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121. Changemakers in Action: Gender Equity & Reconciliation International

Ready to be inspired? Welcome to one of our bonus episodes about changemakers in action! Today's episode features Ariana Blossom and Jorge Rico who are facilitators for the Gender Equity & Reconciliation International movement (GERI). We discuss their amazing work and their recently released book, Gender Equity & Reconciliation: Thirty Years of Healing the Most Ancient Wound in the Human Family. As I leader interested in bringing more compassion and justice into your workplace, you won't want to miss the unique and transformational approach that GERI uses and the wise tips that Ariana and Jorge have for any leaders, but especially new leaders, who are eager to make positive changes with regards to gender equity in the workplace and world. In this episode you will be able to:

  • Learn how the approach used by GERI helps people of all genders to share their stories, feel seen and have personal epiphanies around gender equity

  • Discover how ordinary women, men, and people of all gender identities and sexual orientations have a profound capacity to transform gender oppression and injustice.

  • Realize that gender equity work is not about blaming one gender or group

  • Hear practical steps that you can take as a leader to advance gender equity


About Ariana:

Ariana Blossom
Ariana Blossom

Ariana Blossom helps organizations create sustainable workplace cultures as an Executive Coach and Business Strategist. She is an U.S. Army veteran, speaker, and facilitator. She lives in New York with her husband, son, and native gardens.

Jorge Rico
Jorge Rico

About Jorge:

Jorge Rico is Bilingual-English/Spanish Human Resources and Talent Acquisition expert with over 20 years’ experience providing strategic and tactical consultation to business leaders in a variety of public and private companies within the US and abroad in multiple industries: Banking & Financial Services, Legal Services, Global Engineering & Environmental Consulting Services, Corporate Retail, Healthcare/Pharmaceutical and International Not-for-Profit organizations. Within his professional work Jorge has developed and led Diversity Equity and Inclusion initiatives and has served as a champion and advocate for DEI efforts throughout his career.

Additionally, Jorge serves as a facilitator and trainer for new facilitators for Gender Equity & Reconciliation International (GERI). He also serves as the lead for GERI's corporate sector development and co-leader of the Latin American/Spanish language GERI programs.


While it's not perfect, we offer this transcription by Descript for those who prefer to read or who are hearing impaired.

[[00:00:00] Teri Schmidt: Ready to be inspired? This is one of our bonus episodes about Changemakers and action. These are episodes where we highlight people or movements that are doing work on a particular issue that affects our world and our workplaces. Today's episode features Ariana blossom. And Jorge Rico who are facilitators for the gender equity and reconciliation international movement.

Which you'll hear us refer to as GERI throughout the episode.

A little bit about Jorge and Ariana. Jorge Rico is a bilingual human resources and talent acquisition expert. With over 20 years experience. Providing strategic and tactical consultation to business leaders. In a variety of public and private companies within the us and abroad. With his professional work. Jorge has developed and led diversity equity and inclusion initiatives.

And has served as a champion and advocate for DEI efforts throughout his career. Additionally Jorge serves as a facilitator and trainer for new facilitators for GERI. He also serves as the lead for GERI's corporate sector development and co-leader of the Latin American Spanish language GERI programs.

Ariana blossom helps organizations create sustainable workplace cultures as an executive coach and business strategist. She is a us army veteran speaker and facilitator. She lives in New York with her husband, son, and native gardens.

As I mentioned, Jorge and Ariana, both work with the gender equity and reconciliation international project. Which has organized experiential trainings for women, men, and people of all genders around the world to come together and collectively heal from any gender related trauma or experiences. Inspired by the principles of truth and reconciliation developed by Archbishop Desmond Tutu in in South Africa the GERI process has been implemented over three decades for thousands of people on six continents. Guided by the twin powers of truth and love and supported by skillful facilitation. The GERI process creates safe forums to empower the unraveling of gender and sexual conditioning. And initiate a whole new culture of gender relations and community.

GERI recently released a book titled gender equity and reconciliation. 30 years of healing, the most ancient wound in the human family. That highlights the transformative work of GERI and includes contributions from dozens of GERI participants, world leaders. And many other distinguished individuals.

[00:02:42] Teri Schmidt: You're going to love this episode as a leader who is interested in bringing more compassion and justice into your workplace. You won't want to miss the unique and transformational approach that GERI uses and the wise tips that Ariana and Jorge have for any leaders, but especially for new leaders. Who are eager to make positive changes with regards to gender equity in the workplace and the world.

So let's get right into it.

I'm Teri Schmidt, Leadership Coach and founder of Stronger to Serve Coaching and Teambuilding, where we launch leaders past overwhelm to careers of courageous impact, and this is the Strong Leaders Serve podcast.

Welcome Ariana and Jorge, I am thrilled to have you on today and honored to have an opportunity to hear more about your work and the work of GERI.

[00:03:51] Ariana Blossom: Thank you, Teri. I'm excited to be here.

[00:03:53] Jorge Rico: you for the invitation.

[00:03:55] Teri Schmidt: . Our audience is new leaders . Mostly in the corporate space who want to get past the overwhelm , of being a new people leader and really make an impact on their workplaces. So I know that they will be very inspired and interested in, in hearing about the work that you're doing.

So why don't we start there? If you could for those who are unfamiliar with GERI, tell me a little bit about. What GERI is the work that you do I know you've been doing it over the past 30 years, not you specifically, but the organization as a whole and, and in fact that you have a book that describes all the work and impact that you've done that just came out last fall.

So if you could just start there that would be great.

[00:04:43] Jorge Rico: Excellent. Thanks again, Teri, for the invitation. So Gender Equity and Reconciliation International a as you noted, started about 30 years ago. But the work really is, is focused on bringing men women and people of all genders together to Really lead them in an experiential workshop that typically is a, you know, a three or four day intensive workshop.

Or we also do online workshops via Zoom over the course of seven weeks. It's designed to create a safe space. An environment where both men and women and people of all genders can share their experience with gender roles that have been kind of hoisted on us.

Society has determined that men and women and people of other genders need to behave in certain ways. And oftentimes that pigeonholes us and limits our, our life experiences. And, and for some it can be incredibly oppressive and, and difficult. So we, we walked through a process to help people share their own experiences with 'em, asking 'em really difficult, probing questions about their experiences with the patriarchy, so to

And through that guided process and the sacred listening that occurs between both men, women, and other genders it creates kind of new openings and new heart openings and mind openings into. We're all impacted negatively by the patriarchy. So that's kind of in a nutshell what what we tried to do in our workshops, and I'll let Arianna kind of add on to that.

[00:06:17] Teri Schmidt: Yeah.

[00:06:18] Ariana Blossom: So the core of the work is really around the sharing and the listening of stories. Right. The questions that Jorge was just talking about that we ask when we're facilitating, are designed to help people share their stories about what it's been like to be, you know, in the patriarchy affected by the patriarchy.

And the process of being able to share your story in a safe place with people who are listening deeply to you is transformative and being able to listen to people. Who are sharing their stories deeply is transformative. That it's ultimately, it's about reshaping the paradigm in which we all live within, about how we see ourselves, how we see each other.

It's also deeply connecting, right? And it, it's the kind of thing you can't lecture somebody to stop, you know, participating in the, in the patriarchy. The way through it is by listening. It's by sharing. It's by connecting. And GERI does this really masterfully and has done it over, you know, I think it's like 19 or 20 continents now.

It's 20. Thousand facilitators who've been trained. I mean, there's so many people who have gone through this work and, you know, and everybody talks about how it's opened their hearts. It's helped them see the world differently, understand themselves and and each other. And to see the gender inequity that, you know, perpetuates our culture.

Seeing it just so vividly and being willing to choose a different path.

[00:07:54] Teri Schmidt: Yeah. . I wanna dig in a little bit more, particularly, I know you both do some work in the corporate environment.

What goes into creating those safe spaces? Because I know we've heard a lot about sometimes when you try to have a listening opportunity or a sharing opportunity, people can be, reliving the trauma that they went through in a sense. So how do you make that work? How do you create that safe space?

[00:08:23] Jorge Rico: So we started all of our workshops with an invocation in terms of what our intent is. And it's, there's. A lot of ceremonial kind of components to our workshops. We start each day with lighting of candles and those can we, we light for candles. And it's the sharing, it's the intent of the lighting, the candles is to promote healing between women and women, men and men men and women and people of all genders and Cynthia beings in, in the world.

So that, that's kind of the initial kind of ceremonial piece. And then we, in advance of workshops, We send each participant what we call community agreements, and there are 11 community agreements that we ask them to review in advance. But then at the outset of the first day, we Kind of explain.

We, we, we discuss all 11 agreements and really the, the most important ones are confidentiality. Making sure that you know, you not share personal stories that are shared in this environment with anybody, particularly sharing names and what have you. We talk about safe space, creating a safe space, what that means, what that represents making sure that folks are not, are suspending their judgment or at least inviting them to not cast judgments on what they're hearing.

Just listen with an open heart and open mind. So there's a series of kind of community agreements that sets the stage for what we do. And then as the workshop continues in that first day, we gradually introduce them to some questions to make them think about how gender has been kind of inculcated into their lives.

You know as, as a girl, as a boy, or as a, you know, a person with gender fluidity, what did you learn about, you know, gender in your life? And it's really through that. As Ariana was sharing earlier of hearing other people's experience with it. That people begin to realize, oh wow, other people have gone through this much like I did.

Or, oh wow, I didn't realize that that's what's happening to a lot of women or a lot of men or people who are gender fluid. So it's really opening up those channels and asking questions that rarely, if ever, get discussed openly in open forums. And the key here, and Arianna touched on it a little bit in the intro, which is that we really promote this concept of listening and not, we don't, we don't encourage dialogue during those exchanges.

It's pairing people out, and I'll let. Ariana kind of continue if she wants to add some more.

[00:11:07] Ariana Blossom: Yeah, I think, you know, the way that Jorge was describing it is that it's, you are walking into or entering into a sacred space that has been very carefully, thoughtfully, like curated, so that you walk in and it feels the way it's meant to feel. It is very aligned with what it's setting out to do.

[00:11:30] Teri Schmidt: Mm-hmm.

[00:11:31] Ariana Blossom: You know, and I think your point earlier, Teri, about, you know, what happens for people, I mean, this stuff can bring up a lot for people.

You hold that space very clearly and a a container of support. The facilitators are very trained to do this, and if a participant is having a really hard time and needs to step out, a facilitator will go with them.

[00:11:51] Teri Schmidt: Mm-hmm.

[00:11:52] Ariana Blossom: talk through what's going on, because we recognize sometimes you need to step out and have that one-to-one conversation to give you the right so that you can then come back and continue to participate meaningfully with a group.

Yeah, and I think that what else was I gonna say about it? I, it's, I mean, it's very intentional. The space is created intentionally. And it's, you get the feeling that you're. You're being walked through a very solid process,

[00:12:20] Teri Schmidt: Mm-hmm.

[00:12:21] Ariana Blossom: really showing you the world as it is, and then giving you the opportunity to say, yes.

And this is what it's been like for me

[00:12:28] Teri Schmidt: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.

[00:12:29] Ariana Blossom: this. Right. And the questions that Jorge was mentioning about, you know, what's it like to have been a woman or a man or gender non-binary. Those are questions that. We rarely are having with each other and often aren't even having with ourselves quiz. We never even know To have that question

[00:12:49] Teri Schmidt: right.

[00:12:50] Ariana Blossom: and to be able to have that question posed to you and be in a safe container in which to share and learn is an incredible experience.

[00:13:01] Teri Schmidt: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. Yeah. I,

[00:13:03] Jorge Rico: And, and the other thing that I wanted to add Teri to that was that everything we do with participants in our workshops is an invitation.

[00:13:11] Teri Schmidt: mm-hmm.

[00:13:12] Jorge Rico: you're never forced to discuss anything personal or you that you may find evasive. We ask questions and if you feel compelled to share, you do so. What I think.

Arianna and I have discovered in our work as facilitators is that oftentimes people go in with a lot of trepidations, and you see it, you know, I, I, I just did a workshop in Costa Rica and I, I, there were certain people that walked in, they had those smiles on their faces, but you could tell they were nervous.

They're like, oh, no, what, what have I signed up for here? Because they already know the topic. They know that we're gonna be doing something around that topic. But I think what happens is as they start hearing other people share commonalities, like, oh God, that sounds like me. It opens them up. It real, they realize like, okay, this is a cool place to share something that I've never shared with anybody.

So I think that that's really important to understand that nobody's ever forced to discuss anything. They don't feel comfortable, and everything's an invitation in our workshop.

[00:14:19] Ariana Blossom: There's also a piece that I wanna highlight that Jorge touched on, which is that we don't allow debate. We don't philosophizing or politicizing of it, right? Because that's the place where often it goes sideways, not, but like in the world of like, I'm trying to express what it's like to be a woman. I'm ex trying to express this experience I just had with a man or a woman or whoever.

And people in, it's too easy to debate.

[00:14:47] Teri Schmidt: Right.

[00:14:47] Ariana Blossom: You shouldn't feel that way. And we get minimized and there's none of that. And GERI, you don't get minimized. You don't get debated with, it's just your story stands of its own.

[00:14:59] Teri Schmidt: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. In that safe container of support like you were talking about I, I love how you described that and described that, you know, that container even extends out into the hallway. If you need to leave you, you still have a facilitator with you supporting you through that. So I can see how that would be really powerful.

I wanna touch on the fact that you said, you know, we rarely ask these questions of ourselves because I, I think that speaks to a little bit the, the title of the book. But before we do that, I want to hear a little bit about your stories and how you got involved with this work. So, Ariana, if you wanna start.

[00:15:40] Ariana Blossom: Sure. You know, growing up my stepfather was an alcoholic, but yeah, there was a lot of love in our family. There was also a lot of alcoholism and there was abuse and. I grew up seeing like this unconscious need to have more toughness to be more like a man, because the equation that I made was made was being a woman was weaker, and at the same time I also considered myself a feminist.

So I was afflicted

And had this long, you know, sort of like 10, 15 year period where I really saw it being men's fault. Like if men would just change, things would be better. Right. That came out of what I had grown up with. Spent four years in the military. I certainly saw my own, you know, experiences of gender discrimination.

And there was a point at which when I got pregnant and I found out I was having a son and things started to shift for me and started to ask different questions. And the way that I started to look at the world was different like,

[00:16:42] Teri Schmidt: Hmm.

[00:16:43] Ariana Blossom: Wait a minute. If I come from the assumption that people who are connected and come from a loving place and are fulfilled and feel like they're part of something, if I start with that assumption that those coming from that place is not a place of which you then ex, you know, are violent towards other people,


you have to assume there's something that's gone wrong in terms of the conditioning for men. And not all men, of course,

[00:17:13] Teri Schmidt: Mm-hmm.

[00:17:14] Ariana Blossom: for men who have found themselves like my dad, I like looking back, I realized that part of what happened for my dad was the trauma in his early life. And then the genetic component of alcoholism was so powerful for him.

[00:17:29] Teri Schmidt: Mm-hmm.

[00:17:29] Ariana Blossom: And being able to look back and see him differently was liberating for me.

And then when I discovered GERI and I found this work wasn't about blaming one gender or a person or a group, it was really about coming together and acknowledging that all of us experience at some point, drama and trauma and pain, and to be able to be witnesses to each other. Was very healing. And then I got to see it as a facilitator with other people coming in and, and be a witness to their, you know, their kind transformations.

[00:18:07] Teri Schmidt: Yeah. Yeah. So powerful. Well, thank you for sharing that, Jorge, what about you?

[00:18:12] Jorge Rico: So the concept of diversity and equity has really. I, I'm an immigrant from Bolivia, south America, and my experience as an immigrant in the US kind of shaped and, and drove many of my career professional decisions as an adult. So we experienced a lot of discrimination. Grew up in a working class neighborhood, pre predominantly white working class neighborhood in the late sixties, early seventies, and the Northeast.

And and I knew early on as a teenager that I wanted to work in some kind of social justice work, just from my experiences and Long story short, I, I eventually worked my way from human service work into getting a master's degree in, in human resource management, organizational development. My thesis project and my grad program was leadership competencies for the diverse workplace of the nineties and beyond.

And this is before equity and, and inclusion were even part of the kind of moniker, it was diversity work it was called back then in the early nineties. And so that, that kind of has, has been my life mission for the last 25 years of, you know, looking for ways that we can transform the workplace from the inside out, you know, as an internal HR.

You know, business partner introducing diversity workshops gender equity initiatives in the workplace. And I had done that for 20 some odd years but had grown disenchanted and I know that, you know, unfortunately the needle hasn't moved that far in the 20, 30 years that we've been doing this work in corporate spaces.

Let's be honest, when you look at McKinsey studies and other studies that are done, They discussed that very openly about how the needle hasn't moved that much in terms of gender equity and even worse when it comes to, you know, professionals of color in the workplace and their advancement and opportunities.

So I knew this and when I saw GERI introduced by a Facebook friend on her post, I was like, gender equity and reconciliation. That's sounds. So I literally flew myself across the country from the East coast to San Francisco for the next available workshop, and I was the only crazy person there from the East coast.

Everybody was from San Francisco, and that's where I met will and Cynthia. And they were the f the facilitators. And having led and developed diversity workshops in the workplace for a number of years. I fancied myself as Ariana said. I was a strident feminist. I mean, I was hardcore and I had no, no qualms about speaking up in board meetings and challenging men with their, some of their remarks and ignoring women's contributions and, and meetings and what have you.

I was that guy. So I felt like I earned my keep. You know, I'm, I'm one of the good guys and the workshop just blew me away. It left me changed as a person. And I, I was sharing this with Ariana. She's heard this before, but earlier. But I went through a paradigm shift that I never could have ever facilitated in a diversity workshop.

And I knew then within the first day of a three day workshop, I knew I have to do this work and And the rest is history. And that was six years ago. So here I am.

[00:21:31] Teri Schmidt: Wow. What was the difference? What created that paradigm shift that, like you said, you couldn't have experienced or facilitated in one of the workshops you were already facilitating. I.

[00:21:43] Jorge Rico: Well, I think Ariana's covered some of this in, in some of her earlier marks. It's really. Reading that safe space first and foremost and asking questions that we never ponder, not not only within groups, but individually. Who thinks about, you know, what did you learn about being a girl growing up as a young, young woman?

Or what did you know, boy or what have you, or gender Nobody really asks those questions of themselves, nevermind in an open forum.

[00:22:14] Teri Schmidt: Mm-hmm.

[00:22:15] Jorge Rico: And then when you start going to some more in-depth questions and some really difficult, you know queries that, that we make during the workshop, I think it it opens you up in a way that you otherwise, I mean, people oftentimes say in workshops, participants, and I'm one of 'em that said, I've never shared this with every anybody in my life. And it's, so, it's, it's those kinds of personal epiphanies that you have. And then when you see other people having the same experiences around different issues around gender you realize like, wow, this is really bad and we need to change this. And I, I think it's that, it's hearing other people's stories and then being heard and being seen for the first time in your life.

[00:23:05] Teri Schmidt: And contrasting that with the work or the workshops that you had been doing for the past 20 years, did those look like and, and what was so different?

[00:23:16] Jorge Rico: So diversity workshops oftentimes go into this kind of, you know, this realm of sensitivity training, and it's almost shoved down people's throats. About you have to start thinking of things differently.

It doesn't pose challenging questions in a way that allows you to do that introspection. And moreover, Ariana touched on this earlier in one of her remarks, that oftentimes there are discussions or debates that occur in those forums, and that does not, it just entrenches people.

And I think what oftentimes what. Men often feel like when they're in those workshops is they're, they're feeling attacked.

And they oftentimes dig their heels in, which is why I think the evidences come out that there's not much change in the corporate work environment regards to equity. And I think it's because a lot of these sensitivity workshops, or diversity, equity and inclusion workshops are designed to preach to people and to discuss, you know, the impact that.

Other people in disadvantaged groups are experiencing as opposed to really asking them questions about how have you experienced inequity in your life? How does that work for you? And and then conversely, I think women and people of color get to see, let's say, white men in a different light than they otherwise would in the theory workshop.

I've had personal epiphanies around white men.

GERI workshops as a facilitator where I'm like, oh my God, I have this bias and this, this 70 year old white guy is now telling me a story that just blew my mind and opened my heart up in a way that I otherwise would not have experienced. And so I think we all have our biases.

Certainly I do. As a Latino man growing up in a predominantly working class neighborhood I had my stereotypes around, you know, white working class men.

[00:25:15] Teri Schmidt: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.

[00:25:17] Jorge Rico: like, oh, here we go. And I think we all tend to do that in various degrees. And I think the GERI workshops really create an environment that you allow people's humanity to be showcased in ways that otherwise we don't in corporate diversity workshops.

[00:25:35] Teri Schmidt: Yeah. it sounds a lot like. You're starting off by acknowledging the value , of each person that's in there acknowledging that they deserve your full respect. And I think that works into some of the agreements and the listening that you're expected to do. The fact that there isn't dialogue or debate, and also creating a safe space for all of that and, and the personal experience to exist so that then, You can have those transformational moments, those aha moments because you've already built that basis of this person is a valuable person with valuable stories and experiences that, we can all learn from.

[00:26:16] Ariana Blossom: You know there's the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that happened in Africa. All apartheid that one of the things that Archbishop Desmond Tutu had said was the people who perpetuated crimes really terrible things. The requirement was that they share their story of what they had done in front of the families.

He said, and, but we did not require them to apologize.

[00:26:46] Teri Schmidt: Hmm.

[00:26:46] Ariana Blossom: But just the process of getting them to share their story in front of these families led them to naturally on their own apologize, and for those families to actually forgive the person who had harmed their loved one.

[00:27:04] Teri Schmidt: Hmm.

[00:27:05] Ariana Blossom: that's part of what GERI is based on.

[00:27:09] Teri Schmidt: Mm-hmm.

[00:27:10] Ariana Blossom: Work of sharing stories of, of trauma and pain and the reality of what it means to be alive.

[00:27:17] Teri Schmidt: Yeah.

[00:27:18] Ariana Blossom: And what happens sometimes in these workshops is that people naturally want to apologize. Not from the place of like it's performance or it's white guilt. It's not that. It's like I realize that I've been blind.

I haven't seen how this has affected me and how now I have been affecting other people and I want to take acknowledgement and accountability for it and to apologize, and it is very powerful to be in the presence of that because you realize that in everyday life, that is often something that's missing is that that moment to repair.

[00:27:56] Jorge Rico: Ariana cued me by referencing Desmond Tutu because Cynthia and Will ha have done quite a bit of work in South Africa and one of our largest. Training cohorts is in South and they do quite a bit of work in, in South Africa with different groups. But they had worked with the south African parliament and also had met with Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and he endorsed this work.

And one of the things that he challenged Cynthia and Will on was. Back then it was just gender equity international and he said, where's the reconciliation? You, you need to have healing.

[00:28:34] Teri Schmidt: Mm-hmm.

[00:28:35] Jorge Rico: And so that's something that was incorporated into the work as a result of some of his, his prompting and. And I, I, I think it was 2013 that he essentially endorsed the GERI program.

You know, from such a titan of a, of a person in the space to endorse the work, I think is, is a beautiful, you know something to be proud of being part of an organization that Desmond two two has endorsed..

[00:29:01] Teri Schmidt: That's amazing. Well, I noticed that the subtitle on the book was 30 years of Healing, the most ancient Wound in the Human Family, so what is the wound, why is it the most ancient one? And how does that wound Show itself in corporate spaces.

[00:29:20] Ariana Blossom: . So the ancient wound is really the, the gender violence, the gender discrimination, the s the oppression of women. And it's also the sort of what Bell Hooks talked about with the psychic mutilation that it requires of young men in order to participate in a culture that, that allows for.

Gender discrimination and violence. So that's an, an, it's an ancient wound. In around thousands of years, you can look across any culture and you're gonna see evidence of it, right? In the corporate space, it still looks like women who are, you know There are lots of women at the entry level and maybe at the mid-level, but they start to fall off like huge numbers of women falling out at the middle, you know, of their careers not reaching that senior level, not reaching at the executive board level.

And and part of that is because, you know, women look up and they realize there's no one who looks like me up there. Or they get discouraged or they get pushed towards the softer things, the softer areas where like you should be in hr, right? Not in finance. Like don't be a C F O, be in hr. And there's nothing wrong with hr, right?

It's not what I'm trying to suggest, but it's, it's that's, that's not necessarily the career move that's gonna take you to C E O. C F O might take you up to c e O,


right? It's all these ways that we're unconsciously sort of pushing women. In those directions that may not optimize their careers for that highest level of leadership.

[00:30:56] Teri Schmidt: Mm-hmm.

[00:30:58] Ariana Blossom: You compound that with the fact that women are often still doing a lot more of the work in the home while working full-time

That, I mean, it's. Very challenging to be able to imagine, yes, I'm gonna take the next role and that much more work when I'm already working between my home and my job, 12, 13 hours a day.

How am I supposed to imagine a world in which I can now take the next level of leadership and not feel like I'm gonna burn myself out?

[00:31:27] Teri Schmidt: Right,

[00:31:28] Jorge Rico: and, and I think, you know, we're talking about contemporary times, but we also know throughout history there's been inequities in terms of, I mean might the, might of the, you know, the sword. Dictates, , who are the haves and have nots in society. And when you look at the vast inequalities in terms of access to education in other developing nations throughout the world, you know Afghanistan and one of the most acute but across the world, that's the case.

Women and girls don't get encouraged to pursue, as Ariana was referencing. Certain career tracks you know, whether it's in medicine or science or the, the stem, stem disciplines. You know, and then you get into limited political representation, you know women Are not encouraged or supported to pursue, you know, a career in politics or to be even considered as political leaders.

And when you look at the number of, you know heads of states who are women, it's a handful now throughout the world. And then you get into the more acute and more basic components of the wound that. Long-term wound is gender-based violence. You know, men using their physical might to suppress women.

And you know, I think virtually every woman on the planet has to worry about their personal safety when they're leaving their home and varying degrees of, you know, safety issues. In some countries it's horrible. And here in the so-called progressive advanced society like us women are. Always worried about what they're wearing, where are they gonna be walking, and things that men tend, tend to take for granted.

[00:33:14] Teri Schmidt: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.

[00:33:16] Jorge Rico: so you know, this is, this has been long standing. I think women have been fighting for equity and equality in all spheres of society for forever.

[00:33:28] Teri Schmidt: Mm-hmm.

[00:33:29] Jorge Rico: And here we are today. We still have these massive inequities throughout the world. So,

[00:33:34] Teri Schmidt: Yeah.

[00:33:35] Jorge Rico: I would argue that that's the ancient woman that we're talking about.

It's been around for as long as we've been around.

[00:33:40] Teri Schmidt: Right , I'm curious. And, and it may be helpful I wanna quote from the book quickly and then I'll get to my question. But a quote from the book says, there are thousands of solutions for the corporate workspace, but the most important, creating compassionate engagement across a team is one that GERI excels at delivering.

So now that we've talked a little bit about that wound and what it looks like in the corporate workspace, and we've talked a little bit about what GERI does I'd above to. Put those together and if you have any stories, kind of, of of transformation, how you've gone into an organization and the experiences that people had in that workshop kind of transformed, at least in a small way, their workplace.

[00:34:26] Ariana Blossom: Yeah. So there was a client where GERI went in and I know that so I wasn't part of the project, but I certainly could hear about it that they. It's, it's a little bit, we have to be a little bit more nuanced when we're talking about the corporate workspace, right? Because some of the ways in which we might work in the community have to be altered a little bit because, you know, when you get up and you go back to work the next day and you've shared some very deep things like you that's a particular experience that we wanna respect and be nurturing and careful of.

And so, Being able to, one, really understand what's the corporate culture, what is it that they are hoping to experience, and what are some of the things to kind of watch for? And so there's a really lengthy intake process that Jorge talked about earlier to really understand, you know, when we're walking in to your space, what are we coming into?

What are you hoping for from us? So that what we don't do is come in and, you know and, and. Sort of o overstep boundaries that we weren't aware of. And so there's a, a real cultivation of understanding, you know, your team, your corporate workspace, your culture, what's your mission, right? So that when we come in, we're very informed and

[00:35:47] Teri Schmidt: Mm-hmm. Yeah.

[00:35:49] Jorge Rico: And we, you know, admittedly, we're in the early stages of developing this work in corporate environments. In part because of what Ariana just shared, that our typical workshop goes really deep and we ask folks to share some fairly intimate stories of their lives. And that creates a, a challenge in work environments where colleagues are working with each other.

And as Arianna noted, you know, the next day or, you know, after a workshop like this, it, it kind of, some people can feel a little exposed. So we are trying to. It really revise the program such that it is a little more palatable for workplace environments between colleagues, particularly when you look at the, the kind of the hierarchy of, of people that are in that might be in the same room and how that might Let leave people a little vulnerable.

So we're working on how to kind of incorporate this with the same impact in corporate environments as we do in in community environments. We've worked with not-for-profits and in their groups. You know, I, I participated a couple workshops as a facilitator, but they were working, they were doing a lot of human service type of work.

And so this work kind of lended itself more rather to that type of environment. And it was focused on, on the leaders within the organization. So they could experience the workshop more as equals. There were some hierarchy there, but not much.

[00:37:17] Teri Schmidt: Mm-hmm.

[00:37:18] Jorge Rico: But really the transformation is personal because really this is a personal process.

And I think that that's what that quote is speaking to is that you can't have a paradigm shift until you've had a personal kind of epiphany of sorts. That paradigm shift doesn't occur collectively. It, it, it happens initially within your own heart and mind first.

And then as an individual, you make decisions on how you plan to change your way of being in the world when it comes to these gender issues.

That I think is where the transformation has to begin. Because until you have that personal epiphany, personal paradigm shift, I think it's, you know, any change that's gonna happen is gonna be negligible and. And it has to happen with leaders who have, you know, the power to make change and then the ability to influence decisions in their work environments.

So, certainly encourage corporate leaders and anyone who's in a leadership role to experience a GERI workshop. As an individual, you don't even need to bring your team, so to

[00:38:28] Teri Schmidt: Mm-hmm.

[00:38:29] Jorge Rico: I think that's probably a good intro so that you can say, wow, okay, could some of my people benefit from this? And then as Rihanna mentioned, we, we would work with the organization to kind of retrofit or, or, you know, adjust our program so that it's it can work within that particular work environment.

[00:38:49] Teri Schmidt: That makes sense. A last question that I ask several of our guests because we do have a lot of listeners who are new to people leadership. And particularly for you, if I was a new leader and I was really passionate about gender equity, particularly in the workplace, and I wanted to do something about it in some way, wanted to make change.

What would be your recommendations? Where, where to start? What kind of mindset should I have? any advice you have for that new leader.

[00:39:22] Ariana Blossom: I think a place to start is to first. Recognize, I mean, Jorge certainly made a really important recommendation, which is, you know, coming to a GERI workshop is the. Best way to start to see it, because ultimately what we're trying to do, all of us, is to see not just the specific and the individual, but seeing the system, the conditioning, the unlearning that then needs to happen.

Because when you come in and you're new leader, I mean, one, you're upscaling rapidly, right? You've got a whole rapid escalation of commitments, right?

And. Trying to understand what it means to be equitable from a gender perspective, is it is not a one and done

[00:40:05] Teri Schmidt: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.

[00:40:07] Ariana Blossom: that you'll evolve into an understanding of both personally and from what you see as a leader and how that impacts people.

So the first thing is, I would say that it's about working to have a broader understanding of what the dynamics are.


Very easy to get into. Like, well, that one person is the problem. If we can just fix that one person, get rid of that one person, then everything's fine. And that's just not typically the truth.

What the truth is that there are all these layers going on in terms of our communication and our expectations. You know, are you making sure that everyone in your meeting is feeling well prepared, that they feel supported, that you're taking the chance to say, you know, I haven't heard from you yet. Do you have anything you wanna say about it?

To invite people in to speak up. Right. And to be careful because it's easy to like people who are like us and, and to dislike or kind of dismiss people who are not like us. And to be able to catch yourself. Like my playing favorites here. How do I come around and be more just and more compassionate and try to see that person for the fullness of who they are, right?

And not just who I want, who I'm most comfortable being around.

[00:41:28] Teri Schmidt: Jorge, anything to add?

[00:41:30] Jorge Rico: Yeah, sure. You know, Ariana touched on some of these points, but I, I think you have to go into your role as a leader very intentionally that you want to promote workplace equity.

[00:41:44] Teri Schmidt: Mm-hmm.

[00:41:44] Jorge Rico: there is critical. Just saying, okay, I'm, I'm a leader now. I have a lot of responsibility. I have to make sure that everybody that I'm entrusted to lead has equal opportunity.

I, so I think establishing that as a basis point for where you begin as a leader is critical. So, okay. Easier said than done. You know, part of it is educating yourself understanding as Ariana touched on where you might have some personal biases stepping out, making sure you're stepping outside of your comfort zone and seeking out folks that you don't really identify with, or people who are very different from you, whether it's the black woman, if you're a white male leader.

And asking them questions you know, about themselves beyond their, you know, work responsibilities. Hey, tell me about yourself. I've done a lot of leadership development work and, you know, some of the best things that I think le new leaders can do is share their own life experiences or their own evolution from, you know, The early parts of their career to what, you know, got them to where they are now.

So sharing personal stories is really important. It creates a degree of connection with a person that you otherwise wouldn't have. Rene Brown talks about, you know, vulnerability being one of the most important traits to exhibit as a leader. And some of the most effective leaders are doing that, sharing their own failures and their careers.

Bang, let me tell you about a story, especially if they're talking to a, a, you know, somebody that just made a mistake, you know, and then saying, Hey, listen, no big deal. Let's talk about how we can improve this. And then saying, let me share something that I experienced early in my career where I screw it up too.

That creates kind of. This human connection between folks. So I think, you know, leading by example is really critical. So being open about yourself, sharing your own personal stories, showing your own vulnerabilities and then always kind of, I mean, touched on this a bit, you know Scanning the environment, making sure that everybody in your team is getting the same opportunities to speak in meetings.

[00:43:55] Teri Schmidt: Mm-hmm.

[00:43:56] Jorge Rico: You know, there are certain types of people who like to prepare in advance, so calling somebody on a meeting, expecting them to kind of like come up with some wise idea or thought is, may not be fair if you notice that somebody's quiet or tends to be a little more reserved. Say, Hey, listen, in advance of that meeting, go to that person.

Say, I, I'd love to get your opinion on the following things. Could you do me a favor and prep something for us? Because I'm gonna call on you and I, and I'm hoping that you can kind of showcase your knowledge here. Doing that kind of mindful prep in advance is really important, I think, for leaders to be aware of.

On the basics go talk to your hr, you know, business partner and say, Hey, can we do a pay gap analysis? I wanna see what everyone's making and whether or not it's fair based on their performance and their workload and what you may discover. Cuz I, I would do that every time as an HR business partner in organizations.

I would go in and do a pay equity analysis, whether somebody asked me or not. That was the fir one of the first things that I did. But I, I, if you're a leader and you proactively do that, then you can find some real gaps and you're like, wow, I didn't know that Betty was making $20,000 less than Joe and she's a top producer.

What's going on here?


then working with your HR team to develop a plan to, you know, address those pay gaps.

[00:45:19] Teri Schmidt: Mm-hmm.

[00:45:20] Jorge Rico: These are some pragmatic things, you know Arianna touched on this earlier. And I think it's a really important thing is creating a, a flexible work environment,

Because I think the reality is is that women tend to carry more of the load at home.

So that work-life balance issue is, you know, recent. Harvard Business Review study showed that women who are making more than their husbands still carry more of a load of work, you know, home responsibilities than men do.

You know, the reality is is society is still hoisting a lot more on women in the, in the home life environment than, so creating those flexible work environments a, allows for both men and women who have work-life balance issues to balance those things and to, you know do a better job of managing their, their work.

Issues. And really that fostering an inclusive environment by asking questions of folks, you know, having one-on-one meetings sitting one-on-one with every one of your, your folks, you know, at least once quarterly. It doesn't have to be hour long meetings. It, it could be like a 15 minute touch base every month.

Yeah. Hey, how's it going? What, what's, what can I do to help you? That kind of stuff. And if you're doing that with every one of your people, you're gonna find. Things that you can help alleviate their issues and maybe improve that, the inequities that exist unwittingly in your work environment.

[00:46:40] Teri Schmidt: Those are great tips. I, I wanted to pull out some themes that I heard that kind of relate to our earlier conversation too, as, as we get ready to close here. Definitely like Ariana said and I think you echoed Jorge, you know, being aware of the system, being aware of, you know, just kind of opening your eyes and, and looking around and like you said, Ariana, it's not necessarily just that one person you know, keep, keep an eye on, on what's going around in terms of.

Gender equity. But then the other two pieces that I heard a lot in a lot of the tips that you gave as well, Jorge the sharing of stories. So the vulnerability, you know, you start that as a leader yourself by sharing your stories which then gives hopefully those, you lead the comfort and they feel it's a safe place to share their stories as well.

Which would, you know, kind of like you mentioned in your workshops, The sharing of stories and the act of listening and the, the guidelines around what that listening looks like and what you shouldn't, shouldn't do in that experience. That's what leads to the aha moments. That's what leads to the understanding.

That's what leads to your eyes being open to where inequity exists.

[00:48:00] Ariana Blossom: Yeah. I wanna add something to

the I understanding of sharing your stories in the workplace as a leader. One, it's. Important that you go first

in sharing stories, and then as you're encouraging people by just sometimes you're listening to them as they share their stories and you see coworkers sharing with each other.

It's also important to be very clear that the weaponization of somebody's story is not allowed.

[00:48:29] Teri Schmidt: Mm-hmm.

[00:48:30] Ariana Blossom: Use our stories against each other. You don't get into a disagreement, say, well, yeah, but I heard about, you know, like, you wanna make sure that as a leader, that that does not. Cuz once you do that, that vulnerability that people were willing to extend, it starts to diminish really quickly.

Cuz now justice is getting lost. And so that's part of why GERI is so strong, because you create that safe container and it is consistent from the moment you start to the moment you end. And you wanna be aware of that as a young leader? As a new leader, that yes, I wanna create that container. And that does require guidelines, it requires commitment, and it requires clarity on your part.

[00:49:13] Teri Schmidt: Definitely. Definitely. Yeah. I think that's a piece that sometimes people miss in the spirit of just. Having everyone be vulnerable there, there have to be those guidelines, those boundaries. And although it might be a little bit easier to do to set that, you know, safe space in a workshop that has a limited time and you know when it's gonna be over that's our role as leaders to create that container.

That sustains. And that takes consistency. It takes, you know, reminding people of those guidelines. But I think that's an excellent point because without that you're basically gonna lose any value that you could have gotten out of vulnerability and, and perhaps do harm as well.

[00:50:00] Ariana Blossom: Right. That's Right.

[00:50:02] Teri Schmidt: Well, I really have enjoyed our time together. I just wanna thank you both Ariana and Jorge, for the work that you do do on a day-to-day basis for your commitment to gender equity and to doing it in such a way that it really.

Is full of compassion and respect for each human being. I, I think that is the way that we are gonna move forward and make change. And I appreciate all that you do.

[00:50:30] Ariana Blossom: Well, thank you so much for having us.

[00:50:33] Jorge Rico: Thank you, Teri. Appreciate your invitation. Enjoyed my time here.

What a great conversation. . I hope that leaves you inspired. And be sure to check out GERI and the amazing book chronicling the many lives that they've touched in the last 30 years. At the links in the show notes.

And if you want to follow Ariana and Jorge, I've also included ways that you can contact them. In the show notes as well.

Until next time lead with this quote by the philosopher Epictetus in mind: "We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak."


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