Rachel Murray and Felicia Jadczak sat down in early December to recap 2021 and make predictions for 2022. They get dark at times (when looking at the past year, who could help it?), and attempt to pull each other out of their panic spirals- to varying levels of success. We’re covering politics, attempted coups, Animal Crossing, alien overlords, annoying beauty standards, what’s next for She+ Geeks Out, and a whole lot more. Listen to the end for some special goodies.
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Rachel: Recording is in progress. It’s official.
Rachel: Hey Felicia, we are talking again.
Felicia: We’re still here. We’re still talking. We just are hitting record this time.
Rachel: It’s the only difference. it is currently December 2nd, I believe.
Felicia: No, it’s actually December 3rd.
Rachel: Trash. Immediately.
Felicia: What is time? But this time, according to conventional practices, is December 3rd.
Rachel: Today, according to the patriarchal white supremacist system that we live in, it is December 3rd, 2021.
Felicia: Yes. I will say we have so much to talk about and catch up on. It has been a while since we’ve had a good gab. It’s been a while since we’ve put out a podcast episode, but we wanted to take a moment to just reflect on 2021. Although, is it 2021? Is it 2020? Is it 2020 version 3.0, I don’t actually know. Are we all in the matrix? Are we in the matrix? Yes. Really. In my personal world in animal crossing, it is, in fact, December 2nd. So I feel like you weren’t entirely off there, because I am time traveling ,as the kids say. But, figured it would be a good chance for us to touch base whatever date and time and world we’re in to see what has been going on.
Rachel: So much. Yes. Yeah. So there’s, we’ve talked about kicking this off in a variety of ways. Looking at it internally, thinking about it from an industry perspective, what’s been going on in the DEI landscape, particularly for companies and organizations, and then how that is all sort of meshing with what’s happening beyond in the outside world, of which there are many things. So yeah, so I think we were talking about maybe starting, starting on January 6th, which I believe you actually had a training. Was there? No, I believe I was in a meeting when all of that happened. And because we all live in this virtual world now, and we have 20 screens up at all times, we’re in meetings and trying to have normal conversations, business-ey conversations, while we’re literally watching people smashing through and climbing the walls of the Capital.
Felicia: Yeah. it’s not funny, but if you really think about it, when Rachel and I were chatting about, “where do we start with the year in review?”, We both immediately thought about January 6th as you’re bringing up. And I was not in a training that day, but it was just such a weird, eventful, point in time that I think just set the tone for this whole year, because it was the first week of January. SGO does “no-meeting-weeks” the first week of every quarter. So I believe it was our no meeting week to kick off the year.
Rachel: I definitely still had meetings, I remember, because I am the worst.
Felicia: It’s something that you’re working on. It was a relatively quiet day, and all of a sudden the world is ending, and our government is getting overthrown, and people are smashing through Congress and it was just wild in a word.
Rachel: And it’s not like we didn’t see it coming. Felicia and I have talked a lot about this, especially over the past few years, it’s been “make plans, God laughs,” because I think when 2019 happened, I think there was a lot of enthusiasm and excitement for 2020, and then 2020 was, the end of the world in many ways, which we’ll talk about, as well, with the pandemic and how that impacted everyone. Then, I think, there was a hopefulness as we started to enter into 2021 as well. We’re like, ah, okay, fresh start- vaccines are coming, new president, hate speech won’t be living at the white house anymore- it’s gonna be good. And then bananas beginning to 2021. And so I think now, as we think about, as we enter 2022, I feel like fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.
Felicia: What about fool me thrice? Yes. What’s that part of the rhyme?
Rachel: And we’ll talk a little bit more about future thoughts, but just with that in mind.
Felicia: Yeah. And along with what was happening externally, internally, I know we’ve talked about it before, but 2020 was such an intense year in so many ways. And from a business perspective, we started off in the spring of 2020 when COVID originally hit, really wondering if we would survive at all. And I know you and I had a lot of really, really challenging conversations and decisions. And there were a couple months where it did not look good for us. And then all of a sudden the pendulum started swinging quite dramatically in the opposite direction where unfortunately, and in large part, due to George Floyd’s murder, all of a sudden the interest came flooding in. And so basically from June through the end of December in 2020, we were bombarded and overloaded and overworked and stressed and all of the things.
Felicia: And so really January, we were thinking, okay, we’re not going away. The business is here. We’re doing a lot of important work. We have stretched ourselves to the limit. Let’s take a reset and really think about how can we intentionally be there for our team, for ourselves, for the work? And 2021 is a brand new year. And I think that, that’s why I know you and I just keep coming back to the 6th of January because it was just such, almost like a slap in the face like, oh, first of all, this work is so important and it’s not going anywhere. Secondly, the apocalypse, well, let’s talk about what is apocalypse 3.0 at this point, like the world is just trash and on fire. So where do we go from here? Only down apparently.
Rachel: I think this question came up a lot last year: is this a moment or a movement? Now with what we’re seeing, I’m curious to hear your thoughts on that. Especially given a lot of the work that we’ve been doing lately and how that’s evolved over the years. I’ve been thinking a lot about how in the DEI space for companies there has been a lot of intentionality around it. And we talk a lot. Typically, what I like to say when we do this work, especially because our name has the word “She” in it, I like to tell people, our work isn’t just about gender, or race, or age, or ability. It’s about the human experience. And I think what’s been really lovely in this crazy dark world that we are living in, in the darkest timeline, is that there is an affirmation that there are so many people that are genuinely committed to being better toward all humans. And that has been, to me, what has been sort of the silver lining. And I know that people who listen to this podcast, you are fortunate that you only see that side, because usually I’m very dark.
Felicia: Well, we’re still getting into it. So just wait.
Rachel: That’s fair. But there is that piece of it, you know. I think that has been the good part about the work that we do. And you’re totally right back in March, April, May of 2020, I was like, well, it’s lovely working with you, Felicia. Been really a great run.
Felicia: I know. We were starting to talk about, okay, so we’ll get some jobs as baristas and…
Rachel: Which, when? Because there were no baristas in March, April, May of 2020. I know, I know. So virtual baristas.
Felicia: I know. It was pretty rough, and I think it’s worth it to talk a little bit about what’s been going on for us personally, too, because of course it’s so hard at this point to separate the two. Yeah. Not that you and I have ever shied away from sharing our personal lives with the podcast world, because we love doing that. But I think there’s been a lot of changes too, just in terms of, if we think about the year in review and sort of what has 2021 looked like for both of us. You, of course, you were the Vanguard. You got out of Boston in December 2019, right ahead of the curve there. You ended up buying your house in San Diego in 2020, I think it was, cause again, what is time at this point?
Rachel: I know. Summer 2020 .
Felicia: And then, for myself, I ended up moving- buying a house and moving out of the Boston area- in summer 2021. And we’ve also seen a lot of shifts in terms of what the company has looked like too, because we’ve had some people come and go, we just finished another round of hiring and it’s just been really great to see how we’ve been able to continue to grow. And your question around is this a movement or a moment? I think I would say it’s a movement, but the issue is that this is not the only movement that is happening right now. So what we’re seeing is there is a movement. IWhat was a big question you and I had at the end of 2020, which is, is this going to die away?
Felicia: And by this, I mean a focus on social justice. I mean commitment to DEI initiatives. I mean care for this work. I mean budget and money, all of that. And so that was the question we were really thinking about heading into this year saying, okay, there’s been so much attention on it. A lot of it’s been reactionary. Will this actually continue in 2021? And what we’ve seen is that the answer has been, yes, it will continue and just continue to grow more and more. But on the flip side, we’re also seeing a counter movement around things like fear of critical race theory, and the rise of conservatism and increased shootings and deaths and all of the other things that are counterbalancing this move towards justice. So on the one hand, it makes me feel really hopeful because the work- there are people doing it.
Felicia: And it’s been really, really wonderful to have these moments throughout the year of seeing those connections and those light bulb movements and seeing companies continuing to be engaged and committing. On the other hand, it’s really depressing because there still is just such a real possibility that all of this work is for nothing. And I think that’s kind of how I’m feeling on December 2nd, or 3rd, or 5th, or whatever today is, of 2021. That there is so much positive movement, but it’s so tenuous and it feels like we’re just dancing on that razor edge.
Rachel: Yeah, I think that there’s a lot of fear and I think the folks that are afraid are emboldened to speak their truth. It is really, really scary because there’s so much fear that we’re an increasingly diverse country. We’re in the US, so specific to this country, but it’s increasingly diverse. It’s increasingly Black and Brown. It’s increasingly young. And the younger folks are way more comfortable with concepts around gender fluidity and sexuality. And that is rubbing up against a lot of the more conservative thoughts. And there are fewer folks. So there is this absolute tension. And we talked about this too. The Trump administration was not shy about their feelings of the work that we do and essentially canceled it for the government.
Rachel: I feel like if he had been reelected, it’s very possible that he could have tried to cancel it or mandated it so all companies would not be allowed to do this kind of training. He would find a way to make it so that no one would be able to do this work, not just government folks. So that was certainly a concern. I mean, that is where we’re at. And that’s why seeing folks that are in power who are of a certain demographic specifically makes it really, really hard.
Felicia: And again, it’s this dichotomy and this sort of counterbalance and tension, what have you, where yes, it makes it so hard. And part of the joy in the beginning of this year was with the new administration coming in. So much amazing. We’ve seen the first woman being elected to vice president. For me personally, it was such an emotional moment when Kamala Harris was up there taking the oath because she is a half-Indian woman. I am a half-Indian woman. I tell people this all the time. This is why representation is so important, because unless you’ve never been in that position, you don’t even understand what it’s like to see someone like you. And I tell people this all the time in my training and it was such an emotional moment for me at that point in time, because I had never really felt that myself where I was like, wow, here it is.
Felicia: This woman who looks like me, I have all this stuff in common with like, I’m finally getting it on such a deep, personal level. I’m not ashamed to admit, I was crying. Because I was just like, holy crap, this is happening. And I don’t want to be president, butI can see someone like me. It just is so important. And then not just her, but there’s and all these other people, the first Indigenous woman to lead, Deb Haaland coming in, we have transgender people coming into the administration. We have more Black and Brown and, and different people in. So I think all of that is so, so positive, but again, it just feels like we keep swinging back and forth, and back and forth. And so, yeah, it’s been really- it’s been a lot. It’s been a lot.
Rachel: Yeah. And I think that’s just it. That is why we’re seeing so many folks that are freaking out about the CRT and that are upset about all of the change that’s happening. It’ss because they are not- I think about this a lot, because I know that you and the other facilitators experiences in the workshop is folks that have identified in the majority for their entire lives, for the first time are experiencing what it’s like to not be in the majority.
Rachel: And every time I hear that from someone I’m like, cool, welcome to the party.
Felicia: Right. This is what makes it so infuriating, because it’s not about taking things away. It’s just expanding. I saw a tweet today that I saved, which I really loved. It’s from this person named Jo Luehmann. And they wrote “liberation is going to feel really bad to people who benefit from inequality. Do you know want to know why? Because your nervous system codes privilege as safety.” And that really stuck with me, which is why I saved it. Because that’s exactly it. We have all these people who’ve benefited from privilege who are now not wanting to share the wealth essentially. It doesn’t have to be “us versus them”. It can be that everyone is part of the party. And it’s really amazing and disheartening to see how many people just don’t care about other fellow human beings.
Rachel: Because exactly, that’s such a great quote. I hadn’t heard that, but it is exactly that is that fear that you are not safe. And again, it is like welcome to the party. Imagine being pulled over a number of times for no other reason than literally the color of your skin, or being micro-agressed time and time again throughout your entire formative years, so that you end up becoming afraid to speak your mind or take a physical space. That’s something that for me, or we can certainly talk about that is, one of the, the areas of growth for me this year has been really understanding fat phobia and how that ties into patriarchal thinking and white supremacists to, and I just wasn’t even really aware of that. So I’m always learning as well. It’s like, oh, I hate my body. Oh, because of years of conditioning to do that. Imagine being a guy and being able to walk in the world and not have to care at all, you know?
Felicia: Yeah, no, a hundred percent. And I’ve been thinking so much this year, I wouldn’t call it a growth area, but what I’ve been really thinking a lot about this year is how it’s so difficult to think about liberation and changing the systems when even you and I are part of the system. Right? Totally. I had posed a question on my Instagram a couple months ago where I had sort of, I forget why this came to mind, but I had just realized or come across the idea, which is not an idea- to the reality that for women, we don’t have our own names. Like every woman in this world is tied to a man in some way, through the names. And it just blew my mind because I was like, I talk a lot about this in training where I’m like, well, you’ve opened up the rabbit hole and like you’ve unpacked Pandora’s box.
Felicia: And now we’ve got to go down that rabbit hole. It was like my own personal rabbit hole that I opened up mentally where I was like, where do I even go back to get to that point where a woman has her own name? And so I asked the question in my story, if you could create your own name, what would it be? And it was super interesting because it wasn’t so much about what the names were. It was just about the fact that, when I got married last year, I did not take my husband’s name, but my name is still not mine, it’s my father’s name. And that is just so incredible to me that we, as a society, don’t have agency as women in that way. Those are the kinds of things I’ve been trying to wrestle with this year, which are of course, like big ideas and big shifts.
Felicia: As we mentioned, we have a couple new people who’ve joined, and I’ve been thinking a lot about age as well. And the generational shifts and a lot of thinking that has gone into, “am I wanting certain things from my team members or the people who report to me, because it’s the way that they should be working?” Or have I fallen into that mental trap or that mental perpetuation of the systems that maybe it doesn’t have to be this way. There are no good answers sometimes, but those are the things I think that we’re starting to see shifts societally towards this greater kind of thinking.
Rachel: Gosh, I loved when you asked that, it blew my mind. I’ll just tell you, I was so cocky about it because I was like, no, I don’t because I have my mother’s maiden name,
Felicia: But still some man’s name.
Rachel: Took me a minute. I got there. I was like, oh the grandfathers. So, right.
Felicia: It seems so stupid on the face of it, but then when you really think about it, like, I just really feel like there’s like tons of these GIFs and memes out there of minds exploding. And I’m like, my mind is exploding with this idea.
Rachel: I know. And it’s so great to have these moments because it just grounds us into the realities of where we’re at. The other sort of, I don’t know, big deal for me in this space is I’ve gone fully gray haired. A full gray haired lady at this point. I turned 46 in September and dude, there is something about being close to 50 that is no joke. My back went out three times. I had a ton of anxiety. I put on some weight, because part of my whole, like, “screw the patriarchy-” I’m gonna eat whatever I want.
Rachel: And I was really struggling a lot this fall actually. I was like, what can I do to be okay with who I am and not just let these systems wash over me and crush me, and slump my shoulders and make me feel bad, and just not want to get out of the bed in the morning. And it’s not easy to walk in the world. We talk about intersectionality, there’s a ton of identities. And then on top of all of that is the layer of guilt that exists because I know the amount of privilege that I have. So I am so fortunate in countless ways, especially given the pandemic. It’s myself and my husband, and we don’t have kids, and we live in a climate that allows us to be outside all year round. I have an incredible team that I work with, and he also has a great job that he loves. And I have friends and family and it’s like, I could not be more blessed in all of the ways. And yet here I am, Ugh, gray hair. Did I gain 10 pounds?
Felicia: It’s not easy.
Rachel: It’s complicated.
Felicia: It is complicated. Yeah.
Rachel: Yeah. Well then that is the work for me. That’s what this work is, and I think as frustrating as it is to think about how folks are just not even ready. They’re so afraid, they’re not even ready to dive into what’s going on. There are still so many people that are doing it that have never done it before. Yeah. So that’s kind of cool. I was gonna be optimistic about this. I’m just gonna be optimistic.
Felicia: Well, so we spent a lot of time talking about the beginning of the year. We talked a little bit about what happened, towards the end of the year, I guess, honestly, I can’t even tell you what happened in the middle of this year. It might as well not have existed.
Rachel: A lot of Animal Crossing.
Felicia: Yeah. A lot of Animal Crossing. You and I both got on that train very late, but very into it. Actually really quick side note, but I think it relates to what we were just talking about. So I’m sure most people, if not everyone listening, knows Animal Crossing, but if anyone is not familiar, handheld Nintendo game, you can create a little avatar. You can create an island design, a lot of stuff, chat with villagers who are animals and sometimes robots, but whatever. And so my question for you is, given what you just shared around like your gray hair and things like that in animal crossing, does your avatar have gray hair? And does your avatar look like you?
Rachel: It looks like the version, the animated version that I would like to think that I look like. Yes, she has gray hair and they’ve upgraded it. Now you can go to Harv’s Island and get a haircut. And every time this hair stylist gives me a haircut, I’m like, no, I’m going back to that existing and I like it.
Felicia: I have not gotten a haircut yet, but yes, in my little animal crossing world, my avatar, I usually keep the hair somewhat similar to what my actual hair looks like, but I have been playing around with the hair colors. So I did have, like, green hair at one point and then I had purple and I changed it to a nice auburn for fall. Although now I
Rachel: Have you gone gray yet? Go gray for winter.
Felicia: Maybe it’ll be gray for winter.
Rachel: Because as we know, that’s the end of life time.
Felicia: The cycle of life. Yep. Cycle of life,
Rachel: Literally I have been going gray since I was like 20, it’s just genetic.
Felicia: Well, I’ve been surprised because I have definitely gotten quite a bit more gray hairs in the last year and a half or so, than I think I would’ve otherwise. But I have actually not been as gray as I thought I might be, considering. My mom was also very early gray, completely gray and has dyed her hair for many years. I have just been rocking whatever this is. And my big thing is more, I don’t do hair anymore.
Rachel: Well, I think it looks great. And also I think I know what you did this summer. I know what you did last summer. Murder! No, that’s a totally different podcast. You moved!
Felicia: Oh, I did move. Oh yeah!
Rachel: We used to have a team that was entirely based in Boston. Now nobody’s in Boston.
Felicia: I’m still tied to Boston.
Rachel: And you’re still repping Massachusetts. So appreciate that.
Felicia: I rep Massachusetts, I rep Boston. I am an hour and 40 minutes away, and you know what, all these changes with the new administration, and these big spending plans, and all that stuff, I’m really hopeful that I’ll be actually less than that in the near future, as we get some more train lines in and all that good stuff. But yes, you’re absolutely right. I did move. I’ve bought that house. I moved to Western Massachusetts and I am a landowner now. So that’s problematic too. I know we talk about land acknowledgements, and this is stolen land, but now I guess I am part of that problem. So the work never ends.
Rachel: No, no, no. And it is interesting because the work that we do, a lot of people are like, oh, you probably just work with tech companies because we have geek in our name. So it kind of makes sense. But we have a ton of different types of clients and we’ve worked with several in real estate. Not real estate agencies, real estate companies, firms.It’s interesting when you think about real estate, land acknowledgement, DEI work that we’re doing and that role and responsibility and the environmental justice piece of it as well, which we didn’t talk about. We haven’t talked about it yet either.
Felicia: I know that’s something you’re really excited and interested in too, and you’ve done a lot of research on, especially this past year.
Rachel: That was just another area of growth and learning for me. When I was in high school, I was a huge environmental nerd, but I didn’t have the justice lens to it. I learned it was really interesting that environmentalism, in many ways, is a white person’s thing. And, adding into this, the aspect of environmental justice is so critical because it’s really about what is happening in neighborhoods, in areas. Where are people dumping their toxic waste? Who are the people that are actually getting impacted by all of the emissions that are coming up? It’s typically people who live in poor areas because none of the richie folks want to have the toxic stuff in their area. So it ends up all getting into the poor folks areas, which typically are Black and Brown people.
Rachel: So, and then on top of that, on the gender side-women. They are birth defects that are happening hormonally because of the stuff that comes out of the water that they’re drinking. So I think that just having that lens is just really important as we’re hurtling toward earth month in April, but every month should be earth month as they say. That piece should never be neglected. We want to make sure that everyone is taken care of and that the planet itself is taken care of, and all the animals as well that are getting harmed. But I think it’s really important to remember that a lot of humans who don’t have power or agency, who don’t have options for living in a variety of places, are getting harmed as well.
Felicia: Yeah. There’s just a never ending list of ways we can be looking at how we’ve just seen time and time again, especially in the last year, this inequality highlighted right now in December 202. We are looking at vaccines as being really big. That was probably the biggest thing, beyond everything else that we’ve already talked about, that happened this last year. We got the vaccine rolled out. We both have been fully vaccinated and boosted, which has been amazing. Just even seeing how that all came together in such record time was really something. But now what we’re seeing is that it’s just this inequality around access and information. We’re blaming poor countries for not having access to vaccines, yet here we are hoarding and not giving it out and then not taking advantage of it and.
Rachel: And not releasing the IP also to make it so that they can access it.
Felicia: Right. And even things around naming. So we have the latest variant, Omicron. I think that’s right.
Rachel: And I like to call it OmniCorp, like an evil corporation.
Felicia: I mean, basically. And when people are calling it the South African variant, that’s actually not true. It was the South African scientist who alerted us to this variant, and it started in Europe. So why can’t we call it the European variant or whatever? And I’ll also be really honest- every time I talk about vaccine variants, I cannot help, but think about Loki and the TV show. So with the variants and Marvel universe…
Rachel: I didn’t know where you were going with that. I totally forgot. I felt like I watched Loki a million years ago, when you were, was that right?
Felicia: So we live in the matrix and I really truly believe that all of this is just some Loki variance.
Rachel: You think?
Felicia: I think we’re like a branch that branched off and needs to be cut off. I’ll just say, I think we need to be cut off from the main branch.
Rachel: I used to believe that. And I still do to some extent. It was just kind of exhausting to think about it. We’re not where we were a thousand years ago, where only a few people had access to reading, let alone food and no plumbing. And there were torture systems, and religion the reason why people would go around murdering, committing genocide basically. We’re not there. So, there’s that.
Felicia: There is that, but what I’ve actually also been thinking about a lot recently is, all of this stuff happens in cycles, right? So we’re just repeating cycles. And what I’ve been thinking a lot about is the fact that, if you go back to Homer’s time, right? The Odyssey, Homer, like when he was writing, he was part of a culture and moment in time where they had their own dark ages. Then they had a civilization that had been highly advanced and super intellectual and progressive, and all this stuff that had been wiped away. And that to us, just thinking about time and how long time is and how much has happened. Back to your question, a moment or a movement? On a higher level, are we in a moment right now where this is the beginning of the end? Or are we just in a movement towards something better?
Felicia: I truly do not know. And I don’t know if that’s depressing to think about or not, but I’ve really been thinking about it. It just feels like everything is so heightened at all times right now. Even this week alone, we have been hit with so many different, horrible things that it just feels like on the one hand we’re numb to it, because we’re operating in the state of everything that’s been happening. And on the other hand, it’s like how much more can come our way before it all collapses. So, yeah.
Rachel: Yeah. No, well, and I agree. It’s bananas, everything that is happening. I will say what has also been interesting is to see the power there. There is certainly power in the community. Huge power in community. There’s also a lot of power in individuals and I kind of feel like that’s what I’ve been seeing more of, especially with all the crazy news. Look, it cuts both ways. Like the power of one individual can be incredibly impactful to the future of the world, especially when we’re talking about people in the US that have so much power right now. When I look at people like Trump or, Kavanaugh, or Abbot, these individuals hold so much power. We‘ve got to find ways to have folks that are not evil, to also find ways to make sure that they have power too. I think when we think about politics, it’s easy to say “we Democrats, we progressives are getting in our own way,” because we’re a little bit more nuanced.
Rachel: We don’t fall in line so easily. We’re more intentional about how we think about things. So it makes it harder for us to move forward, as opposed to the simple kind of “everybody’s evil, but us.” So we just need to go in this direction or mindset. I don’t have an answer, but what I do think is that the work that we do- and this is why I am grateful- the work that we do impacts individuals to truly take the action that they can make in their space. We use a concept called spheres of influence, which essentially means that whoever you are, in a work context, we’d say, whether you’re an individual contributor, whether you’re a people manager, whether you’re an executive senior leader, you have the ability to make change in your space and in your way. And so we do ask for people to reflect on what that might look like, and it’s not easy. It doesn’t not have to be the hardest thing in the world, it can be small. I think the important thing is that it’s intentional. I don’t know if it’s going to change the course of history, but maybe if enough of us do those little things, it will be alright. I’m definitely in a more optimistic place today.
Felicia: Well, I was feeling optimistic and then I went down my rabbit hole.
Rachel: I get it. I mean, you were dropping some knowledge on me earlier today about some of the news items that hit, and I just had to laugh.
Felicia: That’s just where we’re at, and you’ve touched on this already. What has been really helpful not just this year, but the last couple years, has been the work that we do. And I’m super grateful for you as well, because not only are we doing something that I truly believe is meaningful and impactful, but I do see it having a difference in the world. I can only imagine how much more dark and depressed I would feel if I was working for an evil company. Not naming names, but we all know which ones they are, and that is really challenging. So I know that not only are we still here, we didn’t go away. We’re able to support ourselves and we’re able to do things that enrich us personally and professionally, and we’re able to support our team, which has been really amazing. Just because you and I started this off way back in another lifetime, and it was just the two of us for the longest time. Now we have an actual team . Like, you manage people, I manage people.
Rachel: They’re amazing people and they’re wonderful people.
Felicia: We’re building generational wealth for people. Literally changing the directions that families are taking, which is mind blowing to me. And I’m doing that for myself too. I know you’ve been doing that for yourself as well. We are able to do things that we didn’t think we would be able to do in our lives. So I also think it’s been really interesting because with what we’re seeing come about nowadays with the Great Resignation. Yes. A lot of people are stepping out of the workforce or choosing to exit, looking to do something different. I have been reflecting a lot on not just the work and you and our partnership, but also the structure of our company. When we started doing this work back in 20-whatever, it was, 2015, 2016, it was such an unusual structure that we had such a duality.
Felicia: And we’ve been talking about this theme of dualities throughout our conversation so far, but, we had our community and then we had our training. Yeah. We had you, we had me, we’re co-CEOs, we’re sharing that. We’re bi-coastal now. I think that, for me, what’s been really awesome to see is just how strong that structure has proven to be for us. I think it’s also really helped us in the last year and a half, two years in the middle of all this wildness, that it’s really given us a super strong foundation that I one-hundred percent guarantee that if it was just you, or just me, we would’ve already quit and done something else, definitely, at this point.
Rachel: I think I’d be a real estate agent. I’m just gonna put that out there.
Felicia: Is that because you’re watching Selling Sunset right now?
Rachel: I obviously look exactly like the women of Selling Sunset.
Felicia: You gotta get out of that mindset, remember? Down with the patriarchal whatever!
Rachel: I’ll tell you, that show is not helping my cycle of socialization in my brain. It’s just reinforcing all the negative thoughts around what I should look like. But the houses are amazing. They’re ridiculous. But anyway, I hear you, and I agree. As a nice segue to talk about community…
Felicia: Talk about community.
Rachel: Okay. So on the community side, for those of you who are listening, who don’t really know much of what we used to do. We actually were founded by running events for women in tech and tech adjacent roles, primarily in Boston, but also in San Francisco and New York. Once the pandemic happened, obviously, running events was not a thing. On top of that, some of our sponsor companies- so a lot of times what would happen is, companies would sponsor the events essentially in order to recruit from our community. It’s a win-win-win for everyone. People were not talking about hiring and recruiting events in spring of 2020. In fact, several of them- can’t imagine why- I mean, there was a lot happening, and a lot of sponsors were like, we’re not going to hire for the foreseeable future.
Rachel: Now, as we’ve seen, the stock market has taken note. And the economy seems to be just fine, pandemic or not. But at the time, it was really scary for folks. What we decided to do was really just have as many virtual events as possible. We didn’t wanna do cookie-cutter zooms, cause who the hell can be on zoom anymore than they are, even back then. It was like people were exhausted from that. A lot of folks were doing it. But we were doing it. We did it throughout 2020, and what we saw were the numbers were starting to come down a little bit, not a surprise, again, everyone’s super tired. So in 2021, we decided to take a beat and not have events, virtual or otherwise, the way we had done in the past and take it as a time to do some reflection.
Rachel: We had been thinking a lot about creating some real intentionality around, how can we support the folks that are part of our community that we know are struggling- with the great resignation, with burn out, with what’s going on in their company. Some folks really want to figure out how they can level up in their careers. Other folks with just understanding- they may be new managers- how can they be supported? Some are new moms and trying to do that work and as being a mom and just showing up for the company and not feeling like they’re burning out even further and also being respected by their companies. We did some listening sessions, and we got some help from one of our amazing ambassadors, Kelly. We did a survey, and then we made the choice to create these small groups, cohorts of professional development programming that was already created by an amazing woman, her name is Emma B-F, to the Rise Up Program. That’s something that she’s already done and we had seen it, we looked at it, we saw the results and we were like, we need to bring this to the SGO community.
So basically what we’ve been doing is we put out a bunch of applications. The applications are due by the end of the year for it to kick off in January. but we already have more than enough to fill the first 10 slots. We’re actually talking about bringing in more cohorts, it’s really exciting, we wanna bring in folks who are sort of similar places in their career. So, the first cohort is going to managers. A mix of newer and slightly more seasoned managers because that is such a particular, especially for women, struggle. I can say that I certainly have experienced it in my professional career prior to SGO. I think it’s so common for anyone to be really good at their job and then be so good that they’re promoted to manage the people who are doing the work that you are really good at. There is an assumption that you are going to be a really good people manager without having any training, and some people are great at it, but it is a skill.
Felicia: It’s a very different skill. It is very different from what typically gets people to that place. That’s very hard to shift.
Rachel: It’s very hard to shift, especially if no one’s telling you that it’s a shift. So then you immediately assume that it’s your fault that you suck at it.
Felicia: Or you assume that it’s the other person’s fault and that they’re just a terrible employee.
Rachel: Exactly. The employee sucks. I can tell you, I internalized it for sure. I think there was some of that like, oh my employees, can they just be like me exactly?
Felicia: Right. I have no experience with it ever
Rachel: Our little type-A selves, right? I think that the additional, I don’t want to say struggle, but the additional problem, for women is that there’s also the double bind, which is essentially women being viewed as both having to be really, really nice, but also really, really effective and this idea of confidence being determined as bitchiness. So it’s figuring out how you walk that tightrope, where you’re not going to be biased against by your employees and your employers and your colleagues. So how do you do that? For women it’s a particularly sensitive issue when you become a people manager. You’re in a position of authority and as we all know, we don’t like that for the ladies so much in this country.
Felicia: I’m really excited about this program, because I think, like you said, we just saw across the board zoom fatigue, and fatigue in general, and burnout, and we’re feeling it ourselves too. So, we’re not some unicorns who have figured out how to make it in this pandemic, but we’re feeling it too. And I think that you’re absolutely right. We were pushing the events last year and they were really helpful in a lot of ways, but at the end of the day we started thinking, okay, there’s other things people need. I know that’s something you and I have talked about so much in general with this work, and with SGO, we always say, we’ll keep doing this until it’s not needed anymore. That’s exactly the approach that we are taking with community.
Felicia: Okay. So maybe the former way of doing things is not going to work right now or maybe ever in the future, but what else can we do, because we have this amazing group of folks and they’re still out there. We know they’re out there and dealing with stuff on Slack and then other places and how can we continue to support them? A lot of people at this point in time are experimenting with returning to in-person events and doing things the way we used to do them. And that’s no knock on that, but I do really believe that we have such an opportunity in front of us where, what can we take from pre-COVID times that was great? And then what can we discard that we don’t need anymore? I’m super hopeful. The Rise Up program will be a really valuable tool for people who are struggling or who are looking for additional support and hopefully we can give that to them.
Rachel: What I love about it is that not only are you getting Emma’s expert facilitation and coaching, but this is why we wanted to be really intentional with the application process. We wanted to make sure that we were bringing together a group of 10 women that could also learn from each other and support each other, because that is such a critical piece to this work. Especially right now when we are all sitting behind a desk and a computer screen, because we are alone. Many of us are alone and struggling and not being able to figure it out. Not for lack of trying, it’s just exhausting, trying to get up and get through whatever BS you have to get through that day, to then try to figure it out. Okay, well, I’m just grateful I got through this day, get me my glass of wine. Going to, okay, I got through this day and now I need to know how I’m going to level up in my career. How do I push myself to the next level? I only recently started to get back into that mindset. I think that during the pandemic, for a lot of us, it’s been so easy for us to be like, we just got through this day, pat ourselves on the back, let’s take a rest.
Felicia: For sure. I think I’m still there. I’m still there and I get it. I was thinking a lot again because, I’m not going to lie, I was experiencing a little bit of FOMO because I have seen some groups that I’m nominally part of, especially in the Boston area, doing these hybrid events or in-person events, especially as we head into the end of the year and holiday season and all that good stuff. I definitely had been feeling a little bit of “that would be really fun.” Or “I would do that.” And then on the other hand, I had these vaccine fears and COVID fears, so then I retreat mentally and physically back into my little house here. But, I was thinking a lot about our community events, back in the day and how you and I would so many times- it would be 3:00 PM, 4:00 PM on a Tuesday afternoon- and we’d be like, “Ugh, the last thing we want to do is go and do an event tonight.” And so many times- every time- you and I would sync up and be like, all right, we’re doing this event, and then we’re leaving immediately after the last speaker has spoken. It used to be a three hour event, after the raffle prizes, which was your favorite thing to do. So we’d be like, all right, the first hour networking, the second hour speakers then out of there. We’re out. And then we’d always be closing down the house. Every time, last ones out, and every time it would be such an injection of energy and fun and camaraderie and humor and warmth and laughter and it just…
Rachel: And wine. Let’s be real- and wine
Felicia: And some food, and maybe some cupcakes, and maybe some like swag. Who even knows. And the raffle prizes! It was so fun. I was just thinking about that and I was like, we’ll get back to that at some point.
Rachel: I’m glad that you mentioned that because we had participated a little bit in the Massachusetts Conference for Women, which is all virtual this year, and that’s something that we used to attend in-person. We actually had sponsored it and had a booth and it was a great event. You felt that energy, thousands and thousands of mostly women in this huge space, the expo center in Boston. And it was a thing and we looked forward to it every time. It was interesting experiencing the virtual one for the first time. Because we didn’t do it last year. The speakers were amazing, but we know that they filmed everything ahead of time and they just put the things up.
Felicia: It’s not the same.
Rachel: And everyone knows. It’s just, we do need to get back to having that energy. That’s why for 2022, for the virtual things that we are doing on the community side, they’re intentionally small groups, because you can get some of that energy when you have all the video cameras on, for example, and everyone engaged in this, with a similar purpose and goal. They can actually really communicate with each other and have a facilitator be able to guide through some real interactivity engagement. That’s the great thing about the work that you’re doing too on the training side- it’s building in so much interactivity and engagement to make sure that is there. We know that in-person is amazing.
Felicia: In-person’s amazing. Virtual, I will say, a really great thing is that we’ve been able to not replicate in-person, but be able to create virtual experiences that can still be humorous, and warm, and funny, and engaging, and informative, which is awesome because that was a big question at the beginning of this. It is different though, right? And so I will admit, I used to be that person who was like, I don’t want to work remotely. I love being in an office. I don’t think you can get away from it. When you moved to San Diego, I was like, cool, goodbye. I’m sticking with the office in Boston with my peeps. And now I’m like, I don’t know if I want to go back to that model in the future. We can’t because we’re so distributed now, but it’s an interesting question and an interesting change.
Felicia: I do think that going forward, we’ve gotta figure out how can we get back to the in-person moments, which are so critical for fulfilling us and filling up our cups, and not lose what we’ve gotten with all this virtual engagement. Our events, whether they’ve been the community events, or we had these DEI meetups that we run quarterly, we’ve seen people joining from literally all over the world. Our clients have gone international. We have new staff members who we have never met before. In a pre-COVID time, we would’ve never met them in any way, because they all live in different places. A lot of it is coming back to what we were talking about originally with the balance of doom and gloom and optimism. To your point, we’ve gotta just fixate on those moments of joy, and connection, and being human to get us through my rabbit hole deep dives into the depth of the patriarchy.
Rachel: I know. I don’t know if maybe we could like, not even bother talking about all the horrible news that’s happened this year. I know we have a literal list of all of them. I don’t think we need to cover it. I feel like we’ve done it, but I do think this is a really excellent transition to talking about predictions for 2022. And maybe a little sneak peek on what we’re doing for 2022 beyond the Rise Up program.
Felicia: Where to start. Well, I mean, I’m happy to kick off with a prediction or two. This has not been very well thought out, so you’re welcome. I think that we are going to start to see more in-person engagement, and I’m hopeful that that will be the case too, because it’s anyone’s guess at this point, how variants and vaccines and all that will play out. But I do think that we’re gonna see more in-person engagement. I’m hopeful that that will be joined by additional innovation around hybrid events. I really think that hybrid is going to be the name of the game in 2022 when it comes to how we do everything.
Felicia: In terms of high-level DEI work, I think I don’t see it slowing down anytime soon. So unlike last year when I was thinking, there’s gonna be a slowdown. I actually don’t think that the work is gonna slow down, but I think we’re going to see a continuation of some trends we’ve been seeing this year where companies and organizations are looking long-term, they’re looking deeper, they’re looking beyond quick fixes, like recruiting and hiring to culture, psychological safety, just deeper understandings of identity and history. And I think that the aliens will invade us and there were my productions for 2022.
Rachel: Felicia the aliens have already invaded us.
Felicia: Oh, you’re right. They probably have
Rachel: That’s amazing. Those are all great. I am on board with all of it. I will also share this. It isn’t a prediction- well, it’s kind of a prediction, cause we’ve just started talking about it today. I’m just excited because for the first time ever, we’re doing an actual retreat for the company, so that’s happening in February. We’ve just been talking about, to your point around, how do we have those touch points in-person while still keeping everything remote? I think it’s having more retreats, more opportunities to get together. Obviously for a lot of companies, it can be really challenging because they may be really large and certainly expensive. We’re small, so it’s not that much of a lift for us, but it is just so important. I can’t tell you, we literally created a slack channel to talk about our upcoming retreat because we were all just- not literally over the moon because that would be impossible- but we are over the moon, about it.
Rachel: We are very excited. So just to the point around having those in-person experiences for companies. A prediction on the content programming interest side for both the community and DEI- I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, especially given some of the work that we’ve been doing lately- is around boundary setting. We all know why the great recession is happening.
Felicia: Not recession
Rachel: What did I say?
Rachel: Oh, definitely not a recession, PS, again. Fascinating, right? I’m old. I said the great recession. OK. The great resignation, and the great reshuffling and all the other great R’s that are out there right now are happening because people are not setting boundaries, and employers are not setting boundaries, and all of this is bleeding back and forth into everything is just making it so messy.
Rachel: And there used to be a nice commute. And people who were working remotely probably had some of those boundaries set in place because that was something that they probably worked really hard to do- or maybe not. But the point is, I think boundary setting is just going to have to be something that is set for 2022 and beyond if companies want to be able to hire folks. I think the other thing that we’re seeing is a report that came out recently around, and again, not really a surprise, that a lot of people who are quitting their jobs are starting their own businesses. Thinking about this, they’re starting their own businesses and they may be consultants doing the work that they were doing as a full-time employee. Companies would probably be more than happy to rehire someone as a contractor because then there’s no need to worry about health insurance and any of the other aspects that go along with having someone as a full-time employee.
Rachel: So I think that that contractor model might be something that gets elevated a little bit higher. I know that there’s been push pushes for that. Unfortunately it failed here in California with Uber and Lyft, but I think something needs to be addressed with the contract work versus the full-time work. I’m gonna put that out there as something, maybe not for 2022, but something in the future that has to be dealt with. Let me see, I predict- this is where I go dark. Let’s do it. I mean, all right. My darkest fear, and I have not said this in a recorded setting yet, so it makes me a little bit nervous, but my deepest, darkest fear is that in 2022, we will see Republican majorities, which I’m anticipating anyway,, but my fear around that is that folks who are progressive and women, and I’m particularly thinking of the squad, but I could also see Nancy Pelosi as part of this, will quite literally be physically harmed, if not jail.
Rachel: I think that we saw that back on January 6th, but like we saw that happening then with the blessing of the GOP. So I don’t see why, given the radicalization of the Republican party, why that wouldn’t be the next step. Then of course, regardless, assuming we even have elections in 2024, they wouldn’t certify the votes if a Democrat won. So dark, deep, dark fears in that space. And then we hope that we get taken over by aliens who are benevolent and kind . And that is my big one.
Felicia: If they’re already here, they need to freaking let us know and step in. Step up, we’re not doing a great job. To your deep, dark fear, I mean, I definitely agree with it. I share it, for sure. I don’t think it’s unfounded at all. I think it’s a very real fear. I think also to what you were saying earlier, when I was sharing my deep, dark fears and dark mindset, is the power of the individual. If we’re bringing in the political aspect of things, I think that’s been so critical and we’ve seen how literally one person can be hugely impactful. I’m really thinking of Stacy Abrams.
Rachel: I was literally right there.
Felicia: She lost the race unfairly, was denied. She single handedly transformed and won Georgia. Got, I don’t even know how many people registered, and enrolled, and voted, and now she’s running again. I’m so hopeful that she will actually get it this time because she deserves it. And just her impact alone has been so amazing. And one thing I’ve really been learning a lot in the last two years or so has been the impact of local. It’s such an interesting dynamic given everything else that’s been happening in the world. To what you’re saying, it has to start with us and this is actually the model. It is the exact model that we use in our training. We start with the individual and then we just keep going higher up and higher up.
Felicia: So we start with the individual. Then we go to a workplace setting, to their team, to their department, to their organization, to their larger community. And you start to see, as you were saying with your spheres of influence, how you can have impact at various levels along that way. I think the same is true with politics. We start local, we move from there to whatever it is, state, then we move to federal. Then we move to international and all that stuff. But we’re seeing this play out dramatically at the local level too. I had been much more engaged in local politics than I ever had been in the past. There’s places where we’re seeing real battles for people like school committee members where, the last place that I lived right outside Boston, there was a huge shift and change in Medford, Massachusetts, where progressives came in and took seats from incumbents. It sparked a very real counter fear from people who are not into progressive ways of being, and are anti-critical race theory and are hateful, and were full of fear, and anger, and violence, and literally were making death threats against school committee members. And what happened, none of those people made it through in the school committee when they did the recent election.
Rachel: Wait, which didn’t make it? The progressives or the old school?
Felicia: The old school folks. So the progressives basically swept the city council and school committee. That is not the case everywhere in the US. So there are other places, like Pennsylvania, there’s places where the opposite happens. I’m not saying that this is the overall trend, but what I am really hopeful about is seeing how that can make a real difference. Where you literally have a couple people who are like, you know what? I’m gonna do something. That can actually have a huge impact. I love that. I guess this has been my journey down the rabbit hole and out. I climbed back out. I didn’t go completely down the hole.
Rachel: I think you did a great job. You really lifted us all back up. Also, with the Stacy Abrams announcement, the same day Governor Baker of Massachusetts announced that he is not running for reelection. My theory is that he’s gonna be running for president. And that’s why.
Felicia: I saw a counter theory to that. I think I believe it. So I did see, I forget where I saw it. So apologies. I can’t do credit, but maybe it was an article or a tweet or something- it must have been an article- that a journalist was saying that they had interviewed Baker a few years ago and his mother has dementia and it runs in the family. So in whatever context this conversation or interview happened, he basically said, it’s coming for me at some point. So what this person was positing was that instead of him quitting to focus on the presidency or something else, that he’s actually stepping away to, not to be too emotional about it, but to enjoy his time that he has with his family. That might be who knows, but it’s another, another possibility.
Rachel: Wow. That’s really interesting. But the bright side of that, potentially, is that I’m hoping that Maura Healy runs for governor, which would be amazing. She was attorney general of Massachusetts.
Felicia: We cannot let this podcast go by without mentioning Michelle Wu.
Rachel: Michelle Wu! Thank you. Do it. Yes. yes.
Felicia: So again, in case anyone has not been aware of this, but Michelle Wu, recently elected mayor of Boston, first woman mayor, woman of color mayor, ever, in the history of Boston. Amazing. I’m super thrilled for her and for where this is gonna take the city. And I know you are too, and even though you don’t live in Boston, actually, neither of us live in Boston anymore, we’re so thrilled. What has been really interesting too, is again, to this whole conversation around the impact we can all have- it was super interesting because obviously, given SGO’s roots and our ties and our background and everything. So, on top of what’s going on in Boston at the city level, and things like elections and whatnot, but it was super interesting to see how it was a news item that was picked up nationally. And so it just reminded me that, Boston is a small city, but it is a powerful city.
Rachel: No, I think that you are totally right though about all of it. The only reason why I wanted to say who Maura Healy was, is because I don’t think a lot of people know, but she- actually I don’t know if she’s still- the attorney general for Massachusetts. What’s been so amazing about her, not only is she a gay woman, but also she spent the last four years suing Donald Trump along with several other states. So she’s a delight and I would love to see her run and win. I think you’re right. Local matters and 2022 we will be, like we did in 2019, working on- doing our very best- to get out the vote and for people to be civically engaged because it is very critical. I think I made that very clear earlier why it’s just a little important.
Rachel: It’s funny for folks that haven’t known us very long. Before 2016, we were nonpartisan. We were like, we really support all folks- anyone who identifies with the SGO mission and mindset. We ended up having to really choose and we wanted to use our voice. We are not bashful about the fact that we are a progressive, socially-minded organization that likes all good humans. I qualified it. I qualified it. That’s terrible. We like all humans.
Felicia: Good humans.
Rachel: And maybe some aliens, we don’t know.
Felicia: Sure. I’m down for it. Take us away. I know.
Rachel: Ugh. Anything else that we want to cover?
Felicia: Mm. We talked about all the things. We can see where our predictions take us.
Rachel: Yeah. I’m excited. I’ve been spending a lot of time being very scared and anxious, and I’m just going to be excited to continue doing the work, and being around people who care about making the world a more equitable place. So that is my mission for 2022. And I am so grateful for you, Felicia. Another year in the bag.
Felicia: Ditto, likewise, another year in the bag, it’s all blurring together at this point.
Rachel: Well, when we see each other in-person for the first time, since 2019-
Felicia: No, since 2020.
Rachel: Oh my gosh. You’re right.
Felicia: Yeah. Our last time was February 2020.
Rachel: February, 2020. And you came out to visit and work. That was amazing. Oh, 2020, February, 2020. Aw. Single tear.
Felicia: I know!
Rachel: Well this has been a delight. As always, I can’t wait to see what the numbers are like for people who actually finish listening to the podcast. They can drop us their email address. Maybe they can email us. Whoever is listening to this at the end, please. All the way to this, to the end, email us.
Felicia: Wait, what email should they use to contact us?
They should use [email protected] I think that would be good. And then yeah, email us and then let us know that you listened to the end of this podcast and we’ll send you a special surprise gift. Yeah.
Felicia: Yeah. I’m not gonna lie. I told Steve, my husband, that I was podcasting and he was like, you still do that? Oh.
Rachel: Oh, the other thing is we’ll be doing more of that in 2022! So stay tuned for that.
Felicia: Oh yes. It’s one prediction that will come true- we’ll be doing more podcasting in 2022
Rachel: Yes. Stay tuned.
Felicia: All right. Right.
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