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When We Question the Competence and Qualifications of Women

Women Marginalized Scapegoat

Summary: Women often face heightened scrutiny and obstacles in having their qualifications and skills recognized and valued compared to men due to societal biases and internalized misogyny. This issue stems from ingrained gender stereotypes and a lack of inclusive environments that support gender equality. In this article, Rebecca C. Mandeville reflects on women, marginalization, and scapegoating dynamics, and also shares a bit of her own journey regarding overcoming the effects of dysfunctional, traumatizing systems.

When Qualified Women Professionals Are Marginalized

Family scapegoating abuse (FSA) is just one way that individuals or systems can marginalize others, and marginalization of certain people or groups can show up in many forms.

For example, I’ve noticed that as my FSA Educational blog and YouTube FSA educational channel have grown and my work on FSA expands its global reach that I am at times challenged on my credentials – such as my academic and professional degrees and certifications – including on my blog here and on YouTube. This is despite my being a licensed Clinician, which in the U.S. requires that one successfully complete a comprehensive, accredited graduate school program. It is more often than not a female who is ‘demanding’ to know my qualifications in a tone that is, shall we say, less than respectful.

I was speaking with a few male colleagues about this recently – including licensed clinicians who have authored / published popular self-help books and/or create Mental Health content on YouTube. Interestingly, they shared that this is something they rarely, if ever, experience.

I also had a lovely conversation with a male YouTube channel subscriber about this same issue. He shared that he notices that women professionals on YouTube seem to be subjected to this sort of ‘questioning’ regarding their qualifications in the comments section (comments that more often than not appear to be written by a female) – something he does not see happening on the channels of male therapist content creators addressing similar or identical issues.

Of course, if a given female is in a line of work typically dominated by men, such as corporate executive positions; construction or contracting work, etc, they might indeed be challenged, devalued, or demeaned by men who feel threatened by, or competitive with, them, but this is not the focus of my article here.

Processes That Support the Devaluing of Women

It is indeed a challenging reality that women often find themselves under heightened scrutiny and encounter more obstacles when it comes to others acknowledging and validating their skills and qualifications, particularly when compared to their male counterparts. These same women may also discover that their ideas are quickly dismissed – or even ‘co-opted’ – by their male colleagues and peers.

Here’s an example from my own life: Prior to returning to school to become a licensed Marriage, Family Therapist, I served as a Staffing Recruiter and VP of Marketing for a leading High-Tech staffing agency.

I have a clear memory of sitting in an Executive meeting – the only woman in a room full of men. At this point I had been the top producer at this company for 3 years in a row, and had developed exclusive relationships with established companies like Microsoft and ‘hot’ start-ups like Google.

Looking around the room during this meeting, I knew that the income I generated for this staffing agency was paying the salaries of most of the men in the room, whose monthly sales were not even close to mine.

During this meeting, every time I spoke up, my thoughts and suggestions were completely ignored. I was not even looked at. Yet, a few minutes later, I listened as the very words I had recently spoken came out of one of these men’s mouth. “Great idea!,” said the other men in the room. Yes, the ignoring and dismissing of my contributions – and the ‘co-opting’ of my ideas – was really that blatant. If it weren’t so concerning and frankly angering, I might have actually found it funny.

The Devaluing of Women Is Societal and Systemic

My FSA research suggests that women who were (and perhaps still are) devalued within their family-of-origin may be particularly sensitive to being seen as a “fake” or a “phony,” given their own family may view them in this same way, no matter their personal or professional accomplishments. This, in turn, can develop into a life-long case of Impostor Syndrome.

This type of devaluing can be attributed to deep-seated societal expectations and biases that have been ingrained over time. In some cases, these challenges are exacerbated by internalized misogyny, where women may unconsciously question or belittle the abilities and achievements of other women due to societal conditioning.

Moreover, in environments where opportunities for growth are limited and competition is fierce, some women may perceive others as threats rather than allies. This mindset can drive them to scrutinize fellow women more intensely in an attempt to safeguard their own positions.

Such situations reflect deeply rooted societal norms that question the competence of women, making them feel the need to continuously validate themselves in professional scenarios.

This deep (and at times unconscious) need to seek validation from others – no matter how competent one is – is something that many of you might relate with, given this is a key phenomenon associated with FSA, as verified in my original Family Systems research (including FSA and the experience of ‘Impostor Syndrome’, as mentioned in my book, ‘Rejected, Shamed, and Blamed’).

These dynamics underscore the pervasive impact of gender stereotypes and stress the importance of fostering inclusive environments that promote gender equality and mutual support among all individuals.

We would be wise not to overlook the fact that the process of scapegoating itself – whether individual or systemic – is an act of marginalizing, demeaning, devaluing, and objectifying another person, group, or class. Healing from such individual, systemic and societal pressures and abuses involves the willingness to honestly self-reflect so as to recognize these patterns within ourselves first.

It’s therefore crucial for us all – no matter our gender identification – to challenge our biases consciously while fostering an environment of mutual respect and support. How we speak to each other matters. Especially here, where so many of us are recovering from the ‘invisible’ (psycho-emotional) wounds of FSA.

When navigating the complex social pressures described above, self-care plays a vital role in fostering resilience and empowerment. Allocating time for self-reflection allows one to identify and challenge internalized beliefs, assumptions, judgments, or behaviors that perpetuate harmful norms.

By prioritizing self-care practices such as mindfulness, setting boundaries, and seeking therapy or counseling when needed (or honest feedback from a group or forum you might participate in), individuals can gradually break free from cycles of self-doubt or comparison fueled by external expectations or internalized assumptions or beliefs.

Overcoming Traumatizing, Dysfunctional Systems: My Own Journey

I’ve shared very little about myself personally during the years I’ve been publishing articles via this blog and creating YouTube content and there are many reasons for this, which I will save for a future article. Be that as it may, at this time I would like to share the following professional and personal information for those of you who are interested in getting to know me a bit better beyond my roles of therapist, coach, author, and FSA educator. If knowing more about me is something you might find activating or ‘triggering’, you will want to stop reading here.

Regarding my professional background and credentials: I am always happy to share my credentials and professional qualifications with others. And as a member of YouTube’s Health Partner Team, where we are committed to providing free public education on complex health topics as licensed clinicians, my YouTube subscribers can be confident that my credentials and licensure have already been carefully vetted.

With that said, anyone who would like to review my academic background and professional credentials may do so easily via my LinkedIn page here:

Regarding my personal background and experiences: Being an adult survivor of family scapegoating abuse (FSA) myself, I worked for many years to be able to both ‘own’ and acknowledge all that I’ve accomplished in both my personal and professional life, given the highly traumatized, dysfunctional family system I was born into and that negatively impacted me since birth (and possibly In Utero due to domestic violence).

I began working when I was 13 years old, teaching piano and babysitting. As a young adult, I worked several jobs at once to put myself through school. My academic successes allowed me to qualify for some scholarships or I likely would not have been able to attend school at all.

I put myself through Grad School in my forties, and still had to work to support myself while completing an intensive 3-year MACP (Master in Counseling Psychology) program at the world-renowned Institute of Transpersonal Psychology, where I later served as Core Faculty.

This period of my life was exhausting, to be quite frank, but I was confident it would be worth it as I had always wanted to become a licensed Marriage Family Therapist (LMFT) serving adult survivors from traumatized, dysfunctional families.

I unknowingly suffered for decades from Complex Trauma and Betrayal Trauma symptoms; traumatic shame; traumatic invalidation; severe anxiety and depression, as well as experiencing occasional suicidal ideation. I’ve also experienced Impostor Syndrome secondary to FSA.

During those many long years I was struggling to understand why I felt the way I did, there was no language or terms available to describe my particular family experiences beyond the old Family Systems term ‘Identified Patient’ until I began to conduct my own original Family Systems research and identified the phenomenon I eventually named family scapegoating abuse (FSA).

In August of 2020, I published my introductory book on FSA, Rejected, Shamed, and Blamed, with the intent of helping other FSA adult survivors who might be suffering without knowing what intrapsychic wounds they were suffering from.

I chose to self-publish this, my first book, after turning down offers from multiple, highly regarded traditional publishers because I had a vision for my book and wanted to do it on my terms, not theirs.

Most recently, I have been working ‘behind the scenes’ with some incredibly talented, humanitarian and systems-focused individuals who have been kind enough to contact me with some exciting ideas and projects – people who have global impact and reach. Our discussions center around how we can work together to educate both individuals and families on FSA and other forms of psycho-emotional abuse that currently ravage individuals and systems, including dysfunctional and narcissistic families.

It has been a long, difficult road to get to a position where I might help adult survivors and families on a level I never dared to imagine or dream about when younger, but here I am, just the same. And I can honestly report that it was worth everything I chose to endure along the way.

What are your experiences of marginalization? How did you handle it? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

35 thoughts on “When We Question the Competence and Qualifications of Women”

  1. Jenn

    Thank you for sharing more about your personal story, Rebecca. Your story is astonishing, and shows your tenacity. I appreciate this vulnerability you’re sharing with us.

  2. Angela M

    I hear you. Your qualifications were not in question by me and I bought your book. I’ve cut off and entire toxic family and no longer suffer their scapegoating:)
    It’s one thing to have your credibility and qualifications questioned but don’t you also hate it when you ‘share’ finally with a new friend or group (or indeed an old friend) re the scapegoating abuse you received and your truthfulness is questioned?! Frustrating and disappointing.
    Dont let the naysayers bug you because they want to feel superior putting others down.
    You know you speak the truth. I know I speak the truth.
    The genuine souls who stay with you, who just embrace you for who you are at face value, they’re the gems of friends worth keeping.
    Go forward, glad you’re proud of your achievements, stay proud, assertiveness and truth attracts like 👍

  3. Dr Hannah W

    Glad you wrote this column at this time, Rebecca. I have sooooo many stories about this in my career as a women’s studies pioneer in the Second Wave as well as in my career as a Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor and founder of two global businesses. One comes from the brilliant Charlotte Kasl, author of Women, Sex, and Addiction ( which discusses the sequelae and symptoms of trauma) , a seminal work in this field. Charlotte recounts inviting her mother to attend the ceremony where her PhD would be granted. She was disappointed to hear her mother say that she couldn’t attend because she had to stay home and care for her father. The night of the ceremony she called her mother to tell her about it, only to be told by her father that her mother was away visiting her son, Charlotte’s brother! She was very hurt, of course, but on reflection understood that her mother found her daughter’s success uncomfortable; she had been a concert pianist who had given up a touring career to marry and raise a family, and by contrast was reminded of her disavowed self. Many women affected by patriarchy want to feel that they themselves aren’t victims and to distinguish themselves from the cultural pain of women as a scapegoated class will turn away or even join in the scapegoating. Its very hard to see this in oneself and others and even harder to know where to begin to address it. You are offering a starting point not just for individual healing but culture change that has been needed for hundreds if not thousands of years. Let it begin with us! If we doubt that we are a scapegoated class, remember the witch hunts in Europe and Massachusetts!

    1. Rebecca C. Mandeville, MA

      I agree – These realities must be teased out and faced. I will see if I can get Charlotte Kasl’s book linked into my online bookshop here, it is indeed an important work. I relate to this story of Charlotte’s you relay; there was no celebration of my high school graduation. I can’t even remember if anyone in my family attended, it is all a blur. Perhaps because of this, I did not attend my graduation for my AA or BA, likely because I was already devaluing my accomplishments. I won a major poetry award in San Francisco one year at the age of 21 and did not attend the ceremony to accept my award. I’m not sure I even told anyone about it beyond a few close friends. When I graduated with my Masters in my forties, a family member who had committed to attending (albeit grudgingly) had in fact not planned to attend at all and had other plans but (again grudgingly) agreed to attend when I expressed my disappointment directly when I called to see where they were (a first for me). To me, this was all just ‘normal’, but years later, I see how I learned to devalue myself and my accomplishments from a very early age. Your comment provides much food for thought, and it is lovely to see you here on my blog!

  4. Cheryl

    I just recently discovered your channel, and, after watching several of your videos, I realized that I had found the answer that I’ve been seeking. I’m 68 years old, and gave up on therapists and psychologists about thirty years ago. I bought a horse, my childhood dream, and found more healing in his presence than I ever found from “professionals”. He is 29 years old now, and, I know that I will lose him in the not too distant future. He had no “credentials”, only the ability to help me breathe, and stay in the moment. Deep healing takes place when you feel a profound connection, and, I feel that connection with you and your story. Thank you for doing all of the hard work to help those of us who need that healing.

    1. Rebecca C. Mandeville, MA

      Thank you, Cheryl. Lovely to meet you here. I had such a horse – my equine soulmate – and I can say much the same about how he impacted my healing process. I did lose him four years ago, but still feel his grounded, still, gentle and wise presence. With such deep love and reverence, such connections are eternal…

  5. Duane

    Great news letter and on point. This website is a great resource for those looking to heal as is you YouTube channel. Keep doing what you’re doing.Great work.

  6. Sonia LC

    There’s no one else on earth I take advice from but you on this subject and I’ve looked here and there for someone on YouTube where and who can be trusted and understands. I’ve seen a lot of yo yo’s and moved on hoping one day until my last search found you, hooray! You’re top drawer Mandeville xoxo

  7. Kim M

    There are no shortcuts to anywhere worth going!
    Love your work Rebecca! I thank you for the healing and validation❣️

  8. Celia

    Thank you for the insightful article. I could not figure out why my parents were so upset (or I was told) when I was born, as a female, not a “son”. I was the scapegoated one, my sister was kinda sorta the golden child but was 5 years older, although she learned to not defend me or she would get what I would “get”. However, I finally was able to begin working on my “mother wound”, my safe parent ,that I loved dearly although she died when I was 14. I found out that her “family system” was an occult religious tradition that taught their “brotherhood”, that women/females were useless and worthless, and help yourself to using them. So, I could realize the why my dad never accepted I was female, and my mom was angry about it. I think my sister is somehow jealous of me and that’s why she constantly belittles me. But dealing with the family misogyny, and also women during my 50 years of working professionally…some of my most malignant bosses were female. And then, I realized my own misogyny that had somehow been translated to me, and that I subconsciously agreed with. My sister is on her on, but I am working on healing this belief system that “women can’t be trusted”, that I didn’t even realize I had!

  9. Sharon

    Thank you for your article, today! I remember back in my twenties actually receiving threats on voicemail from men in the industry I was a part of. As someone young and just starting out it was hard to believe I could be seen as a threat. When I changed gears completely to the competitive field I’m in now, it’s mainly women who seem to see an adversary rather than a colleague in me. It’s sad and disheartening, though a number of my contemporaries now discuss this issues and really try to support one another. We refuse to get sucked into that kind of behavior.

    So appreciate the valuable work you do and the spotlight you shine on FSA and related issues. I appreciated you sharing some of your personal history as it’s incredibly empowering to hear of those who are so resilient and choose to do so much good in the world, despite such challenges.

  10. Christine

    Today after spending the last 4 days getting a flooded basement cleaned up and hence having to take a few days off from my professional job…”friend” says “Well I’m so glad that you are getting everything done for you.” LOL. Damned if you don’t, damned if you do. As if I sat on the couch eating bon bons and reached into my big bag of money and it was over. Sleepless night, scramble to save things, contractor didn’t show up, rescheduled appointments, one difficult thing after another, but everything is so easy for us because we can hire a plumber, LOL. I am NC with my mother, but I keep running into her, LOL.

    1. Rebecca C. Mandeville, MA

      I’ve said that same line myself – about eating bon bons. I’ve had contractors in and out of my house for the past 2 years addressing various issues. I know how stressful this can be. Breathe and rest when you can. Lavender spray and Pandora ‘Spa Radio’ are my best friends during such times!

  11. Kitty S

    Rebecca, You’re putting words to the experience of professional women in all non-traditional roles, and those of us in traditional female roles when we challenge males. Women jump to protect men, at least in the healthcare industry, while other men protect men. Women don’t protect but rather attack other women if we “step out of line”. I thought when I grew up and left my family of origin that I wouldn’t have mother and sisters backbiting and gossip to shield myself from anymore. But women are women and I have come to think maybe this awful trait is in female DNA, like maybe it has to do with survival of the species or something. You are doing new work, giving voice and language to experiences that aren’t discussed. Thank you! Keep it up, Rebecca!

  12. Marsha

    Hello Rebecca,

    I think you’re an amazing communicator and teacher, and I love learning from you.
    Not only do you have the proper credentials, But you have the clinical experience and you’ve helped so many people.
    No one should be questioning your credentials.
    There is an expression from the Bible. Don’t cast pearls before swine.
    The only people who you owe an explanation are the people that want to work with you if they have questions about your professional credentials.
    You have to be discerning about who you’re going to give your energy to.
    Your energy and your creativity and the gifts that you bring to the world are far more important than explaining.anything to someone who really is not looking for facts.
    My mother used to tell me to ‘free yourself from the ‘good opinion’ of others.’
    I’ll pass that onto you!!
    Your big heart, your sharp mind and your beautiful soul are all in the exact perfect place where they need to be and you help so many people.
    Thank you so
    much Rebecca for all the gifts that you bring AND share with the world!

    1. Rebecca C. Mandeville, MA

      Thank you for this, Marsha, it means much to me at this time. Part of my freeing myself from this nonsense was to write this blog today. Next time someone ‘inquires’ about my credentials, I’m simply sending them the url to this post. Enough is enough.

      1. Margaret

        I’ll add, folks will listen to men even if they have no credentials. (It’s not necessarily assumed men have credentials, it’s that mansplaining is acceptable.)

        And folks will not listen to women even if they have the highest credentials. (It’s not necessarily assumed women have no credentials, it’s that not listening to women is acceptable.

        These kinds of dynamics make me suspect that my experience of being scapegoated in my nuclear family of four female siblings is very different than had there been males.

        I also wonder about where money and finances fit into family scapegoating. It seems if a scapegoat does well financially that increases the size of the target on her back. In my case, there was this idea life was somehow easier for me even though the list of challenges I faced was clear and objective. If I had a problem it was (undeserved) money that would solve it, not anything I brought to the table.

        Anyway – for some reason your story, Rebecca, and the comment section brought these ideas/questions to mind. I thank you profusely for sharing (and also for the times previously you’ve chosen to step back) – both courageous choices. It’s truly phenomenal what you have accomplished!

  13. SUSAN

    I would imagine, that most adult survivors of FSA like myself have always hoped that someone, anyone could understand what we have been through. You, Rebecca, have done just that. I cannot express my gratitude enough. Out of your suffering , determination, and hard work, you have given the gift of understanding and keys to healing. Kudos to you and many many thanks!

  14. Francesca

    Morning in the US, late afternoon in Italy.
    This is a gift. A truly first-hand gift.
    I can barely imagine what it is like reading your article/email for native English speaking people.
    “Only” (let’s say “only”) by reading it as a native Italian speaker… it has been greatly therapeutic – even with a continuous translation work going on in my head. A great help for me. Much needed right in this moment, in these days. That’s why I think the term “therapeutic” is the right term.
    Thank you.

    1. Rebecca C. Mandeville, MA

      Lovely to hear from you, Francesca, and thank you for your comment. I’m glad my work on FSA – and this particular article – is something you find therapeutic. By the way, the Latin root of the word ‘Therapy’ means ‘To Heal What Is Split’…

  15. Lisa

    I have a feeling all the questioners must have been the golden children! I have no doubt in my mind that anyone who experienced a tiny bit of being scapegoated would not hesitate to acknowledge that you know exactly what you’re talking about!

      1. Barbara T

        I appreciated reading your stories, personal and professional and yes I can relate. Add a racial identity and there’s another layer where I (and others who look like me,) were told “you have to be twice as good to get half as much,” whether money, recognition or acknowledgment of talent. It’s the voices of the people in my past that I’m now turning down the volume so I can hear my own voice, my own validation, I matter. It’s taken me 61, almost 62 years to quit chasing the “carrot” of external validation and acceptance and love on myself. Thank you for sharing your experiences that are a huge help in my journey to healing and healthy relationships.

    1. Beth D

      Hi Rebecca! Today’s newsletter is PROFOUND for me, as everything else I’ve learned from you is. As a self-employed female contractor/carpenter, I’ve endured decades of the exact treatment you describe. In my case, this criticism has come primarily from men, more than women. My craftsmanship exceeded theirs, and they knew it. The lengths a few went to in order to eradicate me from “taking THEIR work away” resulted in devastating life-altering consequences. I recovered, and actually ended up in much better place in spite of them! Just as you say, I’d do it all again!! Kudos to you for standing strong, bringing your brilliance and heart to those of us in need of your EXPERTISE.
      Whenever I meet these sorts of “critics” (putting it nicely), I remember this saying:

      “Criticism is the tribute mediocrity pays excellence.”

      And that is true in both our cases: we are excellent in our chosen fields of expertise, and no amount of criticism will ever change that. Shine on, beautiful soul!! ❤❤❤

      1. Rebecca C. Mandeville, MA

        Hi Beth, thank you for this heartening comment. I very much appreciate it. I also wanted you to know that, based on your words here, I added a sentence to the end of this paragraph. It now reads as follows: “I also had a lovely conversation with a male YouTube channel subscriber about this same issue. He shared that he notices that female therapists on YouTube are often subjected to this sort of ‘questioning’ regarding their qualifications in the comments section (comments that more often than not appear to be written by a female) – something he rarely, if ever, sees happening on the channels of male therapist content creators. (Of course, if a given female is in a line of work typically dominated by men, such as corporate executive positions; construction or contracting work, etc, they might indeed be challenged, devalued, or demeaned by men who feel threatened by, or competitive, with them).”

        1. Beth D

          I’ve come to expect this treatment from males in my field, but it is particularly aggravating coming from women. I remember being called to estimate a residential job for a husband and wife. I knew as I pulled up to this filthy decaying property that I would decline the job, KINDLY. While discussing the aspects, and dangers of, their needs, with the couple, the wife asks: “So how many are on your crew?” When I replied, “Just me, I work alone.” She crossed her arms across her chest, and rolled her eyes toward her husband.
          I’m now not inclined to be kind. I said “If I weren’t capable of doing the work, I wouldn’t be wasting my time talking with you. Since I cannot work with anyone doubting my abilities, I suggest you call a contractor with a crew. Have a nice day. Goodbye,”
          If a job starts that way, it will only get worse. I’ve learned, and have the option to, simply walk away from these sorts.

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