Sara Wachter-Boettcher and Katel LeDû do not bullshit—on their feminist podcast, Strong Feelings, or in real life.
LeDû is the CEO of indie publisher A Book Apart; she was previously digital director of photography at National Geographic. Wachter-Boettcher heads content strategy consulting company Rare Union, and is a frequent speaker and writer about bias in tech culture. But their rise to professional success came with the same challenges so many women in the workplace face, but don’t feel empowered to acknowledge: gender double standards; being emotional at work; finding support and finding yourself, authentically, truly.
As the women reached their own positions in power, they decided to use what they learned to help other women through their struggles, to empower them and let them know they’re not alone—that all women are dealing with the pressure to appear perfect; to have it all figured out; to have found a way to balance work with life and love and big dreams.
So in 2018, they launched their now-popular podcast, Strong Feelings, about and for working women, the first iteration of which was called No, You Go, with a third friend, Jenn Lukas. The 40 to 55-minute free episodes cover topics like workplace double standards, crying at work, and communicating effectively. Listeners have gotten a window into cutthroat experiences and perspectives from the two best friends—who met when Wachter-Boettcher wrote a book for LeDû’s press—and their special guests.
But their rise to professional success came with the same challenges so many women in the workplace face, but don’t feel empowered to acknowledge: gender double standards; being emotional at work; finding support and finding yourself, authentically, truly.
This, from a trailer for last season, might best encapsulate their style : “Is your work life fucked?” intones LeDû. “Well we want to help you unfuck it! And the first step is to talk about what’s really wrong—from abusive bosses and toxic cultures to policy issues like equal pay, and paid family leave.”
Guests’ backgrounds are as wide-ranging as topics covered: This summer’s most recent episode featured Naj Austin, founder of New York’s Ethels Club, a new private membership club and workspace created by and for people of color, talking about community; a spring episode tapped Caroline Criado Perez, author of Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men. There’s no end to whom or what they’re willing to explore.
“I think what’s really valuable for people is to hear more perspectives, more stories about what worked for them, the things other people have gone through,” says Wachter-Boettcher. “That ends up being a more honest way of helping people than trying to advise people whose lives might be different than yours. There’s so many Fast Company articles that are just sort of like ‘Hey, ladies, here’s six ways you can get a seat at the table!’ and a lot of it is very limiting because it assumes a lot of things about the reader and the audience.”
“Advice isn’t one-size-fits-all; the Lean In thing is such a glaring example of that. It’s not going to work for everybody and it’s a really narrow view,” says LeDû
As they’ve grown—they’re now at 65 episodes and counting—the women have decided to take their mission to the masses in person. Since June, they’ve been bringing their no-b.s. philosophy to in-person events, called Collective Strength, in front of 60 to 80 listeners at Indy Hall. (The events usually have a waitlist to get in as well.)
“When we first started out the Strong Feelings podcast, we wanted to create a space in which we could center the voices and issues that were on the minds of the women we knew, the conversations we kept having with our friends, conversations that kept coming up over and over again about work and ambition and how to make space for that in a world that isn’t very nice to women who have ambition,” says Wachter-Boettcher, a West Coast native who moved to Philly in 2013.
The goal of the events is straightforward: to address the needs women have, and to bring out into the open the things that make them lose sleep at night, when they’re stuck and feel alone.
“There is a need for spaces like Collective Strength that build honest and deep, trusting connections,” says Wachter-Boettcher. “Advice isn’t one-size-fits-all; the Lean In thing is such a glaring example of that. It’s not going to work for everybody and it’s a really narrow view,” says LeDû, a D.C. native who moved here in 2016.
So far, there have been two events at Indy Hall, and the women anticipate holding them monthly for the rest of the year. Their next event, on feminist leadership, will take place on August 21st and feature Lara Hogan, a speaker, coach, and author of Resilient Management.
Come prepared to let your guard down and enjoy real talk about setting goals, practicing new skills, opening up about the hard parts of work, and sharing and building connections that lead to new windows of opportunity and collaboration.
Correction: A previous version of this article misspelled Sara Wachter-Boettcher’s name. It also misstated when she moved to the east coast, and where LeDû lived before Philadelphia.