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NBSV 129


Transcript of the No-Bullsh!t Vegan podcast, episode 129

Women taking up space in fitness and in business, "bro" culture, & more with Holly Burton

Karina Inkster: You're listening to The No Bullshit Vegan podcast, episode 129. Holly Burton joins me to discuss women in business and in fitness, oppression, prejudice, expectations, taking up space physically and socially, the problems with so-called bro culture, and how to build your own path forward.

Hey, welcome to the show. I'm Karina, your go to, no BS, vegan fitness and nutrition coach. Thanks so much for joining me today. If you're a new listener or if you haven't had a chance to check them out yet, make sure you head to for nine of our best free articles, tools, and guides for kicking ass with your fitness and nutrition on a plant-based diet. We have a vegan-specific protein calculator, the only article you'll ever need to bust all the myths related to soy, being vegan in a non-vegan household, and much more. Find all this at

Joining me on the show today is one of my best friends, Holly Burton. We met in grade eight and she's been one of the most important people in my life ever since. Holly is a leadership coach for women in male-dominated industries. She works one on one with ambitious women to help them lead, get promoted, and create the careers they actually want in industries they love. She's also the founder of Women in Male-Dominated Industries, WIMDI for short, a community of over 4,000 ambitious folks who connect with each other and get delicious career and leadership resources that help them create the working world they deserve, while they wait for the rest of society to catch up.

Holly's been vegan for pretty much as long as I've been vegan. So basically since way before it was cool, and her favourite meal is tomato tofu, which happens to be one of many recipes Holly contributed to my first book, Vegan Vitality, and its second edition, The Vegan Athlete. FYI, tomato tofu is on page 190 in the first edition.

We have a ton of topics to cover, so let's get to the discussion. Hey Holly, great to speak with you today. Thanks for coming on the show.

Holly Burton: Hello, long time no talk, except I talk to you constantly, haha!

Karina Inkster: Like 20 seconds, no talk, basically, haha.

Holly Burton: 20 seconds, no talk, haha!

Karina Inkster: So for our listeners, we have been friends for a long time. I think I remember it was gym class in grade eight.

Holly Burton: Gym class in grade eight. Yeah, we bonded over, ironically, like our lack of physical prowess I think, because you were not allowed to participate in gym because your mother was very concerned about your oboe-playing fingers. And then I had like shin splints and just nerdiness. And so we hung out together on the side while other people did athletic things. And then we talked.

Karina Inkster: Yes.

Holly Burton: And the irony is now you do athletic things and we're talking about it still, so…

Karina Inkster: Isn't that hilarious? And now we're both vegan. Back then we were both vegetarian.

Holly Burton: Exactly. That was the early bonding moment. Other than the lack of physical fitness was this vegetarianism.

Karina Inkster: Shin splints and nerdiness, haha. Can that be our new podcast?

Holly Burton: Definitely. Yeah. Let's you and me with all our spare time. We'll start shin splints and

Karina Inkster: I love it. Yes, we should. We should probably claim the URL pretty soon then.

Holly Burton: Yeah. Also, just a disclaimer to anybody listening that has looked that up. I take no responsibility for what that is. I just made that up and god knows exactly what that website really is in real life. Yikes.

Karina Inkster: Yikes. So, much to our friend group's surprise, you were a mining engineer for a long time. That is not something we thought you would be doing when we were all in high school being like, what are we gonna be when we grow up?

Holly Burton: Yeah, I didn't see it coming either. I went off to engineering thinking like most engineers do, like when you get into engineering school, you're gonna either go into aerospace and design airplanes. Maybe you're gonna design fast cars, or bridges. It's like one of those three. Those are the cool ones.

Karina Inkster: Those are the three options. Okay.

Holly Burton: The cultural blueprint that we had and you know, at UBC where I went to school, they made you sit down in this no credit class where you had to listen to all different departments come in and describe like why you should be in theirs. And I was a very good student, like you, quite nerdy. And so I went to all of these no-credit classes where they did not take attendance and listened for hours to all the different departments. And I remember when the mining department came in, I was scoffing with my friends. I was like, I don't wanna dig holes for the rest of my life.

But by the end of it, I was just like gobsmacked. There was so much that’s interesting and cool. I fell in love instantly with haul trucks. Very few people get excited when they see a haul truck drive by. I'm one of those weirdos. That's like, oh my god, something big's about to happen - like me and four-year-old boys, right, are the ones who get excited about big yellow trucks. Maybe more than that, cuz there's shows about it on Discovery Channel that people love to watch. But anyways, just like instantly fell in love. And I didn't know anything about it. Until that time I thought it was like Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, like, you know, high-ho and off we go and pickaxes and giant gemstones in the walls of mines. but I fell in love and did that for a solid 10 years, much to everybody's surprise and mine.

Karina Inkster: Mm-hmm, yeah. So what was the transition from mining engineering into coaching? Was it because of your experiences in engineering?

Holly Burton: Yeah, because of my experiences in engineering and also because I've always been the kind of very strange engineer where if you gimme the choice between looking at a pile of rocks and figuring out what to do with them, or looking at two people, having an argument and figuring out what to do with them, I'm always more interested in the people problem than I am than the problem with the rocks. So I kind of went through, you'll remember this fondly, like probably a four-year period, trying to figure out what I should be when I grew up. And you had just figured out that you were gonna become a personal trainer and all of us, all of your friends, we all knew that that was coming. We had been waiting since…

Karina Inkster: That was no surprise.

Holly Burton: Nobody was surprised except for you. And I remember you saying you were gonna be a trainer and we said, we know, and you were like, what do you mean you know? I've been trying to figure this out forever. Why didn't you tell me? And so I went, okay. They probably all know what I should be. So I'm just gonna harass my friends for four years while I try to figure it out and be like, Karina, I called you last Tuesday, but now it's Wednesday. What do you think I should be when I grew up?

So it was this lovely period of that. And then I kind of landed on coaching as being a really good fit for me in terms of having more exposure to the kind of people side of the business that I really wanted, but I also had the experience of working in the mining industry for years and years and years and, you know, just lovely things like being told by one of my bosses that I had a terrible personality and that they were gonna help me make a whole new one.

And, you know, just trying to make my way up in the industry and getting promoted into management fairly early and kind of having the experience of everyone saying like, thank god you're here. Like a woman in mining who loves people and loves leadership. Like nobody in mining loves that. Thank god you're here. We need you so badly. And then just struggling and struggling to get promoted and move up and have my ideas taken seriously. And you know, by the time 2016 rolled around, I went, okay, I've gotta make a decision. Either I'm gonna stick around and fight this fight from the inside and keep trying to get promoted and pull some more women up behind me or I'm gonna step out, do it as a coach and help lots and lots of women wage that war for lack of a better word, forge that path. And so that's what I did back in 2016 and I'm still doing it.

Karina Inkster: Amazing. And you've helped a lot of career-driven leadership involved women in that time.

Holly Burton: Leadership involved women. I like that. Yeah. Yeah. Lots of them. It’s really fun.

Karina Inkster: Like some folks are in management, right? And others probably aren’t. Some are high-level executives, some aren’t. It's kind of wide-ranging, isn't it?

Holly Burton: Yeah. I'm very unusual as a coach in that I'm not picky about somebody being in the C-suite or somebody being an individual contributor. I think there's really interesting ways to support women at all those levels. And I think that when you look at kind of how all these industries handle the issues of like diversity, equity, inclusion, they tend to really focus early in the pipeline. Like they tend to focus on like six-year-olds getting interested in coding or mining or whatever. Then the next big focus is like, you know, women who are already in university and how do we recruit them in for their first jobs and then the C-suite, and nothing in the middle, right?

And so I try to do that middle ground. I mean, C-suite too, but really that middle ground where, you know, by 20 years into a career, there was a study years ago that showed that by the time women have had 20-year-long careers in STEM, 60% of them have already left, which is a shocking waste of money and time for everybody involved. And I'm one of them, right? And it doesn't happen evenly over time. 37% are gone within seven years. And so there's lots of coaching to be done. There's lots of supporting to be done. There's lots of help to be done all along the way. And that's what I do.

Karina Inkster: And there's a lot of industry-changing that needs to be done.

Holly Burton: That is true too. Yeah. Tons of it. Tons of it. And my contribution to that is, you know, I'll go and give corporate talks and talk shit and give the leaders a hard time. And there are lots of really talented kind of folks who focus on the corporate change side, way more than I do. I'm a bit of an instigator, but then my role is always to be, I love to be on the side of the women. I love to be getting paid by the women as opposed to getting paid by corporate, cuz I think the incentives are better. And then I can just tell 'em to quit if they should.

Karina Inkster: Ah, which I'm sure you've done on multiple occasions.

Holly Burton: Yeah, I have done, haha.

Karina Inkster: Well, okay. So on this kind of higher industry level, we have multiple talking points around how women are perceived, how they're trained, what some of the expectations are around women. And we had a conversation the other day about some of the overlaps or similarities between women in business and women in fitness. And a lot of women in fitness are in business, but just kind of overall like the fitness industry and fitness in general. And so there's a lot of really weird and not so wonderful overlaps in how, you know, the myths that are around about women in both of these areas.

So it's kind of a wide-ranging topic. We have lots of subtopics, but something we talked about last time we chatted was in the business realm specifically, women, at least you think, don't get enough training on so-called hard business skills. And of course the reasoning for that is what we can dive into. Like why do they not get training on these things? Is it because of expectations? Is that bullshit? Spoiler: it probably is.

Holly Burton: Definitely bullshit.

Karina Inkster: Right!

Holly Burton: That's why we're on the podcast.

Karina Inkster: Yes, of course. So what is the deal? Why don't we start with these kinds of hard business skills and a lot of other stuff is gonna come up in that conversation, but let's bust some bullshit around skills in business and women.

Holly Burton: Yeah. Cool. And I think like one of the neat things about the conversation that you and I are having here is that anytime we're talking about any method of oppression the cool thing is that when you spot it in one place, you can usually then spot it in thousands of other places, right? And so that conversation that you and I had the other day, which we're gonna have here in more detail and for a lovely audience that you have, is all about understanding how some of the things that are going on with women in business mirror some of the conversations that happen to women in the fitness industry or just like women trying to to be fit, women trying to live their lives. The things that we'll talk about here are pervasive and stretch all over the place.

But anyways, coming back to women in business, you know, what we were sort of talking about is how so much of leadership training is designed around kind of the people it was originally designed for, right? It was designed to teach people who had never led, who had come in as, you know, technical experts or something like that, had to deal with this new thing of managing a host of people to go and do stuff and create outcomes, right? And so the traditional blueprint for that has always been straight white, able-bodied men. And so leadership training was designed and continues to be designed, to cater to the particular leadership development needs of that group, right? And I mean, even today - I'm outta date on the stat - I think it's 81% of the Fortune 500 is still men. The C-suite, if I recall correctly, maybe it's 82 or something, but it's in the eighties if I recall.

Karina Inkster: Yeah, not surprising.

Holly Burton: Here are these stats, like there's more men named John than there are women, or there's more men named Gary - the name changes every couple of years, but there's always some version of that, right? It's still overwhelmingly male. And men, the way that they're socialized in our society, typically don't receive nearly as much training as women do on all of the soft skills. On how to form consensus, on how to deliver tough news without hurting feelings, on how to set expectations, on how to wield that soft power. But women learn this from like a very young age. We're trained to do this constantly because we are in a less privileged position in society. And so we have to, in order to get by, we have to be able to do this.

So what ends up happening is that leadership training is all structured usually initially around these soft skills. So men go and they go, this is fantastic. I've learned things, mind blown. Excellent. I can now go on lead. And then my women clients, you know, I had one just about a year ago, she attended a leadership training at a university that was supposed to be really good. It was three-day training. I went, oh, how was it? And she goes, I hated it. She's like, I didn't learn a single thing. I knew everything that they taught me already. And I'm like, yeah, you and every other client I've ever had, right?

And what gets missed in all of this is that these trainings really, for men, correct an imbalance, but for women like over index them on soft skills, which they're already quite good at. Most stats show that women outperform men at leadership by a couple of percentage points across tons and tons of categories, all of which are soft skills, right?

Not really shocking. So they over-index them on these soft skills and they kind of reinforce this narrative that exists in the workplace that kind of holds women in place where I don't know if you've ever noticed this - I've seen anecdotal stats on it, I’ve never seen like a properly done study - but you know, there's anecdotal data that shows that women in performance reviews get disproportionate feedback on soft skills, like communication. That's certainly been the case for me. I, in fact, I affectionately referred to most of my performance reviews as personality reviews, because that's how they've been for me. And spoiler alert, none of them good - bad personality as we discussed earlier, right?

And we get held to higher standards around these because there's a societal expectation that we're really good at them, which is, you know, probably accurate based on some of the studies we talked about earlier, but we're held to this higher standard. And then we get tons of feedback in this area because it's seen as the most important thing to do to advance. But what's left off the table entirely is this invisible piece around business and strategy, which men kind of get by watching sports and talking about the stock market, like all these sort of quote-unquote men's conversation topics. They sort of end up with men learning these skills through osmosis as part of their cultural training.

But, you know, I was busy at 17 reading Cosmo and learning how to attract a man and how to do my hair and what shade of glitter eyeshadow to apply. True story. I read a lot of Cosmo as a teenager, right? And so I didn’t learn any of that stuff and because it never gets brought up to me as part of these wonderful personality reviews that I'm subjected to every six months to a year at work, I consistently go, okay, well, the work is on the soft skills side and everybody else tells me the work is in the soft skills side. And the training tells me the work is in the soft skills side. And then I don't learn how to make a business case or how to create a strategic plan and cascade that down through my team. And those are the skills that you need when you get up to the C-suite certainly, but as you move up in business, your job is to make money. Your job is not to keep your team happy, keeping your team happy is something that you do so that you can make money. I mean, at least that's how we structure it in our corporate dystopia that we currently live in, right?

But the incentives get kind of misunderstood and, everybody gets them backward and then women get left out because we don't get that training by osmosis. And then if you go to any conference on women's leadership, it's gonna be a bunch of stuff about like values and work-life balance, and, you know, living your truth and hashtag bliss. And I promise you, you will not see a talk on how to read a financial statement. It just doesn't happen. I spent six years trying to find one. I didn't find one.

Karina Inkster: That's crazy. So the soft leadership skills is kind of like emotional intelligence thing. Is that kind of like, do you work with your clients on this whole concept of like women being soft and how much space am I allowed to take up? Is this kind of in the right vein here?

Holly Burton: Yeah. A hundred percent. And I think the thing about this is it's really insidious. There's tons of insidious ways that this happens. And this is the link back to your work is that it's a way of keeping women small and soft and not impactful, right, like crucially. That if you are entirely focused on these soft skills, you get to caretake the team. Maybe you get to sort of project manage the team. Like you get to be in charge of the execution of the work, but you don't get to be in charge of the direction of the work. So your impact is different. Like not that execution work is bad and not that keeping teams happy is bad. Those are good. Men should be doing those more. Like I like those. I think those are a good thing in business.

But what we find is that we're not the ones setting the agenda. We're the ones following through on the agenda. We're almost, you know, mirroring that sort of like madman era, like Don Draper pitches the clients and we're the secretaries kind of thing, right?

And so it is a way of keeping women smaller, of making us have a tinier impact and be softer and softer and softer all the time until we're sort of whittled into this little piece of nothing. And the word that just came to mind is like a black hole, you know, like something that's gonna collapse in on itself because it takes up so little space almost, right?

Karina Inkster: Well, when we were talking about this last time, you were mentioning it almost is this negative spiral of when you do take up more space, you get mocked for it. So there's no inherent benefit really from society. You just get further and further into your black hole.

Holly Burton: Yeah. And it's heavily rewarded to be sort of the small palatable woman. I mean, certainly, you see this in fitness culture, right? That's sort of what started this conversation. Like, you know, we wanna do pilates and we wanna be long and lean and you know, how do I get stronger without bulking up is a question I'm sure you hear all the time.

Karina Inkster: Oh yeah! So this is like a physical presence, manifestation of what you're talking about. Like it's actually, it can affect our physical bodies.

Holly Burton: Yeah. Yeah. It does. I mean, we were talking just the other day about how I, you can even, I mean, your listeners won't be able to see this, but I'm sitting here right now. My shoulders are all hunched forward. My knees are together. I’m taking up like as little space on my chair as I possibly can, and looking like Ariana Grande on her first album cover, like physically impossible to balance on the stool the way she is, right?

And we're trained to take up very little space versus men who are manspreading all over every subway they've ever been on, right? And it has all these physical implications as well. Like not only does it affect how we choose to exercise, but also things like, you know, I was telling you earlier that I have all these like muscle knots in my ribs and that's because I'm always like hunched over. And so my spine will slowly deteriorate into some, you know, crumpled little heap, I'm sure, one day.

Karina Inkster: Well, you know, this goes into a whole bunch of other topics. I mean, we could do a series on this I'm sure. But the physical piece of this goes into fatphobia. It goes into, you know, what you just said about, oh, how do I strength, train without getting bulky? I mean, we could unpack that on so many levels. First of all, I mean, we all know what most of us know, if you wanna get bulky, it's gonna take years to build muscle as someone who's female. And number two, what's the problem anyways? It's still, by saying this, you are still assuming that being bulky is a negative thing.

Holly Burton: It's so interesting. You might hate me for what I'm about to say. I think you probably will. You might develop a rule against this, but I was thinking before I came on this call with you earlier today about Khloe Kardashian's book, this is the part that you'll hate, like, Ugh, Khloe Kardashian. Why are we talking about her on the podcast?

Karina Inkster: Ok, I’m listening though.

Holly Burton: Haha! But she, Khloe Kardashian, for a long time was kind of viewed - I mean, I think this is a very toxic set of beliefs - but people viewed her as sort of the unattractive Kardashian sister or something like that, right? And she really struggled next to her sisters who were physically smaller, like shorter, but also more petite. I think her sisters are all sort of five-two, and she's like five-ten. She's a larger woman and wasn't sort of stick-thin Hollywood standards. And then she went through this sort of revolution where she got really, really into exercising and you know, who knows what else? But she sort of lost a considerable amount of weight. And then that became part of her brand and she put out a book called, “Strong Looks Better Naked” - how much do you love the title, right?

Karina Inkster: Wow. Okay. That's very problematic.

Holly Burton: Yeah. So l mean, I can list 'em off, but what do you see as the problems in, “Strong Looks Better Naked”?

Karina Inkster: Well, first of all, strong doesn't have a look.

Holly Burton: Uh-huh. Yeah.

Karina Inkster: Okay so that's part of the fucking problem right there.

Holly Burton: Yeah, haha, yeah.

Karina Inkster There's so many things wrong with this, but yeah. I mean, we are conditioned in the fitness industry that strong is the new skinny, right? I mean, this was the thing to say like five years ago, right?

Holly Burton: Yeah. It's just a new version of that.

Karina Inkster: That problematic too, dude. I mean, it still has an ideal, it's still imposing physical ideals on all of us.

Holly Burton: Yes.

Karina Inkster: And it's the one way to be, right? So that's kind of the first thing I see there.

Holly Burton: Yeah. And there's this also really weird kind of, um, male gaze, societal gaze thing about it, too. Like strong looks better naked like, oh, is that my job, Khloe? My main point of my body is to look good naked for my pleasure, somebody else's pleasure, A little bit of both? Like, I don't love that. And so it's really interesting that she's taken - like, look Khloe, like get after it, do your squats, do your deadlifts. Get strong, like lift a bus. I don't care. It's great. Like, do you right? But the looks better naked part is the part that really rankles me because my job as a woman is not just to exist to be pleasing to others in the world. But that is so often the thing that gets imposed on me by the outside world, but also internally. Like women are really good enforcers of the patriarchy. The Kardashians are really good examples of that, right?

Karina Inkster: Yes, absolutely. I'm sure this has a lot of business um… what's the word I'm looking for? Connections, I suppose. Like yeah, the palatable woman concept that you mentioned earlier, right?

Holly Burton: Haha, yeah. I have a lot of experience with this palatable woman concept because I am not a particularly palatable woman myself. You know, I tend to take up lots of space in a room. I tend to talk a lot. I'm very assertive. I'm very opinionated. I'm very direct. And you know, all of those things make me kind of unlikeable, right?

The other thing that's neat about it is they also make me really great at business. When you're on a mine site and you've made a mine plan, my job is to do strategic mine planning. So I'd make a mine plan and give it to operations. They'd go do whatever the hell they want, which is standard. Not anything about me - ops is gonna do what ops is gonna do. You go, how about we mine over here? And then they come back and are like, well, we mined over here instead. And I’m like, oh, cool story bros.

And you know, if the only playbook that you have available to you is soft, that works to some extent, right? Like you can catch a lot of flies with honey. But at some point, if the flies aren't coming to you with honey, you have to, you know, I don't know what - there's no good vegan metaphor for where I'm going here - It would involve a fly swatter or something. But you're gonna bring a little bit of a verbal smack down on these flies who aren't doing the thing that you talked about.

So it's an essential skill, but it is like trained out of women. And then when we use it, when we do use assertiveness or, you know, being opinionated or coming out of the gate with a great strategic idea, we so often get smacked. And then it's usually our communication that gets policed. So we said, you know, we were too aggressive. Or, you know, we weren't deferential enough, or we had a tone. We were shrill. You hear that one a lot. And it's just a way of going like, hey, stop getting so big, get back in your box. You shrink up again, right?

Karina Inkster: Well, yeah. Well, there's clear parallels there with the fitness world, for sure.

Holly Burton: What do you see when women kind of break out of the quote-unquote mold, when they stop doing, you know, bar-only exercises and start to lift some weights or something like that, what happens?

Karina Inkster: That's a good question. It depends on the person, of course, but I've seen fitness professionals who on social media have really large followings and have used their influence to make it really obvious that they themselves have gone through a mental transformation. I hate the word transformation, okay? It's so overused and I just fucking hate it. But anyways…

Holly Burton: Marketing nonsense.

Karina Inkster: Marketing nonsense. Yeah. In this case, I'm thinking of one person, in particular, I follow who went through what I would call a transformation from borderline eating disorder to fit in with societal standards of, again, taking up space, to now coming out with clothing lines for larger athletes, to just like posting her real self instead of like photoshoot photos that were photoshopped after the fact. You know, it's kind of a 180. So that's just an example.

There's lots of others, but where folks have large followings in a lot of cases and they're using those relationships with people to be like, hey, you know what? This is how I was five years ago. And here's how I turned that around and why it wasn't working for me and why it was actually a negative thing for my own mental health. So there's more and more of that happening, which is great. I think we need more, honestly.

Holly Burton: Yeah. I think we need more.

Karina Inkster: But it's just kind of giving people the idea that like, oh yeah, okay so the athletes slash models that I see on social media, in magazines, they literally look like that for maybe two weeks out of the year. I mean, you know, you're already looking at 0.0001% of the population. And then even within that, it's not realistic to maintain those like super rip looks or whatever.

Holly Burton: And it's also like their whole job.

Karina Inkster: Yes. Correct.

Holly Burton: They're not out there, you know, driving into the office, working eight hours a day, picking up the kids, trying to manage to feed them, you know, the kid's sick and stays up all night and tomorrow's the photo shoot. That's not the life.

Karina Inkster: And you know what you were saying that there's all these kinds of different forms of oppression that exist in business, that exist in fitness. And I think like part of what I'm doing right now is taking a course, shout out to Coach Justice at Fitness For All Bodies, by the way, who is awesome. I just started this week doing a six-week course with them. And so the whole point is there are all these forms of oppression. We're talking about ableism, we're talking about like having, you know, like certain standards for what ‘fit’ means. We're talking about the medical establishment. Like there's so many different forms of oppression here: racism, homophobia, transphobia, you name it, and how that applies specifically to fitness. So I think part of breaking out of this mold is actually inclusion. Some of the diversity and inclusion work that you've done in the past, I'm sure, but applied to small things like representation in exercise, photo demonstrations for your clients, or, you know, like there's more and more companies who are doing that, but I feel like it's still pretty oppressive.

Holly Burton: Yeah. And I think it's really tough. Like, I'm sure this is the case for you in the work that you do cuz you work with trainers and you know, stuff like that over the course of your life, I've known for a long time. And also true for you when your client facing, working with your own client base, right? That if you are somebody who has any experience of marginalization, whether that's due to your size, your race, neuro-divergence, whatever, gender, any of those things, I think it's doubly triple-y quadruple-y, insert the number here, important that you find somebody who really understands how your particular angles of, or intersectional identities and angles of oppression intersect with the thing that you're trying to do, whether that's fitness, or in my case, leadership coaching. Because it's so, so easy to help build in all that societal messaging into the thing that you're trying to do.

You have to be kind of vigilant at shutting it out, especially pieces like fatphobia. It’s so entwined with every aspect of our society, right? Misogyny too. And it's so hard to weed out. And so I see this all the time in my leadership coaching practice where a really common thing that's held in leadership is it's like if you're a leader you're always responsible for the results of the communication, right? Like if you're communicating with somebody else and they're not getting the message, then it's your job to like deliver that message differently. Listen better, show up differently, have a different tone, like pretzel yourself in some way such that that message gets received effectively. Which is excellent if you're somebody who comes from a lot of privilege and you've got some amount of power, either formal or informal kind of behind you, but if that's not true, like we forget that sometimes the patriarchy exists such that we're gonna lose those fights sometimes.

Like, it wouldn't be the patriarchy, it wouldn't be effective if it didn't consistently win regularly. And so there will be times when I, as a leader, am communicating with somebody and I can pretzel myself every which way under the sun. And that communication's just not gonna go through. I've certainly had that experience in the mining industry. Most of my clients have had that experience some time. And if you're working with somebody who has so much privilege that they don't have intimate experience with that, or they don't know that contour well, then they'll go, no, this is on you. Keep trying harder, keep trying harder.

And you just end up beating yourself to death with an un-winnable fight that other people are telling you is winnable. And that's the piece that's so brutal. And I imagine in fitness, it's the same. Like there are so many folks who want their body to be a certain way, or to be able to do certain things or to have a certain look and, you know, to work with somebody who can't deconstruct that and understand the racism inherent in it and the ways in which it enables eating disorders and stuff like that is actually, I think, harmful to folks who have experiences in those areas. And it's really essential you work with somebody who can separate that out. Otherwise yikes. It's not good.

Karina Inkster: So we as professionals and coaches of different types have a responsibility to know what all these different systems are and how they intersect, how they affect our clients and what to do about them.

Holly Burton: Yeah, yeah. A hundred percent, you know, in coaching there's a truism that's like the first job is just really get your clients, like, get where they're at. Totally understand. Be in the problem with them. Not understand it intellectually like, oh, I can understand how you, you messed up weirdo, would think about it being this way. And that would be correct. Like you have to really get like, no, I truly understand. I can put myself right in your shoes and I get it. And if you can't do that, then you've already lost the fight. You're not gonna be able to effectively coach that person or get on their side. And I think that's so true in your type of coaching as well, right?

Karina Inkster: I was just gonna say, we get 'em in the door with weight loss, although we don't actually advertise that that's a benefit of our coaching, but anyways, people come to us -

Holly Burton: They think that's what they want.

Karina Inkster: Yes. Right! Only to turn things around and be like, oh shit, well actually I didn't realize this would affect A, B, and C and this is different for everyone, but mental health, quality of life, you name it, being around for your kids -

Holly Burton: Access to food.

Karina Inkster: Yes. Right. Do you kind of experience that? Bringing people in for something they think is something they wanna change or work on or improve, and then you actually do kind of a 180 with them and involve some form of reeducation?

Holly Burton: Yeah. Yeah. And that's part of why I mentioned offhand earlier that it's like, I love it when my clients are paying me rather than their bosses, because then if it's time for them to go, they can. That's part of it, right? Not to say that everybody who works with me ends up quitting their job. That's really not true. Of course not. But it is true that sometimes people will go, hey, I need help about how I can better pretzel myself within an oppressive system. And I'll be like, or don’t! Or what if instead, we look at how actually you're kind of, okay? We find a place for you to just be okay and get recognized for that, right? I think the thing that we're both talking about here that's super yummy is there's like an audaciousness to all of this.

It's like, oh, what if you just didn't subscribe to this nonsense, and instead define your own path forward and built something that actually worked for you? And in line with that person you were mentioning earlier who had that whole 180, right? Like what if you just took the piece of power that you do have, whether it's, you know, in my case, as a mining engineer, I had sort of 10 years of experience and was relatively senior and had lots of, kind of youngsters looking up at me and getting technical mentorship from me and stuff like that. Like what if I just take the power that I have at that level and use it to start creating change, right? Like I would go up to the young EITs that would talk to me, you know, that I worked with and they'd be like, oh, I watched baseball this weekend. I'll be like, cool. Let's talk about the Kardashians because, spoiler alert, turns out I'm obsessed with the Kardashians, right? Or whatever. And I'd show up with my Hello Kitty lunchbox, and I'd chat about the latest, whatever it was that I was interested in, that wasn't ever the cool thing that boys are interested in. Like, I don't know sports.

Karina Inkster: Hey speaking of this, kind of like bro culture-y, right, which exists across many levels: fitness, business. Okay, so there's a couple things here. We talked about something specific to, well, maybe not specific to, but very common in bro culture, this whole idea of biohacking. We talked about that in our last conversation and also how prevalent it is in business, right?

Holly Burton: Yeah, Silicon valley.

Karina Inkster: Yeah. What the hell is wrong with bro culture, first of all? Like what are some points that we cannot like gloss over?

Holly Burton: Is this gonna be like a 15 hour podcast?

Karina Inkster: Yeah. I was gonna say, that could be a series.

Holly Burton: Like what's not wrong with bro culture?

Karina Inkster: What is wrong with bro culture?

Holly Burton: I don't know how you expect me to answer this in a concise way. I'm gonna give you a concise answer and know that I could say so much more, but I mean, you know, what's wrong with bro culture is it's this huge embodiment, it's this huge sort of cultural celebration of like male toxic masculinity.

Karina Inkster: One way to be male.

Holly Burton: yeah, one way to be that’s not a particularly good way to be male, right? It's like - don’t take me for somebody that hates men. There's some men that I desperately hate. Lots of them are really lovely. Tons of wonderful men in the world. And toxic masculinity is such garbage and bro culture is such a huge piece of that. It kind of reinforces this concept like, I don't know, we see this all the time where, especially right now, we're seeing a lot with like men's rights activists and stuff like that. There's this like huge backlash against I think this idea that like women are no longer reliant on men or no longer require men. Not that we don't love men or need men at various times in our lives, but like, you know, what was true in the 1950s is no longer true now. I can get a divorce. In Canada here, I can still get an abortion, although that's not true now in many, many states in the US, and will increasingly not be true, which is just like, I'm spitting nails about it.

Karina Inkster: Yeah. Oh yeah.

Holly Burton: It's just fucking unacceptable.

Karina Inkster: Absolutely. Yeah.

Holly Burton: But you know, part of what's going on in the states with Roe V. Wade is this concerted effort to like make women smaller in a very real way, by making it so that they are like less economically independent, less able to get by without men and kind of restoring men. You hear this talk about it's really tied up in white supremacy too, right? Like with sort of make America great again, restoring our old values. It's about reinstalling white patriarchal oppression and bro culture is of course related to that because it's about up upholding this idea that like men are strong and men are the economic providers.

And you know, I think biohacking is part and parcel of that because it's this way of yes, kind of like using the scientific method to experiment on your body. But more than that, there's this huge underpinning of like treating your body like an economic engine. We talked about Chloe Kardashian holding that the main point of her body is to look good naked. The main point of a lot of bro culture is like that the main point of my body is to be this, you know, engine of the economy that just produces value and money all the time, and dominance. That goes with that, because power and money and dominance are all related, right?

Karina Inkster: Yes, absolutely. So for folks who don't know, biohacking is this concept that you can quote-unquote, hack your own physiology to operate at a higher level by doing things like, who knows? I don't even know. Cleanses, intermittent fasting, bulletproof coffee.

Holly Burton: Bulletproof coffee. Yeah.

Karina Inkster: Yeah. Right. Like, so all these things that supposedly make your brain work at a faster rate or your sleep needs will decrease and you still get enough rest. Or like there's all these kind of like so-called hacks and the term implies you're getting the results of something that usually takes a shitload of work, with no work. That's kind of the whole idea of hacking, right? Which is why I hate the term by the way.

Holly Burton: Yeah. And also that it's like secret and undiscovered is a little bit of a piece of it, right? Like outside of the mainstream media, like we found this new thing. There was a while there where people were talking about how to sleep only four hours a night. And there was a specific sleeping regime that went along with that. And it's not like officially sanctioned, so it's cutting edge and this is how we can get a competitive edge.

Karina Inkster: Exactly. But it is all about what you said. The reasoning behind this, or the motivation behind this is to be an economic engine, a high earner. You know, if you're C-Suite you're gonna be a better leader, or just a better leader in general. It's usually like a high-level white executive business dudes.

Holly Burton: Oh yeah. Yeah. And it's actually like, Karina and I, offline, off the podcast, we spend a lot of time talking about marketing. We're actually secret business nerds, both of us. And maybe it's less secretive with me, but more part of my business model than yours, but we're always nerding out about business and marketing in particular. And one thing that I'm crystal clear on in my own marketing is that if I wanted to coach high-level folks, like, you know, C-suite and et cetera, I could just spend a lot of time talking about coaching for high performance, like optimize your energy.

And that's a huge challenge for folks as they get higher and higher up the chain, it's just like, how the hell am I gonna manage to have all this responsibility and do all this stuff and not just be utterly exhausted and never see my family? Which is such a valid concern. But so much of the marketing that you see around this, especially men marketing, coaching to other men, is around peak performance. And it's like, the websites will be - and no shade to you - like black and red. You know what I mean?

Karina Inkster: Hey! What are you saying? Haha.

Holly Burton: Like these really strong colours. You love black and red and always have - I’m saying that the black and red on your website is a good description of somebody who's always loved ladybugs. And on other places, is extreme bro marketing.

Karina Inkster: You know, this actually reminds me of a conversation I had with one of our clients who runs a really successful business. He's in marketing. That's what he does; trains other people in marketing. And we had a conversation about my business just as an aside to our usual weekly coaching call. And he was saying, you know, you could market specifically to C-Suite professionals. We have one on our client team right now. He wanted to have a connection with him. 

Anyways. He said, you know, you could like increase your sphere of C-suite clients by billeting veganism as a performance enhancer. And I just kind of like, okay, first of all, I understand the reasoning. Like, yes, fine, lots of professional athletes are going plant-based for just performance reasons. That's cool, but it's not my style. It's kind of like, you know, saying veganism is gonna be the next best weight loss method, which people do. People get people in the veganism door specifically for weight loss. But it's this whole idea that first of all, we're assuming that all of these potential clients are gonna be dudes, right? 

That was kind of the underlying assumption. Second, we're assuming that like physical performance, physical prowess is gonna be an important value for these folks. And third, we're also assuming that the ethical reasons for veganism are gonna be uninteresting to these people.

Holly Burton: Exactly, exactly. Right. And also that the ethical reasons for not advertising these ways would be uninteresting to you in the face of all this cash that you could get showered with.

Karina Inkster: Correct! Haha, right. Exactly.

Holly Burton: Which like, who doesn't love to be showered with cash? Except you and I have always been those ethically concerned weirdos. And we're like cool, an opportunity to make a bunch of money. Cool, an opportunity to be cool in high school by eating meat. Like, nope, didn't take 'em up on it then. Probably not going to now.

Karina Inkster: It's only been 20 years. I don't think it's gonna change anytime soon.

Holly Burton: So a 20-year-long habit's hard to change right?

Karina Inkster: But although, you know what, we met closer to 25 years ago, not to date us or anything, but just saying.

Holly Burton: Listen, listen. Who knows how old any of us are? It's hard to tell, right?

Karina Inkster: Yes. Correct.

Holly Burton: I always say that I'm very excited to turn 40, but I'm not as excited to be in my thirties. And so we'll start talking about how long we've known each other once I'm into my forties. Let's do that.

Karina Inkster: Yeah, that’s fair. Yeah. Yeah. That's fair. So I wanna talk about your coach-stravaganza, but were there any other points that you wanna add to what we have already talked about?

Holly Burton: Yeah. I think the take home for me, when it comes to fitness, when it comes to business, when it comes to this whole kind of structure around like women are supposed to be small and silent and not take up much space and not make much impact, definitely not be strong enough to paint their own walls, install their own light bulbs, like do any of those traditional quote-unquote man activities that we might get if we were so unsexy that we would develop biceps or something. Like this whole weird toxic construct, I think that something I wanna acknowledge is that there's a prescription here that just says, like, to the extent that you're able to, the extent that you feel like you have the power to do so, just don't hold yourself as small and fragile.

We don't have to choose to buy into that. And we can choose not to buy into that by, one thing that I do is there's a huge sort of group of communicators that would say that women should stop saying, “like” stop using up-speak, which is when you raise your voice a little at the end of your sentence, like you're asking a question. Or not to use vocal fry or lots of similar sort of like women-coded speaking things. And listeners will notice I talk a little bit like a valley girl or like a teenager. That's actually on purpose. I've had like, I've gotten the memo guys. I know, from years ago that I'm supposed to change those quote-unquote, right, if I wanna be taken seriously and seen as a professional. And that's an area where I've just opted not to do it. I've opted to go, listen, people can handle me the way that I am and they can hold me as powerful the way that I am. And I don't have to adapt and become smaller or different or reject pieces of my own kind of culture that I grew up in as a woman just to be accepted.

So you can, to the extent that you have power, you can take up that space. And also you can help yourself do that by working with folks who understand that, working with folks who aren't gonna try to undo that. I don't hire myself a leadership coach that's like, yeah Holly, stop saying “like.” Nope, you're cut for my team. And you know, if I was hiring a personal trainer, I would not hire one who was in a bikini shot on their website, you know, being like, “I'll help you lose 40 pounds.”

I'm not trying to become a smaller person. Not that folks who wanna become a smaller person, like you can have those goals, right? But for me, the way that I think about it from a feminist perspective, that's not what I'm interested in. And if you're not interested in it as well, you can sort of take up that space and use it. And there will be folks listening to this podcast where that's not the safe thing to do, where you are going to choose to be small. I have tons of times where I choose to be small and choose to speak more deferentially. And that is the smart and strategic thing to do in the moment, or it's the survival thing to do in the moment. And that's totally okay too. Don't feel like you're like selling out the cause and, you know, colluding with the oppressors. Like even if that's true, you're living in the oppressor's world and sometimes that's what you gotta do.

Karina Inkster: Wow. Well said. This is where all the actionable pieces come in. It's like we had this whole discussion of like, oh fuck, what do I do now? What do I do with this?

Holly Burton: What do I do with this? I'm all fired up! Now what?

Karina Inkster: Yeah. Also I'm very impressed you haven't sworn as much as I thought you would.

Holly Burton: I know! We had a whole discussion about this, like Karina, how much am I allowed to swear on this podcast? Because as y'all know, I spent 10 years working in the mining industry. And one way that you get credibility in the mining industry is to swear like a motherfucker. So, yeah.

Karina Inkster: Yes! It’s all good. So, okay. Let's talk about Coachstravaganza here, because this is coming up in a couple weeks and I wanna know what the deal is and how our listeners can get in on it.

Holly Burton: Great. So, you know, you were talking earlier about how you could be a business genius that would sell your services for very high numbers to CEOs who want peak performance, right? And how you don't do that. And that's a fun, stupid business decision that you get to make, cuz you run the show.

Karina Inkster: And get potentially showered in cash!

Holly Burton: Showered in cash, right? Yeah. Just like you, I'm making decisions to not get showered in cash while doing things that feel ethically aligned. And that thing is the Coachstravaganza. So the Coachstravaganza is a thing that I do every single year where foolishly, I just coach one woman for free every single day for a whole month. This year we're doing it in September. And the reason I do it is because I love coaching women. I love to do lots of it all at once. And I wanna make sure that folks who don't otherwise have experience with a coach, get some exposure, who have never tried it, but have been interested, but a little too afraid to like, you know, make that appointment on the website, they've got an easy excuse to do it.

Folks that can't afford to do it normally have the ability to get in too. Basically, anybody who's got a particular challenge around career, leadership. Heck maybe you're trying to get a raise and you're hoping that 30 grand is coming your way soon, but you're not sure how to do that. I wanna make sure that you've got an opportunity to connect with a coach and probably me because I'm the one doing the Coach Stravaganza. So if you have any of those challenges and you wanna get an hour of free coaching with me, you can do that at You've gotta apply by the end of August, because we are starting on September 1st, 2022.

Karina Inkster: Freaking amazing. So, what's the like ideal, I don't wanna say client, cuz they're not paying, but do they have to be in male-dominated industries?

Holly Burton: Yeah, that's I mean, that's my preference. That's who I'm trying to solve the world for. Most industries at the end of the day are male-dominated industries as you get closer and closer to the top, right? But the industries that I typically work in are like mining, obviously, tech, tons of work in tech, you know, finance, insurance, civil engineering, most types of engineering consulting, right? If that's you, then I probably have things that will help.

Karina Inkster: Love it. Well, we're gonna have show notes where we have a direct link, so people can go there as well. And we actually have a lot of female clients who are in tech, interestingly. I don't know if it's like a vegan crossover or something, but we have like disproportionately many female clients in tech compared to like my friend group or my network here in town. It just kinda interesting. I don't know why exactly.

Holly Burton: I think all my clients are cool in every industry, but in particular the women that I work with in the tech industry, they're like, they're thoughtful. I get why veganism lands for them, you know, like, yeah, I see it. There's lots of progressive types, you know, Portlandians, as it were.

Karina Inkster: Portlandians! Enough said! Hilarious. Well Holly, thank you so much for coming on the show. Cannot wait to put out this episode and great speaking with you as always.

Holly Burton: Yeah, you too. Talk to you probably very soon.

Karina Inkster: In about 15 seconds.

Holly Burton: Exactly. Bye!

Karina Inkster: Holly, thanks again for an awesome as always discussion, except a recorded version this time. Head to our show notes at to connect with Holly and to sign up for one of her 30 free coaching spots during the month of September AKA Coach Stravaganza. So that's Thanks so much for tuning in.

Download your free vegan strength training ebook by Coach K!

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