Bioneers Co-Founder Nina Simons on Women’s History Month & Shifting Leadership From Head To Heart

In honor of Women’s History Month and Gender Equality Month, Holly Corbett, VP of Content for Consciously Unbiased, spoke with Bioneers co-founder, Nina Simons, author of Nature, Culture, and the Sacred: A Woman Listens for Leadership, for this episode of Break the Bias.

Nina is also the co-founder of Bioneers, a nonprofit she started with her husband, that focuses on innovative solutions for some of the planet’s biggest social and environmental issues. In this behind-the-scenes interview, Nina talks about her personal journey to embracing her own power and leading from the heart, the history of a time when women were prosecuted in the thousands or even millions for using their voice, and how joy is a bigger motivator than guilt when it comes to advancing equity. Listen to the full conversation here, and read below for some key takeaways.

Cultivate Emotional Intelligence In Leadership

Nina says that when she was asked to describe her relationship to Bioneers, she described herself as “the woman behind the man.” However, her husband and colleagues were shocked to hear this, and didn’t see her that way at all. This sparked her to embark upon a journey to unpack leadership and the unique strengths that many women bring.

“As I grew into more and more of myself, I was able to see that my contributions were equally valid to [my husband’s],” says Nina. “In some ways, this speaks to our cultural conditioning to think that the mind is superior to all of our other ways of knowing. I am someone who is highly relational, deeply empathic, intuitive and quite aware of my body’s wisdom and what my body is telling me. So I bring a lot of other ways of knowing—not to say that I’m not intellectual; I just have a different intellect than he. Stop competing with anyone by yourself, and set yourself a goal. For me, what became important was to fully manifest what this instrument was born to bring to this world as I possibly could. That meant a lot of introspection and inner reflection to be able to still my mind and listen in a different way.”

RELATED: A Historian On The Untold Stories Of The Women’s Rights Movement—And What It Means Today

Break Unhealthy Patterns To Create New Habits

In order to tap into her authentic leadership style and deeper purpose, Nina says she had to become aware of thought patterns and habits that were holding her back, and then form new, healthier habits to replace the old ones. One example she gave was noticing the litany of inner voices criticizing her body when she got dressed in the morning.

“Once I started on this path, I realized I was harming myself every single day when I said those things to myself,” says Nina. “So how do I stop it and change it? One of the things that I learned from a Peruvian traditional practitioner is that rituals create relationships. So I decided to create a ritual to help heal that habit. I mixed a skin oil with essential oils that I loved the scent of, and promised myself that every day for six to eight weeks I would try anointing my body when I got out of the shower with that oil. At the same time, I was consciously pouring love and gratitude into my body. What I found is that anything you do every day for six to eight weeks can help shift a pattern.”

This process required Nina to recognize judgmental thought patterns she wanted to change in order to contribute to her best self, and then to make up a ritual and hold herself accountable for doing it every day. “It’s a fabulous recipe that I highly recommend to everyone for any kind of pattern you want to change in yourself,” Nina says.

RELATED: The 5th Anniversary Of the #MeToo Movement: How It Started And What’s Next

Racial Equity Work Calls For Us To Build Discomfort Resilience

When it comes to advancing equity and using your privilege for good, Nina believes that framing it as an opportunity rather than as a responsibility is a better motivator for change.

“Often when people talk about entering into racial equity work, there is more talk about the difficulty and the challenge of it rather than about the benefits and the payoffs of doing it,” says Nina. “In my experience, one of the things that I took away from all those years of cultivating women’s leadership is that having an embodied experience of what Martin Luther King called ‘beloved community’ is one of the most joyous, regenerative, celebratory things I’ve ever experienced in my life. Once you’ve had it, you want it for everyone. There are lots to say about white fragility, but we’re not that fragile. One of my favorite phrases that I’ve heard is that we need to cultivate our discomfort resilience in order to embark on this work. It’s tremendously exciting and I think we may be more motivated by joy and fulfillment rather than by the stick of responsibility.”

The 34th annual Bioneers conference is happening in Berkeley, CA from April 6 to 8, 2023, and Nina is offering the Consciously Unbiased community a 20% discount on registration by using the code: Nina20. If interested in attending, you can register here. For links to other resources Nina mentioned on the show, please see below.

Documentary: The Burning Times
Moonrise: The Power of Women Leading from the Heart, by Nina Simons
Cassandra Speaks: When Women Are the Storytellers, the Human Story Changes, by
Empathy Academy


Holly Corbett

As the Director of Content at Consciously Unbiased, Holly Corbett is fueling inclusion through storytelling to build a passionate community and creating experiences inside organizations to transform workplace culture.
Download our DEI Training Overview
Learn about our immersive DEI training experiences and how our DEI workshops are creating real change.
Thank you for subscribing!

Sign up and join the Consciously Unbiased movement today!

Get the latest DEI news, events, and research straight to your email and let's create a social impact together.

Thank you for subscribing!