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Wellness industry urgently requires diversification of workforce, says Rianna Riego
By Megan Whitby 16 Jul 2020
Riego has worked in the spa and wellness industry for over 20 years
Industry consultant and self-claimed 'wellness passionista', Rianna Riego, believes the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement has reawakened society to the reality of a system that still discriminates on the basis of colour, gender, age and religion – and the spa industry is no exception.

“Being a darker-skinned female and immigrant from a third world country, my career path in the US has been ‘coloured’ with many stories of bias and discrimination,” Riego told Spa Business.

“These experiences, unfortunately, at times included my beloved spa industry, which prides itself on being a diverse tribe of professionals. My personal experience of bias has tended to be subtle and part of the power dynamics within a company, but other incidents were more apparent.”

For example, after 20 years of experience opening, operating, designing and rebranding spas and wellness facilities, Riego had the opportunity to be the face and voice of a brand that she helped envision and develop.

“I was surprised to hear that some of the ownership weren’t comfortable with the idea of me representing the brand,” she explained, “I knew this wasn’t related to my levels of qualification but instead was due to the fact I was older and not white.”

At another facility, Riego shared that she was astonished when a co-owner scolded her for hiring a black male director for fear of ‘scaring’ the predominantly Jewish guests who may find his presence intimidating.

She also went on to say that she has extensive firsthand experience of guests indicating a preference to not have black, Hispanic, gay or older therapists, either verbally or by changing or cancelling their appointments.

“The spa experience is very personal and there are levels of comfort we should respect, but is the discomfort from a white woman being touched by a male African American therapist a cultural issue or privacy right? What should the ideals of our industry be and where do we draw the line?”

Riego feels these complex problems are exacerbated by sexism in the industry.

“Even in a female-dominated workforce, women aren’t fully represented in the corporate decision-making process or hierarchy in the industry in general,” she said.

Looking ahead towards solutions, Riego feels the demand for wellness services is growing but the experienced workforce is shrinking.

“Our industry has not been able to attract a proper representation of the millennial workforce which is now closer to 50 per cent non-white.

She believes it’s now crucial that the next-generation workforce sees more diversity at the helm currently, in order to attract them in future.

“As an industry that started out wanting to heal the world, we need to rediscover and articulate its commitment to humanity and that service is noble – this is our strength and we should champion it.

“Our industry was borne out of a passion to care for others and now has an opportunity to help heal the world while redefining how the world views wellness – as a lifestyle choice that embraces diversity as its norm.

“Make no mistake, my business success is due not only to my hard work but from people of all backgrounds believing in and supporting me. We can choose to reflect the good and tolerant in society and in doing so, set an example and attract a larger diverse workforce and customer.”


News
1 to 12 of 7530 news stories
18 Sep 2020
Cruise ship and resort operator, OneSpaWorld Holdings (OSW) has announced that Susan Bonner will join the company as chief commercial officer, starting 12 October, 2020. In this newly created position, Bonner will be part of ... More
18 Sep 2020
Industry figure, Rainer Bolsinger, has recently been appointed chief sales officer and chief marketing officer for artofcryo.com, a new division of L&R Kältetechnik GmbH & Co. KG. L&R has a 30-year history with -110°C solutions ... More
17 Sep 2020
Breathwork is known globally as a key pillar of wellness and its positive effects are well documented on the physical, mental and emotional state. In St Lucia, Windjammer Landing Villa Beach Resort and Spa has ... More
16 Sep 2020
The Global Wellness Institute’s (GWI) latest Q&A with experts on wellness in the age of COVID-19 saw VP of research and forecasting, Beth McGroarty, talk with entrepreneur Melisse Gelula, who previously co-founded wellness media company, ... More
16 Sep 2020
Luxury hotel and resort brand Aman has unveiled plans for urban Aman Residences in Bangkok, with design by world-renowned architect, Jean-Michel Gathy. Aman has signed a long-term partnership with Nai Lert Park Development, a subsidiary ... More
15 Sep 2020
Integrative health resort, Chiva-Som in Hua Hin, Thailand, is growing its Online Wellness Service offering with a series of complimentary classes and talks throughout September and October. The resort is expanding its existing support programme, ... More
11 Sep 2020
Spa management company, ISM Spa, is expanding its reach in the US, having recently opened two new properties and revealing plans to open an additional destination in Q4 2020. Certified as a Women’s Business Enterprise, ... More
10 Sep 2020
Lefay Resort and Spa Lago di Garda in Italy has introduced five new treatment packages inspired by nature, which blend outdoor activities, TCM practices and wellness treatments. Called Natural Wellness Trails, each outdoor journey guides ... More
11 Sep 2020
The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company has recently opened a new luxury resort and spa in Japan, expanding its luxury Asia Pacific portfolio into the historic mountain region of Nikko. The Ritz-Carlton, Nikko, showcases a new spa ... More
10 Sep 2020
A brand new luxury resort and spa has recently opened on the Croatian island of Hvar, inspired by local healing traditions and nature. Located near Stari Grad, the 53-key Maslina Resort is operated by Relais ... More
09 Sep 2020
World Wellness Weekend (WWW) is fast approaching and will be going ahead via a combination of online streaming and socially-distanced group wellness activities around the world, on 19-20 September 2020. Now in its fourth year, ... More
09 Sep 2020
The Global Wellness Summit (GWS), has announced that a “Call for Wellness Innovations” contest, as well as a dedicated Tech Innovation Pavilion, will be unveiled at the 2020 conference. The contest, which opened on 8 ... More
     
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Jobs   News   Products   Magazine
NEWS
Wellness industry urgently requires diversification of workforce, says Rianna Riego
POSTED 16 Jul 2020 . BY Megan Whitby
Riego has worked in the spa and wellness industry for over 20 years
Industry consultant and self-claimed 'wellness passionista', Rianna Riego, believes the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement has reawakened society to the reality of a system that still discriminates on the basis of colour, gender, age and religion – and the spa industry is no exception.

“Being a darker-skinned female and immigrant from a third world country, my career path in the US has been ‘coloured’ with many stories of bias and discrimination,” Riego told Spa Business.

“These experiences, unfortunately, at times included my beloved spa industry, which prides itself on being a diverse tribe of professionals. My personal experience of bias has tended to be subtle and part of the power dynamics within a company, but other incidents were more apparent.”

For example, after 20 years of experience opening, operating, designing and rebranding spas and wellness facilities, Riego had the opportunity to be the face and voice of a brand that she helped envision and develop.

“I was surprised to hear that some of the ownership weren’t comfortable with the idea of me representing the brand,” she explained, “I knew this wasn’t related to my levels of qualification but instead was due to the fact I was older and not white.”

At another facility, Riego shared that she was astonished when a co-owner scolded her for hiring a black male director for fear of ‘scaring’ the predominantly Jewish guests who may find his presence intimidating.

She also went on to say that she has extensive firsthand experience of guests indicating a preference to not have black, Hispanic, gay or older therapists, either verbally or by changing or cancelling their appointments.

“The spa experience is very personal and there are levels of comfort we should respect, but is the discomfort from a white woman being touched by a male African American therapist a cultural issue or privacy right? What should the ideals of our industry be and where do we draw the line?”

Riego feels these complex problems are exacerbated by sexism in the industry.

“Even in a female-dominated workforce, women aren’t fully represented in the corporate decision-making process or hierarchy in the industry in general,” she said.

Looking ahead towards solutions, Riego feels the demand for wellness services is growing but the experienced workforce is shrinking.

“Our industry has not been able to attract a proper representation of the millennial workforce which is now closer to 50 per cent non-white.

She believes it’s now crucial that the next-generation workforce sees more diversity at the helm currently, in order to attract them in future.

“As an industry that started out wanting to heal the world, we need to rediscover and articulate its commitment to humanity and that service is noble – this is our strength and we should champion it.

“Our industry was borne out of a passion to care for others and now has an opportunity to help heal the world while redefining how the world views wellness – as a lifestyle choice that embraces diversity as its norm.

“Make no mistake, my business success is due not only to my hard work but from people of all backgrounds believing in and supporting me. We can choose to reflect the good and tolerant in society and in doing so, set an example and attract a larger diverse workforce and customer.”
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Susan Bonner appointed OneSpaWorld CCO as Glenn Fusfield announces plans to retire as CEO
Cruise ship and resort operator, OneSpaWorld Holdings (OSW) has announced that Susan Bonner will join the company as chief commercial officer, starting 12 October, 2020.
Rainer Bolsinger appointed CMO and CSO of artofcryo.com
Industry figure, Rainer Bolsinger, has recently been appointed chief sales officer and chief marketing officer for artofcryo.com, a new division of L&R Kältetechnik GmbH & Co. KG.
Luxury Caribbean resort offering underwater wellness programme
Breathwork is known globally as a key pillar of wellness and its positive effects are well documented on the physical, mental and emotional state. In St Lucia, Windjammer Landing Villa Beach Resort and Spa has blended the technique with diving to create a new underwater wellness programme.
Melisse Gelula: COVID-19 has helped wellness lose its stigma
The Global Wellness Institute’s (GWI) latest Q&A with experts on wellness in the age of COVID-19 saw VP of research and forecasting, Beth McGroarty, talk with entrepreneur Melisse Gelula, who previously co-founded wellness media company, Well+Good, and now helps advise and scale mission- driven wellness companies, from tech to beauty and more.
Jean-Michel Gathy to design new Aman holistic wellness centre and urban residences in Bangkok
Luxury hotel and resort brand Aman has unveiled plans for urban Aman Residences in Bangkok, with design by world-renowned architect, Jean-Michel Gathy.
Chiva-Som expands online wellness services with health and wellbeing seminars
Integrative health resort, Chiva-Som in Hua Hin, Thailand, is growing its Online Wellness Service offering with a series of complimentary classes and talks throughout September and October.
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16-18 Sep 2020

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