the second one was awesome because by then I learned how to do it and could see where it was going. Surround yourself with women who have already gone down the path you are taking.

Bob Marovich is wegg's® Chief Operating Officer (COO) and has more than 30 years of experience in the nonprofit sector.