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Strong Woman Syndrome: Part II

In Celebration of International Women's Day

Be your own guru

In case you are interested, there is a part one to this story. Find it here.

Within the ten days after my diagnosis, I found out that at least two other female employees had similar interactions with the owner. They too were diagnosed with Strong Woman Syndrome.

Then came the celebration. We were having a staff meeting, all 25 of us in the meeting room on Thursday March, 8th. He started the meeting by saying:

“I’d like to start off my saying Happy International Women’s Day!” He seemed so pleased with himself. “I’ve had the pleasure to train and work with some strong women. Athletes and coaches who have done great things, and I’m happy to say this company is an equal opportunity employer. My female coaches have equal opportunity to be paid the equivalent of their male counterparts. This is not the norm in the industry. Female strength and conditioning coaches are few and far between,” he went on to name two that are in high profile positions, and then the punch line. If you relied on him for your worth, this would be the moment; the manipulation; the hook. “And yet, if any one of my female coaches applied for a position in professional soccer or rugby, you wouldn’t get the position. And we need to change that. That needs to change."

That comment alone would seem sincere. It would rally the female troops to line up at the door to fill open positions. To bring their passion to impact the greater good of contributing to change in an industry dominated by machismo and patriarchy.

And yet, to me, I was unamused. I know better. I’ve seen too much. One week it’s a “syndrome,” the next week it’s something he supports. When it suits how he appears, he’s all in. Unless it ends up challenging his insecurities or makes him appear ignorant to the topic, or not in control of the situation. That one's the worst. I made eye contact with one of the other female coaches. Insert eye roll emoji again. The male coach sitting beside me said he felt me bristle.

This is the game a panderer plays. I provide equal opportunity. I am the answer to all you desire. I am your guru. I have all the answers!

Except I know that, should you seem to have goals that aren’t in perfect alignment with his or you have your own mind or even remotely challenge him, even in gentle ways, you are black listed. Labeled “untrustworthy,” “unworthy of my time.”

I end up doing all the work on my own anyway, without a mentor. I take responsibility and in turn get accused of Strong Woman Syndrome.

And then the internal torment begins. There is something wrong with me. I’m not worthy. What can I do differently? No, you are not the problem. His beliefs and insecurities are the problem. You are the one being authentic, curious, and courageous. But he’s acting out of the the best interest of the company, right? With his experience and big picture thinking, he must be, right? He knows what is best. He says he cares…

But he doesn’t know what’s best for me, and he doesn’t care about my growth and development, especially if it threatens his image. He’s playing a game that he controls the rules to, and the rules are different for different people and change when he decides. So I explore my internal desires and emotions and I realize that I know what’s best for me! I’ve learned through the struggle to trust my guts. My heart. And to take responsibility. To be my own guru. 

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Strong Woman Syndrome: Part II
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