Power Women: Dr Robin Buckley On How To Successfully Navigate Work, Love and Life As A Powerful Woman

An Interview With Ming Zhao

Ming S. Zhao
Authority Magazine


As the standard for strong women becomes more commonplace, it has become less acceptable to voice this discomfort. That doesn’t mean it goes away. Instead, these biases become covert rather than overt, sometimes without those who hold the biases realizing it. Those people know it is less acceptable to verbalize or have these biases, so they shove them down. They don’t say them out loud, but the biases still influence their reactions to strong women. They are uncomfortable because the covert biases are influencing their subconscious thinking.

How does a successful, strong, and powerful woman navigate work, employee relationships, love, and life in a world that still feels uncomfortable with strong women? In this interview series, called “Power Women” we are talking to accomplished women leaders who share their stories and experiences navigating work, love and life as a powerful woman.

As a part of this series I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Dr. Robin Buckley.

Dr. Robin Buckley has her PhD in clinical psychology. She is an author, public speaker, and certified professional coach who works with female executives and business owners, and high-performance couples. Her proprietary coaching model uses a business framework and cognitive-behavioral strategies to support individuals and couples in creating and executing concrete, strategic plans for developing their careers and relationships.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood “backstory”?

I was raised in Connecticut in a two-parent home with my younger sister, Holly. My dad was a high school English teacher turned vice principal and my mom was a registered nurse. Looking back and particularly now as a parent, I respect many of the things my parents did in raising my sister and me. One was to instill in us the importance of going after the highest level of education necessary in whatever fields we decided on. I remember my mom telling us that we needed to be self-reliant and have a career which would allow us to take care of ourselves. My parents also instilled in us the idea of kindness and service to others. They emulated this idea in their chosen professions but also wanted kindness to be within our personal lives. One powerful way they taught us this was at Christmastime. Every year, my sister and I would write a list of three things we hoped Santa would bring us. Then, my parents would take my sister and me shopping to pick out one thing on each of our lists to donate to the holiday toy drive. I remember being so sad one year when I really wanted a Raggedy Ann doll. I was hugging the doll in the backseat of the car as we drove to drop off our donations and asked my mom, “What if Santa doesn’t bring me one?” My mom turned around and said that I had to believe that by doing something so hard to make someone else happy, Santa would see this and know I truly put others first. It was a bit over my head, this idea of trusting the universe or karma at age 6, but I donated the doll. Of course, under the tree on Christmas morning was my own Raggedy Ann, cementing that lesson in a very concrete way. That was how life was in my house. Helping others, taking people in to live with our family, donating, being kind…these integrated into a very strong belief system for me in my life.

Can you tell us the story about what led you to this particular career path?

I fell in love with the topic of psychology in my first class at Marist College and followed this passion into my graduate work. Specifically, I was fascinated by the concept that the brain controls much of what we feel and do and because of that, we can learn to manage our thoughts to get the results we want. My initial work was within traditional mental health settings but the part I did not align with was the framework of mental health services from an intervention perspective. I wanted to support people in a preventative manner, particularly with individuals who were motivated to engage in their improvement. A colleague introduced me to coaching and I began my training back in 2005, long before coaching was as widespread as it is today. Coaching was a way to blend my education and love of psychology within a preventative, self-directed model.

As an executive coach, this approach works very well with the female executives and business owners I work with. They want to achieve exactly what they want in their careers and are motivated to work to get their wants. I help them separate out the cognitive and emotional roadblocks that get in their way, but they are the experts in their own lives. Over time, there were two things that made me expand my work to couples. The first was how often I heard from women that they wished they could get the same level of success in their relationships as they do in their professional lives. The second was personal. I went through two divorces. In the first, I was 24 and too young to see the warning signs before we got married. In the second, I didn’t take time to really reflect on who I was and who I was becoming. I married my second husband because he was everything my first husband wasn’t and while a good guy, he wasn’t the right partner for me. I didn’t have any plan when it came to a long-term commitment which is ironic because in every other area of my life, I had carefully thought-out plans. The more I listened to my female clients, and the more I thought about my own life, I wanted to create a way to help couples be more successful, and have a plan, that was different from couples’ therapy. That’s where my model of couples’ coaching developed.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

While not flashy like some of my experiences, one of the most interesting opportunities I’ve had in my career was being fortunate enough to chair the dissertation of a woman from Saudi Arabia. As a chair, I guided her in her research, but it allowed me to learn about the Saudi culture. Modia is an intelligent, highly driven woman, whose background includes an American upbringing and ties, and who is an advocate for women’s rights in The Kingdom. I am sure I learned more from her than she did from me. I am lucky enough to follow her on social media and she continues to do amazing things. She has led the charge on the discussion and promotion of controversial topics within her culture such as breast cancer awareness and breastfeeding, as well as women’s right to drive. Modia provided me a first-hand perspective on a culture that I had never taken the time to learn about, and in all honesty, what I did think I knew was based on second-hand information. I admire all she does, particularly her choice not to run away from a situation which isn’t the ideal, but to stay and work to change it.

You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

The first one is my focus on accomplishing my goals and not letting challenges stop me. I don’t accept failure, and I use those moments as opportunities to learn or to reflect on my plan to determine how it could be improved. For example, people will ask me about my choice to do a doctoral program. It started with me being rejected by my first-choice program. After recovering from the ego bruise, I took some advice from my dad and reached out to the program director, explaining why he should give me an interview. After a six-hour, round trip drive and one of the most infuriating interviews of my life, I was accepted into the program. People also ask me why I decided to get a PhD. While there were several, including my love of psychology, the number one reason I put myself through something so hard was so that I had the highest degree in my field, and no one could ever tell me “no” based on lack of degree. I don’t wait for outside forces to change or dictate my situation, and having my doctorate is part of that plan.

My second one is one I referenced earlier and that my parents instilled in me. I regularly hear from others that my kindness is one of my significant qualities. I take this as a huge compliment since t is something I strive to be and which I see as an opportunity to make a change in the world every day, in small ways. I believe it has contributed to my success simply because of the basic law of attraction. I have amazingly good people in my life. Unique opportunities come my way. My choices and actions in business are connected to the concept of being kind to others and helping them in whatever ways I can. For example, as the owner of my psychological and coaching practice, I am still the first person that new clients talk to. I want it this way because I know that each potential client gets the same message, and that they have one point person to rely on until they connect with the right therapist or coach to meet their needs. Most importantly, I want individuals to know what questions to ask, what things to look for, to make the therapy or coaching experience best for them. I will regularly tell new clients that it doesn’t matter to me whether they choose to work with someone in my practice. I would rather educate them, so they understand how to move forward to find the best person to work with. I mean every bit of it, but it also has ensured that even when people don’t initially choose to work with my practice, a large percentage circle back because I took the time to answer their questions and hear their concerns.

I think my last one is different than kindness, although related, and that is my ability to connect with others. I work to pay attention to how people receive information and adjust my message or approach to best support their processing. When I was younger, this could be difficult to do — modifying my approach but still wanting to be authentic in the interaction. To maintain this balance, I use one simple question to keep me focused: “Which of my traits can I use to best help this person?” That specific question keeps me from adjusting too far from who I am yet still work to meet someone’s needs.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. The premise of this series assumes that our society still feels uncomfortable with strong women. Why do you think this is so?

In the 1920s through 1950s, roles for women and men were distinctly defined within society. People found comfort in knowing what to expect based upon the societal norms, and cognitive dissonance was low. The standard for women was as the weaker sex, more nurturing, passive, quiet, group members rather than leaders. As the 20th century evolved, the traditional societal definitions of women began to change. Women began organizing movements, going to college, taking on leadership positions. What women were doing did not align with the societal standards or scripts that society was comfortable with, and this created cognitive discomfort.

As the standard for strong women becomes more commonplace, it has become less acceptable to voice this discomfort. That doesn’t mean it goes away. Instead, these biases become covert rather than overt, sometimes without those who hold the biases realizing it. Those people know it is less acceptable to verbalize or have these biases, so they shove them down. They don’t say them out loud, but the biases still influence their reactions to strong women. They are uncomfortable because the covert biases are influencing their subconscious thinking.

Without saying any names, can you share a story from your own experience that illustrates this idea?

I have one that came early in my career. I was standing with some male and female colleagues during our first year at this organization. A few male, senior psychologists joined us. We were sharing stories from our respective doctoral programs, basically swapping war stories, when one of the psychologists chimed in that he believed doctoral programs were “a waste on young women” with a smirk on his face. I wish I could say I challenged him, but I was shocked into silence by his statement. A female colleague asked him to explain his statement and he said that it was a waste of time and money to educate women beyond college since most would just “get married, have kids and not do anything with their degrees”. For years, I simply dismissed him as an arrogant misogynist, but as I grew in my career and in my life, I realized that his comment was based on fear — fear of the growing numbers of women in our field and the change this represented from traditional norms. His statement was intentionally or unintentionally meant to remind us of our place. I appreciated that my peer jumped in when I couldn’t. I never let myself be silenced like that again.

What should a powerful woman do in a context where she feels that people are uneasy around her?

Certainly, a quick assessment to ensure she hasn’t created the unease due to an oversight is valuable, and mind you, this is important for any person, not just strong women. Once she ascertains that there is not impropriety on her part, I believe most of the work is on the woman’s own thoughts and reactions. Making sure she doesn’t adjust herself to fit with the group if that means being inauthentic. Clearly articulating her goal within the situation to confirm her behaviors align with her intent. Accessing additional skills that have worked in similar situations to apply to the current situation. Acknowledging that strong women are not often understood, appreciated, or liked, but none of those are necessarily correlated with success. If she is distracted by trying to make those around her feel better, it very likely can distract her from her goal.

What do we need to do as a society to change the unease around powerful women?

Some of the change can happen through acclimation. Simply put, we get used to things which are common. We are no longer shocked when we see a woman wearing pants but earlier in the 20th century, that would’ve been scandalous. We got used to it. Individuals from different races in relationships or marriages wasn’t just shocking; it was against the law in some parts of the country. Now, hopefully and thankfully in most areas of the country, it is no big deal. We got used to it and as we got used to these changes, our thoughts and feelings around them also changed. As more strong women step into positions of visibility, it will become common to see and the old standards for women will continue to deteriorate. Because of them, there will be more evidence and examples that are contrary to the old standards, so new standards will be created.

It is also on us as women to encourage the change. When we run into obstacles, when we are told no, or when attempts are made to silence our voices, it is up to us to find ways to succeed and to be heard. One of the best examples of what I mean is in Whitney Wolfe Herd’s story. As the creator of Bumble, she took her history of toxic relationships all the way to a billion-dollar company. After facing sexual harassment and being pushed out of Tinder, she decided to push back and use all that negativity to fuel her success.

Of course, some of this change is also about supporting an intolerance for concepts and terms which support old stereotypes or standards. Why is a girl called bossy when she’s organizing a group, but a boy is called assertive or a leader? What is the male equivalent of the term catty? Or working mother? I’ll tell you; there aren’t any. Even the term tomboy reduces a girl to a second-best version of a boy. If we want powerful women to be a standard, then it is ensuring how we talk about them and to them is no different from how we talk about male counterparts. Words affect our thoughts and it is thoughts that create comfort or unease.

In my own experience, I have observed that often women have to endure ridiculous or uncomfortable situations to achieve success that men don’t have to endure. Do you have a story like this from your own experience? Can you share it with us?

Besides people assuming “Dr. Buckley” refers to a male? Besides people assuming my husband is the owner of my business? [laughing] Likely the most recent was when a governing body that I applied to rejected my request. I appealed the decision and was granted an appearance. My question was why I was rejected when several colleagues with exactly the same degrees and experience had applications that had been accepted. The male chairperson focused on the timeframe it took for me to submit the application. “Why is this suddenly important to you now, when you obtained your PhD 18 years ago?” he asked me. I explained that I had had children, decided to focus on them, and then had been a single mother for part of that time. Since there wasn’t a deadline to apply, and my children were older and more self-sufficient at that point, the timing worked better for me. He actually made an audible, dismissive sound, shook his head and ended my interview. A week later I received a “final notice” that my application was denied. The difference between me and my colleagues, including one who was in my graduate school cohort and had an identical transcript to mine? All of my colleagues were men. None got questions about their timelines. Their applications were reviewed and accepted based on their transcripts and professional experiences.

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women leaders that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?

The first to come to mind is the internal and external pressure to follow male standards or expectations to avoid criticism or negative comparison to their male peers, essentially to prove themselves. As part of this, female leaders may feel the need to suppress parts of themselves to avoid judgement. Their challenge is how to be and be seen as an effective leader when many models or standards of leadership and power are based on male characteristics. As part of the pressure to prove themselves, women leaders may also experience imposter syndrome at higher rates than men. Their dedication or ability to do a job might be called into question based upon personal choices such as getting married or becoming a parent. All of this contributes to the mentality of perfectionism in order to do it all, be it all, so no one can doubt their competence and skills.

Let’s now shift our discussion to a slightly different direction. This is a question that nearly everyone with a job has to contend with. Was it difficult to fit your personal and family life into your business and career? For the benefit of our readers, can you articulate precisely what the struggle was?

Yes and no. It really came down to choice. I didn’t believe I could be the parent I wanted to be with a demanding career. Because of this I chose a career which allowed me to be very accessible and very active in my kids’ lives when they were younger. I opted to decline opportunities which required traveling or demanded more hours. I put off my career wants for my parental wants, and put the majority of my energy into parenting versus into career. For me, it was an intuitive choice that I couldn’t have it all at the same time in the way I wanted it. I couldn’t do the parenting things I wanted to do if I was devoting a higher or equal percentage of my time to my career. There’s only a total of 100 percent so something had to be a lesser percentage and I chose to make parenting the bigger percentage of my focus for a period of time.

What was a tipping point that helped you achieve a greater balance or greater equilibrium between your work life and personal life? What did you do to reach this equilibrium?

The equilibrium didn’t come simultaneously; it was more of a cumulative effect. As my kids got older, got their drivers’ licenses, moved out of the house, built their autonomy, my focus shifted to my career. I devoted time and energy to my kids when I felt they needed it, and spent less on my career, and as they grew, the percentages shifted. I still devote time and energy to my kids when they need or want it, but because they are less dependent, more secure, the percentage on them is less than it used to be and that extra is now devoted to my career. So the balance, or the equilibrium, didn’t necessarily occur simultaneously, but over time as the pendulum moved. Now that they are older, I have learned to be more deliberate about how to create the time I want with them, or the time I believe they still need. I let them know when I have more flexibility in my schedule if they want to meet for coffee. I tend to schedule less or no meetings when they have a day off from school and we schedule something to do together. This ability to make plans together actually allows me to have what feels like more of a balance in my life, and allows me to now devote significant time and energy to achieving my career goals.

I work in the beauty tech industry, so I am very interested to hear your philosophy or perspective about beauty. In your role as a powerful woman and leader, how much of an emphasis do you place on your appearance? Do you see beauty as something that is superficial, or is it something that has inherent value for a leader in a public context? Can you explain what you mean?

What a complicated topic! I do focus on my appearance. I want to project the confidence I feel in how I physically appear and, in all candidness, sometimes the clothes or makeup or related details are like a uniform. I put the uniform on and it helps me tap into different parts of my personality which I want to access and use.

My assumption is that all leaders, regardless of sex or gender, use their physical appearance to convey a message or a persona. It is a basic psychological bias regarding appearance. It’s why defense attorneys dress up their clients, or career coaches suggest certain outfits for interviews. As humans, we change our behaviors and perceptions according to what we see; the more appealing something is, the more we are drawn to it. Consider when you look at different pictures of food. The ones you want to invest in are the ones that look best. It isn’t different with how we assess people, at least initially.

The question is more how do we define beauty for women? Society certainly uses ageist, and often unrealistic, standards for evaluating beauty in females and I have enormous admiration for the female celebrities who challenge these standards to incorporate a lifespan definition of beauty. To me beauty is demonstrated by a woman who fully and unapologetically loves herself. It is a woman who is confident in who she is and, even more, what she wants. A beautiful woman is one who is willing to work to get what she wants without hurting others to do so.

How is this similar or different for men?

As I said earlier, using physical appearance to connect with, attract or build a certain perception seems inherent for both women and men. While there is a discrepancy between how society judges beauty between women and men, I see the discrepancy shrinking. Older, female celebrities are pushing back, creating new standards, taking on roles in media, business, and politics that were formerly geared towards younger women. There is still significant work to do regarding this topic, but I appreciate those women, famous or not, who are no longer accepting the societal script of beauty. On the flip side, men are being held to higher beauty standards in regards to appearance as evidenced by the increasing marketability of male cosmetic and skin products. So while society is far from a balanced evaluation of the sexes, there is some slow movement towards improvement for women, and maybe more challenges for men.

Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your opinion and experience, what are the “Five Things You Need To Thrive and Succeed as a Powerful Woman?” (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. The first is to create your own model of power or leadership. Most models regarding these concepts are based on traditionally masculine traits and many women try to adopt them as their own ways of doing things — whether superficially in terms of wearing more conservative, almost masculine, clothing, or interpersonally in terms of behaving in ways that aren’t who they genuinely are. I remember realizing this in a group conversation with colleagues. In this case, I was the only woman and the men in the group were older than me by 20 to 30 years. It was a spirited, respectful debate and the group was loud. They kept interrupting and talking over each other which isn’t my style. But I wanted to be heard. I could either adopt their approach, raise my voice and force my way in, or try my own way. Essentially being an introvert and being comfortable with physical touch as a way to appropriately connect with others, I positioned myself next to one of the loudest of the group, waited until he was about to interject a comment, and gently put my hand on his forearm. He stopped, turned to look at me, and I began to speak in my normal tone. Without his voice jumping in, there was a pause in the group and I used the moment to share my thoughts. I got my point out, and then the group started up again, but with noticeably less volume. I decided to continue the experiment and kept moving subtly around the group, using a touch on an arm whenever I wanted to share my ideas. What was funny was I actually ended up using classical conditioning to control the situation; over time, when I moved next to someone talking, they’d stop talking even without me using physical touch. I used my strengths intentionally, and my behavioral knowledge unintentionally, to make space for my voice.
  2. In addition, define and articulate what you want. Too often women consider their lives in terms of what they should do, or have to do, or need to do, instead of what they want. We’ve been trained that asking for what we want makes us selfish or that when we prioritize ourselves, we are putting ourselves before everyone else. These are myths. When we ask for what we want, and don’t ask others to change in order to get what we want, that isn’t selfish. And when we work for and achieve what we want, we are demonstrating our most authentic selves. We are happy, and energized, and confident, and those in our life benefit from being with us at our optimal levels. When we prioritize ourselves, we are treating ourselves as we do others. We aren’t saying “me first”; we are saying “me too”. I worked with a client who was frustrated because she couldn’t find time to workout which helped her maintain her physical health but also helped her regulate the stress of her career as a CFO. When I asked her what got in the way of making time for herself, she said she had to get her kids to school in the morning and then to extracurricular activities after school and there was no time. I asked her why she did all that. “Because it makes them happy, makes them successful, and it’s good for them.” Then I asked her whether those were all important things for her, too. She didn’t speak for a solid minute and then whispered, mostly to herself, “How do I find the time?” That became her homework for our next session — to see where she could make the time for her self-care. By our next session, she had a plan. She decided to let her kids take the school bus instead of dropping them off at school which gave her an extra 45 minutes in the morning. She also connected with a few other parents to create a carpool for shared kid activities which gave her an extra two hours several afternoons a week. My client found solutions to take care of herself when she realized it was as important as taking care of her kids. The funny part was that her kids noticed that she was less stressed, more relaxed, when the new schedule was in place.
  3. To thrive and grow as a powerful woman, it is also essential to see other women as supports rather than as competition. There is plenty of success to go around and by building networks and connections, things that most women are good at doing, it can create opportunities and experiences. The women I admire most are women who do this, who don’t subscribe to the stereotypes of women being “backstabbing” or “catty”. One of the clearest examples of this is from my personal life. I value supporting local businesses and particularly love supporting woman-owned businesses. One of my favorite consignment stores is in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Wear House is owned by a powerhouse woman named Angela Theos. A little more than a year ago, a new consignment store opened within walking distance of the original store. I had a twinge of guilt walking into the new store, like somehow, I was cheating on Angela. As I began talking to the owner, Jen Mathieson, I learned that she had been a consignor of Angela’s for years before moving to Vermont. When she returned to Portsmouth, and decided she wanted to pursue the goal of opening a consignment shop, Angela helped her. They promoted each other’s stores. They sent clients to each other’s stores. When one owner didn’t take items, she sent the consignor to the other shop. This relationship illustrated what I believe in so much — that by helping other women achieve their goals, our power and influence as women grows personally and globally.
  4. With that said, the fourth behavior which helps us thrive as powerful women is to give back to the next generation of women. This can be done in so many ways — teaching, mentoring, sharing knowledge, donating money or time to organizations which empower younger women. This is something that resonates so strongly with me. One of my passions is education and while I don’t formally teach anymore, I try to increase knowledge through writing. I self-published a book several years ago based on a qualitative survey with one question, “What is the one piece of advice you’d give to a girl on the verge of adulthood?” It was published a month before the 2016 Presidential election. The day after the election, I received a call from a former colleague who I’d only stayed in touch with via Facebook. She was calling to share a story with me regarding her teenage daughter. The story started in a similar way for most mothers. That morning her daughter was late coming downstairs, ready to go to school. My colleague was frustrated and went upstairs ready for a confrontation. She went into her daughter’s bedroom, and saw her daughter sitting on the floor, with her back to the door. Instead of unleashing on her daughter, my colleague sensed something was wrong. She moved around to look at her daughter and saw my book in her daughter’s lap. When her daughter looked up, she was crying. I’m paraphrasing, but essentially her daughter said that the news of the election was not what she had hoped for, and she had been scared of what it meant for women and girls. But then she picked up my book and started reading the words from people all around the world. She told her mom that it made her realize that there were people in the world, people she didn’t even know, that loved and cared about girls. The girl went on to say that reading those words helped her feel like it would be okay. This story still blows me away when I retell it. The idea that through the words I collected and published, this young woman gained the awareness that there are people — strangers — in the world who care for women and that this realization came in a moment she really needed to hear it…that is what gives women power and motivation to keep striving for their goals and for progress.
  5. The final idea related to thriving and growing as a powerful woman is the concept of 100 percent which I talked about earlier. That is all we have to give — 100 percent of our time, energy, focus. We can’t give 100 percent to our professional life and 100 percent to our significant other and 100 percent to our kids or parents and 100 percent to self-care and 100 percent to charitable activities. This is not mathematically possible. Think of it as a pie chart. The whole pie is 100 percent and each day, we divide up our focus and energy among the parts of our life. Some days it may be that our loved ones get 50 percent, and the rest is divided among other parts. Maybe some days we really do devote 100 percent to our professional life and then we divide up the next day’s 100 percent among the things we didn’t do yesterday. Trying to give 100 percent to every part of our lives every day is a losing proposition. We end feeling like we’ve failed and that undermines our success. Giving 100 percent is exponential. As we theoretically add up the time we’ve given to the various parts of our life, we do hit 100 percent, just not likely everything every day. As women are striving for power and success, they very often hear they can have it all, and they can, but not likely all at once, 100 percent, every day.


We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

I always appreciate this question because it allows me to think about the people I admire and see as models for how I want to live. There are some that come to mind quickly because of their work for women and girls: Amy Poehler, Pink, Malala Yousafzai, Michelle Obama, Allyson Felix, Melissa McCarthy, Oprah Winfrey. Over the past several years, I included Jacinda Ardern on my list. To me, she embodies what a powerful woman is. She integrates characteristics traditionally defined as “masculine” or “feminine” into a persona that seems to be authentically who she is. Whether becoming a new parent while in office, making the Easter Bunny an essential worker during the pandemic, or guiding her country through grief after the mosque attack in 2019, Prime Minister Ardern demonstrates the effective integration of assertiveness and compassion, personal and professional, and continues to effectively lead New Zealand.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.



Ming S. Zhao
Authority Magazine

Co-founder and CEO of PROVEN Skincare. Ming is an entrepreneur, business strategist, investor and podcast host.