Being a Female in a Male Dominated Industry
posted on July 15, 2020
I get many questions related to being a female in the strength and conditioning world. Often times it is related to how I work with other male coaches (sport coaches or strength coaches) and/or male athletes. Further, I am often asked how I train females differently than males. From a general sense I truly believe it does not matter if you are male or female in this profession, as long as you are confident in who you are as a coach and are able to connect with the people you are working with. Working with any athlete comes down to can you teach the movements you have programmed, and can you motivate the athletes to achieve their highest potential related to what you are working on each day. I find it is almost easier to coach males from a technical stand point if you know what you are talking about. If you give them a coaching cue, they try it and it works, they usually realize you know what you are talking about and are ready to respect and work with you – regardless of being male or female. Females tend to be a bit more skeptical at first and inquisitive as to why they are doing the movement in the first place. Male coaches and strength coaches more often then not value having a female to work with to create a more well-rounded staff. Again, if you know how to do your job there should really be no problem.
I like to think we’ve gotten past this issue in 2020, yet there are still some people out there that would probably disagree. There are no exercises that a female cannot do that a male can and vice versa. A barbell will not make a female big and bulky. I lift weights at least 5x a week and still look do not look like a bulky man. A female can bench press a bar, just like a male. From a very general perspective exercises can be done by both females and males. It is important to note that there are some difference in programming that could be applicable to create the “best” program for a male vs a female. For example, the Q angle of female hips can make them more susceptible to certain injuries, and thus we can program accordingly to attempt to reduce that risk. I may do more hamstring and posterior chain work with a female than a male, yet the exercises I choose are still possible to be effectively done by both sexes. It is also very possible for a male to be deficient in posterior strength, putting him in the same injury risk category. At the end of the day programming should be designed based on the human needs not a broad category such as male or female.
From a career perspective it is important to note that within strength and conditioning it is easier to get a job as a female than as a male when you are first starting out. However, that changes when it comes to progressing in the field. A male is much more likely to progress to a higher title such as associate director or even director faster than a female. That is a very real frustration in this male-dominated field. I am incredibly grateful for the women who have been in this field way longer than me and have fought for their career progress. There are several female directors of strength and conditioning that are doing great work. This is just something to be aware of and to fight for your worth in the field.
Overall being a female in strength and conditioning has its challenges just like any other career. If you know how to do your job, are confident in who you are as a coach, and understand how to motivate people, you will be fine. At the end of the day I focus on why I got into this career – to help people (any gender) get better.