Strong Women Make Waves

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Strong Women Make Waves

One of my dearest friends gave me a present this year for my birthday. I love it. 

Many of my closest friends are strong women. Most of my coaching clients are strong female executives. 


Well, I want to write today’s blog to them but also to the people who live with them, work with them, watch them. Let’s have this conversation. 

Although the statistics support some very serious questions that need to be asked (#leadHERship), that is not my focus. 

Clearly, women in senior roles in government and private sector roles are in the minority. More women complete degrees. 

Let’s talk about the women that break through whatever barriers there are. What are they like and what have some of their ways of thinking cost them? 

To be crystal clear, NONE of these women that I know as friends or clients would EVER see themselves as victims. (This could be partly why they are leading within their organizations or own companies.) 

The topic I want to focus on is how their self-concept, seeing themselves as strong independent people can impact them. 

There can be both internal and cultural pressure on these women to not show emotion. Tears or tenderness can be perceived as weakness. Anger can earn them the “B” classification. 

They are frequently met with belittling comments, body language and not invited to lunch with male colleagues, even when there are significant groups of colleagues going. 

Although strong women in executive roles notice these things and they hurt, if it doesn’t stop them it has other implications: 

  • Strong women tend to keep a lot of their pain and frustration in 
  • “Successful” women are perceived as not needing others’ support 
  • These women are misunderstood frequently as hard and uncaring 
  • They can lead lonely lives where few people take time to really know them, the person 
  • People pile more on them because they seem to be able to take care of it all 

We could go on here but I think that paints the picture. 

If you live with or work with a strong woman how can you support her better? 

Behind every strong exterior presentation is a real human being that, like all of us, wants to be cared for, known, asked genuinely “how are you doing?” and simply enjoyed for who they are. 

If you are one of these women that I describe, you may be very practiced at not letting yourself be vulnerable. Too many times that has backfired on you. The problem here is that you are paying a price for that. 

Use your skills to deduce who you can be yourself with but do so and be intentional about letting them in a little deeper. The desire to be known and loved is human and is there because we need it for our most fulfilled well-being! 

Who can you be more open and vulnerable with? 

Here is more reading if you are interested: Barriers and Bias: The Status of Women in Leadership

If you want to test and see if you live with an unconscious bias, Harvard along with two other organizations created a test: Project Implicit

Until next time, 


Marilyn Orr, MA, CEC, PCC is an Executive and Leadership Coach with Capacity Building Coaching, holding her Professional Certified Coach designation with the International Coach Federation.

Marilyn provides professional coaching for executive and business leaders, mentor coaching for coaches, and leadership development support in the form of coaching skills training and soft-skills development. Reach out to Marilyn for more information.

Marilyn is author of everyday resiliency workbook “How Absorbent Are Your Shocks?”, available on Amazon. Subscribe to “Marilyn’s Musings” twice monthly blogposts for more leadership and professional development content.

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