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On the Alpha Female

Denise Power Pic“Be polite. Follow their lead. Don’t be argumentative. Look pretty. Always smile. Take care of everyone’s needs before your own. Challenging others is rude.”

These are many of the subtle lessons most Baby Boomer & Gen X girls were taught. Some of them are great, some of them seem to be common sense. Of course we should be polite. There is nothing wrong with smiling. What always feels a bit uncomfortable is the question of, “why do these rules seem to apply to just us?” Why are some of our male counterparts actually encouraged to challenge others? Why is being argumentative (just another form of challenging others) actually seen as a strength for the boys, yet a weakness for the girls?

These are questions that not every little (or big) girl asks and that is absolutely ok. Some would argue that nature designs us to behave in these ways and I’m not really going to try to argue or counter that. Perhaps it is the natural design. Perhaps there is an order to humanity that requires males to act in one manner and females to act in another.

But what about the alpha female?

Let’s first define alpha female. It seems this description can invoke all kinds of emotions in people (and absolutely none in others), but for the purposes of this blog, I am referring to:

A woman who has embraced her leadership ambitions. She is highly motivated and self-confident.

While I wouldn’t change being an alpha female for anything, there are some serious negative side effect that quite frankly, can be exhausting. The research participants in a study in the Journal of Leadership Education expressed having to pay a price for their status and strong alpha female identity. They felt they were often negatively labeled and stereotyped and could frequently feel disliked by others. They also reported feeling pressure to live up to very high expectations not only by themselves, but by others as well.

Can anyone relate?

Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Kamala Harris, Savannah Gunthrie, Megyn Kelly, Oprah Winfrey and Amy Schumer – all powerful women who swarm in controversy. Aside from the fact that each of these women stands up for matters that most are unwilling to even talk about, could there also be an element of them “behaving” in a manner that society hasn’t yet embraced? If we dug deep, would we find that some of the backlash around these forces of nature stems from them simply acting in a way that many feel is “out of line?”

I will be the first to say that my point of reference may be a bit on the extreme side based on personal experience.

I grew up as the youngest and only girl in a strong Catholic, Hispanic family. My early memories include the women working in the kitchen while the men sat around drinking beer. I didn’t witness any sort of appreciation for the womens’ efforts and certainly could not understand why the responsibilities were not being shared equally. I grew up in the 80’s and so women were active in the work force, including most women in my family. Why was it then, that the women worked all day, but then continued to work just as hard through the weekend, while the men relaxed? It perplexed me as a young girl, but it just seemed to be part of my culture. That’s just the way things were.

I remember wanting to ask about it. I remember wanting to speak up. But I also understood that if I did, I would be demonstrating an argumentative nature. I would be challenging the entire situation and that was something little me just didn’t have the strength to do, especially not feeling like there was anyone in my corner who could relate, let alone understand.

And so I watched and with time, I made a solemn oath that I would not be the woman in the kitchen serving my man while he’s drinking his beer.

And for any woman who chooses to do that, no judgement here. It just wasn’t’ for me as it made zero logical sense.

As time went on, I grew stronger and stronger in my beliefs and convictions and thankfully, society grew with me. Thanks to the late Ruth Bader Ginsberg, women’s rights were becoming a real focus and the gap in equality was slowly closing.

Since my childhood, we have seen an emergence of alpha females and for every one out there that exists, I thank you.

We are needed. We are part of the change that is still happening for our daughters and grand daughters. Whether we like it or not, we are evolving as a human species and so the alpha female is becoming a necessity.

But I can’t kick the feeling that we are still slightly revered as problematic.

I observe conversations with males and females and still witness the females smiling and nodding, providing reassurance as though it is our responsibility to ensure everyone is ok with what we and others are saying, or to somehow repair conflict. As recent as last week, I watched an interaction where a strong, powerful woman questioned the President of the United States and was called “cute” mid sentence because he seemingly didn’t like her questions.

I personally am still repeatedly called, “honey or sweetie” when someone is trying to dampen my alpha. And the worst part of it all, is that I feel some of my female counterparts alienate me because I am “dominant or too much.”

And so for anyone else who is “too much” I say, BE MORE. The last thing we need to do is back down and undo all the work our incredible trail blazers have done before us.

Be strong. Be confident. Be the one to make a change. If you are an alpha female, YOU are necessary for the future. Your spark can become the flame and change everything.



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