An Interview With Marion Riehemann: Strong Women Are Connected.
Updated: Sep 23, 2021
Marion Riehemann was recently interviewed by Andrea Goffart regarding strong women...
Hello dear viewers, I’m connected in a very special way today, across the Atlantic to Wisconsin where it’s seven hours earlier and therefore 8am. So, Marion Riehemann (formerly Guérin) is over there still drinking her breakfast tea and meanwhile she’s going to talk to me about strong women. Marion has an exciting curriculum vitae: she was born in Canada, lived in New York as a child, then grew up in Germany, and after various stations around the world, she has now been living in America again for a year and a half, because of love. Marion was an actress, a theater teacher, a language instructor and had a speech therapy practice before she followed her heart’s call. She has now worked successfully as a leadership consultant and senior executive coach at top management level in Germany and internationally for many years. In what she does, she pursues a very special theme. She is concerned with bringing leadership to a new level of consciousness, which is nothing less than a paradigm shift in leadership. When I met Marion, in observing what she does and what moves her, I had the impression – „Oh, this woman can do anything.“ That’s why I think she’s an ideal interlocutor for the question: What actually is a strong woman?
Marion: A very beautiful question, and it is so wonderfully open. I understand my answer to it in such a way that I first say what a strong person is and then relate that to the woman in the 21st century. A strong person is a person who, in their journey through life, begins a journey to themselves and never loses sight of that, at least keeps picking up the thread and returns to the essential questions – who am I, why am I here, what is the reason for my being here, what is it for me to realize? It’s about understanding the nature of reality, examining the nature of being human, and knowing yourself better and better. This brings me back to a quote that my mother used to have hanging on her wall: „Tat Tvam Asi“ – „Know yourself. Thou art that.” A strong person is someone who holds this focus with joy and ease, yet persistently – who am I? And this besides being human, with all that wants to distract and challenge us here, all that wants to be accomplished and created. If I live and work and make decisions from this deeper level, then that is a huge contribution to what we (as humanity) need today.
Andrea: And in terms of women?
Marion: My hunch is, and I speak a little bit for myself there (laughs), I look at my path and look around me – who are the strong women for me? Then those are the ones who understand that it could be about building a bridge and saying: The masculine, which has dominated our world so far, is also in us! I am both female and male, just as the man also carries both aspects in himself. Both have to be integrated. Strong women should also really look at their own hurts and fears and understand them as an opportunity for development. Then they can take on a wise, an intuitive, a feminine strong, assertive role in the world, which also allows men, the masculine and masculine systems to open up. These could begin to be curious and in touch with their own longing, which I am more and more convinced wants to come into the world.
Andrea: In order to act in the way you just described – in order to arouse curiosity through a certain attitude – don’t the strong women need a higher visibility? First of all, they would have to arrive in public, in society, to be perceived? How did you specifically perceive the visibility of strong women in companies during your activities in Germany?
Marion: There are now again two contents in your question, which I would like to address one after the other. First of all your implicit assumption that visibility is the only way. Because that would then be a frame of thought within which I would have to answer and I am actually not prepared to do that without questioning it. I do not believe that visibility is the only way. It is one way, and it’s one that is highly recognized in our society and it can lead to success quickly. Visibility is super helpful, no question about it. What I’m finding for myself, though, as a woman and especially as a human being, is that when I learn to understand myself and the world from a different place then I learn to give myself and the world a meaning from a place that I locate down here rather than up here, then I can work with a lot less effort and with different forces. I’m saying this deliberately vague for now. With other forces than the ones you might mean by visibility, so social media, being on stage, holding my own ground, being a key-note speaker, writing book, all that. Those are all possibilities, but the power, the original power sits somewhere else. A lot of strong women, a lot of people, are not attracted to visibility at all and realize that those are not their authentic channels. They may then be frustrated or insecure because they think that they can’t then bring their strength into the world. I contend that there are very different channels that are more subtle and worth exploring because they also have manifestation power.
Andrea: That’s certainly a liberating perspective for many – and back to the second part of the question – how did you perceive the role of women in German companies?
B: The visibility of women in the companies I’ve worked in is low – ridiculously low! Period. It is what it is. Mostly, these were women in the typical HR positions, i.e. human resources, personnel development. They often got me on board, but rarely had decision-making power. This is my (limited) experience, made though in many, many companies of all industries, all sectors, all sizes. And when I’ve seen women actually get into a position as, for example, vice-president or into the C-suite, they usually had a very hard time. We all know that, I’m not saying anything new – for women in these positions, they also have to deal with things (biases, inequality, that have nothing to do with what they’re paid for, what they’re passionate about. This takes a lot of energy and women pay a price for that. I’ve met very few women where I can say – ‘These are strong women and they are able to live out their strength and their qualities there, they are seen and appreciated without bias with what they bring to the table.
Andrea: You said the visibility of women in the companies you know – and they’re not few – is ridiculously low and if they are, they’re in the traditional positions. You said they have a very hard time there because they have to deal with a lot of things that they don’t get paid for. Do women have to deal with different things than men?
Marion: In my perception and from the experiences in the context of my work, a very male and materialistic view of the world dominates in many companies: There is competition and therefore winners and losers and so on – these are organizational cultures in which many women who are in touch with themselves find, on the one hand, a part in themselves that can say ‘yes’ to this. This part is ambitious, wants to have influence, and wants to be respected – and all of that is wonderful. And then there is still another part, which often remains infinitely empty and unfulfilled. This part is more concerned with wholeness and waking up to this realization: It makes no sense – at the expense of so many – if we only look to win, It makes no sense that we disregard so much, so many, when we know that everything is interrelated and interconnected. A strong woman who carries this within herself has a tension in her all the time, because she would like to be perceived and engaged with these questions and issues. She notices that the values she would like to see in meetings or in strategies or in dealing with each other are not there, are not represented. And she can’t find a way to voice this discomfort or to be grounded enough in herself to actively stand up for it. This dichotomy, this conflict, costs women a lot of energy: I work in a culture that is dominated by the masculine, mechanistic and materialistic worldview, and this only corresponds to me in part. I constantly have to deny a part of myself – how do I deal with that?