Home > rant, women in math > On being an alpha female

On being an alpha female

June 16, 2012

About 8 months ago I found out I’m an alpha female. What happened was, one day at work my boss mentioned that he and everyone else is afraid of me. I looked around and realized he was pretty much right (there are exceptions).

I went home to my husband and mentioned how weird it was that people at work are afraid of me, and he said, “No, it’s not weird at all. Don’t you realize that you’re constantly giving people the impression that you’re about to take away their toy and break it??”. No, I hadn’t realized that – and that sounds pretty awful! Am I really that mean? Then he told me I was an alpha male living in a woman’s body.

If you google “alpha male in a woman’s body,” (without the quotes) which I did, you come upon the phrase “alpha female” pretty quickly.

It came as a surprise to me – I’d always thought I am nice. But it wasn’t a surprise to anyone else; in fact when I mentioned my realization to my close friends, each and every one of them laughed out loud that I hadn’t known this about myself. One of my friends told me it was less that I was about breaking toys and more about how I call out people’s bullshit, which is something I have to admit I relish doing.

Upon further reflection I had to admit to myself that I am nice, but only to people who I think are nice themselves. So I guess that means I’m not just simply nice. And if I enjoy calling people on their bullshit, that’s not exactly nice either.

Over the past 8 months, I’ve been slowly observing my alpha femaleness, and at this point I can honestly say I’m comfortable with it. I own it now. It’s kind of fun to know about it, because of how people react to me, without me intentionally doing anything.

How I now think about my alpha femaleness is that it lends me authority. It’s a kind of portable power. Not always, of course, and sometimes I am in situations where I’m totally incompetent, and sometimes I run into someone who completely ignores my alpha femaleness or is themselves an alpha male and competes. I usually really like them.

I’ve also realize how much my life has been informed by this property; my life has been, for the most part, much easier than it could have been without this property. And I want to acknowledge that because most people aren’t like this and don’t have this advantage.

For example: I interview really well. I speak with perceived confidence even when I don’t feel confident, and that comes across well in interviews.

In fact all my life people have mentioned to me that “things seem easy” to me, even in situations where I felt completely insecure and flustered. I used to lift weights at the gym with my buddies in college, and they would not really spot me on the bench press because they were convinced I didn’t need help. I almost dropped the weights on my neck a couple of times calling my friends over from the other side of the room. So in retrospect maybe it was a sign I’m an alpha female, but at the time I was just baffled.

It’s good and bad. When people perceive you as more confident and more comfortable in a situation than you actually are, it’s about 80% good and 20% bad, and could be the opposite depending on the situation. It’s bad when it’s dangerous and you really don’t know what you’re doing (that happened to me when I was driving an ATV once, and luckily when I turned it over in a mud pit I didn’t actually break my legs, but I could have) and it’s totally convenient when you’re presenting stuff or in an interview.

Why am I mentioning all of this? Because I think it might help people, especially women in math or in tech, to learn to think a bit more like an alpha female, and I want to give some tips on how to do it. It’s like injecting a shot of testosterone at the right time.

These tips can be used in specific situations like an interview or a talk or at a work meeting. Feel free to ignore these tips if you hate everything about the idea, which I would totally understand too. In fact when I first learned about it myself, I was offended by it on a matter of principle, but I’ve come to think of it more like a mysterious part of the human experience, on the same page as pheromones and how women have the same menstrual cycle when they live together.

Tips on how to think and act like an alpha female

  • When you’re asked to describe your accomplishments, talk about yourself the way your best friend would describe you. So in other words with pride and enthusiasm for your accomplishments, without being embarrassed. Don’t lie or exaggerate, but don’t underplay anything.
  • Let there be silence. If you’ve finished what you’re saying and you’re done, wait for someone else to say something.
  • If you want credit, give credit first. Generosity is, in my experience, contagious. So if you want to get credit for contributing something to a project, start out by talking about how awesome your collaborators have been on the project. This gets people thinking about credit in a generous way, and it also gives you authority for bestowing it as the first person who brought it up. Note this is different from what I see lots of people do, namely not mentioning credit themselves and waiting passively for someone else to raise it (and to share it).
  • Ignore titles and hierarchy. Those things are silly. You can talk to anyone at any time if you have a good idea.
  • If you want feedback, give feedback. This includes to your boss (see previous tip). If you want to find out how you stand with someone, the best thing to do is to tell someone else how they stand with you. People love hearing about themselves. This works best when you can say something nice, but it also works when it’s a difficult conversation.
  • Define your narrative. When your standing is in question, put out your version of the story first, for a couple of reasons – one is that you define the scope of the question, and the other is that your narrative is now the standard, and any one refuting it has to refute it.
  • When you’re in a meeting and want to bring your point across in a room full of alpha males, think about defending or arguing for an idea, rather than for yourself. It helps with gaining confidence in your argument.
  • Of course it also helps if your argument is water-tight, so practice making your points in your mind, and write them down beforehand if that helps.
  • Develop a thick skin. When you say what you think first, there are plenty of people who might take offense and jump on you and be vicious. Sometimes it’s just a show of power. Keep an observer’s eye on that kind of reaction, and don’t take it personally, because it’s almost never about you really, it’s maybe about their relationship with their mom or something.
  • At the same time, what’s cool about putting yourself out there is that people react and often point out how your thinking is flawed or lazy and you get to learn really, really quickly. Learning is the best part!
Categories: rant, women in math
  1. June 16, 2012 at 8:27 am | #1

    Well, I find that consistent with this blog ;-)

  2. Jay
    June 16, 2012 at 11:00 am | #2

    Lots of what I love about you is in this post.

    • joelibacsi
      July 7, 2012 at 10:36 am | #3

      I agree!

  3. June 16, 2012 at 2:13 pm | #4

    On giving credit: If you are talking about a team project, absolutely talk about how awesome your collaborators are, but don’t just talk about what ‘we’ (or even worse, ‘they’) did. Mention some things that *you* did, so people know you were crucial to the success of the project. Coming from academia, and doing lots of industry interviews, this was a major lesson for me to learn.

  4. June 16, 2012 at 3:43 pm | #5

    Check out your digit ratio (length of index finger divided by length of ring finger, from crease to tip). 2D:4D average for females is 0.965 (SD 0.029). More info at Wikipedia — “Digit ratio.” If you would, please report back.

    • June 16, 2012 at 4:21 pm | #6

      ha! I know about that stuff. I am in every way an alpha – I have a crazy short pointing finger and a long ring finger. So yes, my entire personality was defined by the chemicals in my mother’s womb.

      • June 16, 2012 at 6:50 pm | #7

        Thanks for your reply. I copied the wrong SD. It should be 0.026. The absolute level of the numbers should not be taken religiously. Researchers use different methods of measurement and there are ethnic differences which are not well defined. BTW, do not laud (or blame) your mom. The fetus produces its sex hormones all by itself!

  5. June 16, 2012 at 4:41 pm | #8

    I’ve never met you, but following this blog and experiencing your no-holds-barred style of thinking, judging, and critiquing, I can definitely see why many people would “fear” you. But I don’t read this blog to get a warm fuzzy feeling; I read it for hard-hitting analysis and honest opinions. That said, some people are not up for that all the time.

  6. Leila Schneps
    June 16, 2012 at 5:19 pm | #9

    I never found you scary at all. You were exciting. I remember you teaching the students about p-adic numbers: first you said that how many times the prime p divided a number was called the p-ness of the number (it took me several minutes to figure out why this was funny), and then you launched into a big diatribe about how great it was to have big p-ness because you got to be near zero and that was really glorious like being near God. It was really one of the most exciting math lectures I ever heard, and I can’t imagine anyone forgetting things taught that way.

    I just measured my 2D:4D ratio and got 0.947, which may explain why I absolutely never felt that you were going to take my toy away and break it (!!) I felt that we shared our toys. Maybe alpha females manage this together better than alpha males?

    • JSE
      June 16, 2012 at 10:54 pm | #10

      I can’t believe Leila left out the funniest part of the story, which was when Mira Bernstein finally broke in to suggest that Cathy changer her notation and Cathy said “OK, from now on we denote p by a.”

  7. Bertie
    June 16, 2012 at 8:05 pm | #11

    Another cool post, I wonder though whether there is a logical flaw somewhere in the following statement!
    “I had to admit to myself that I am nice, but only to people who I think are nice themselves”

    • suevanhattum
      June 17, 2012 at 12:47 pm | #12

      Logical flaw or not, I’d describe myself that way (“nice, but only to people who I think are nice themselves”). Except maybe I’d add that people are innocent until proven guilty in my mind. ie I’m nice (by my definition) to everyone, until they do something I think is inexcusable, and then I’ve written them off, and mainly try to avoid them.

      I wouldn’t have called myself alpha, because I don’t like confrontations. But I’m assertive and powerful. I’ve long thought an interesting study would be of powerful women. I used to think I clashed with powerful women more than powerful men, and why was that? It might have shifted by now.

      I’m interested in the different leadership styles women and men take on. When I’m leading, I’m also interested in following those who are following me. (Following blogs is a good metaphor for this.) I think it’s much more one-way for many leaders.

  8. June 17, 2012 at 12:32 pm | #13

    A friend who follows your blog recommended this post to me. Very interesting — thank you for sharing your summary! I would like to ask your opinion about the topic that immediately came to my mind – upon reading the part that bothered you most, about calling bullshit vs. being nice.

    What do you think about consent in communications?

    I love sharp arguments, and I love improving ideas by analysis. However, not everybody wants that done to their content at all times.

    My personal rule is to only engage in consensual relations, including conversations. Basically, I try my best to obtain people’s informed consent about what I am doing to/with them. In information spaces, talking = doing.

    I wanted to share this with you as another example for your collection of what “not simply nice” can mean, and to ask your opinion.

    • June 24, 2012 at 6:50 am | #14

      How do you ask for someone’s consent in that situation? I think the words you use are important.

      • June 29, 2012 at 6:50 am | #15

        Cathy, ensuring consent is a complex task. Most people live in incredibly coercive situations, so they aren’t very good at recognizing their own state of coercion. For example, most schoolchildren can’t control their bodies at all (can’t stretch or otherwise change poses, can’t eat or drink when they want, can’t use the bathroom when they want, etc.) Years of such training – and the corporate world may not be any better – lead to direct questions about consent being all but useless.

        Still, there are a lot of things we can still do. For example, I usually warn people what sort of discourse is about to follow, such as: “I have an observation about this detail of what you say” or “I want to use an analogy to analyze this point you made.” It gives people time to prepare for what’s coming, or to outright say “NO” – “Let us not discuss this point any further” or “I hate analogies.”

        If the person expresses distress in any way, it may be a good idea to address that directly. This is one of useful parts of the whole “active listening” thing. For example, just this morning I was explaining the idea of complexity to someone, in an economic context, and the person said something about it being “murky.” I acknowledged that the idea is quite challenging conceptually (that was what the person was really complaining about!) and provided a bit more background to help with her issue. The old “acknowledge, apologize, act” thing, and I did not even need to apologize, because the distress was just starting. Catch it early, I say.

        Besides these little tools, I have some playful, high-order metaphors about consent that work well for me. For example, the gamer term “PvP” (player versus player) is when you raise a flag and attack others (and can be attacked). As a gamer, I recognize “the PvP state of mind” as an archetype, in myself and others. It’s okay in games and in some other situations, such as debates, but it has to be very consensual and clear. Everybody must raise the flag and be prepared.

        Another high-order image is simply love. My rule of thumb is not to talk with people I don’t love AT THE MOMENT. This last qualification is important, because it may happen so that I can’t muster any love, this very second, to a dear friend or a close family member, let alone a stranger… This usually leads to loss of consent in communication!

  9. majordomo
    June 17, 2012 at 4:58 pm | #16

    Anyone who wants to see video-evidence of Cathy’s alpha-femaleness in action should go to youtube and check out her presentation and interview at Strata Jumpstart 2011:

    Within the first minute of what was to be a 37 minute presentation, she had dropped the S-bomb. Awesome ! Didn’t even apologize, just plowed on like nothing happened. Speak of raw confidence. However, I wouldn’t have known you’re an alpha-female from reading your blog. You often base your arguments on passion and “touchy-feeliness” rather than logic, which reveals your weak, vulnerable side.

  10. Bobito
    June 18, 2012 at 4:13 am | #17

    I met you from a distance when you were in grad school and I was an undergrad, and I knew this about you.

  11. Bobito
    June 18, 2012 at 4:24 am | #18

    I also thought about modifying your post to “On being an alpha male”. Here’s a try:

    1. When you’re asked to describe your accomplishments, talk about them with pride and enthusiasm, as if no one else has ever had an idea, the way you wish your acquaintances would talk about you.
    2. Do not let there be silence. If no one else, or a woman, is talking, say something.
    3. If you want credit, take credit. Generosity is weakness. So if you want to get credit for contributing something to a project, start out by talking about how important your ideas were to getting the collaboration started. This gets people thinking about credit in a generous way, and it also gives you authority as the first person who brought it up. Note this is different from what I see lots of people do, namely not mentioning credit themselves and waiting passively for someone else to raise it (and to share it).
    4. Learn to acquire titles and move up the hierarchy.
    5. Give the feedback other people need to hear from you. People love hearing about your accomplishments.
    6. Define your narrative. When your standing is in question, put out your version of the story first, for a couple of reasons – one is that you define the scope of the question, and the other is that your narrative is now the standard, and any one refuting it has to refute it.
    7. When you’re in a meeting and want to bring your point across in a room full of alpha males, speak more loudly and more assertively.
    8. You can sell any bunk if you sound like you believe it, so practice making your points in your mind, and write them down beforehand if that helps.
    9. Develop a thick skin. Take comfort in the fact that you are always right. When you say what you think first, there are plenty of people who might take offense and whine. They are usually just malcontents. Keep an observer’s eye on that kind of reaction, and remember it, to punish it later. Don’t let any disrespect go unpunished.
    10. Other people have a lot to learn from you. What’s cool about putting yourself out there is that people react and often point out how their own thinking is flawed or lazy and you get all the credit.

  12. ToNYC
    June 18, 2012 at 9:06 am | #20

    Please lose the I,I,I,I,I and be the mission you are thinking through. You can get over yourself because very few care and then, not for the reasons you think.

  13. Jan Smith
    June 18, 2012 at 2:23 pm | #21

    Interesting. My wife sent this to me… for some reason… and she’s got a point. I dislike “nice” as being a way of saying, “women should undermine themselves at all times and if you’re too direct that isn’t ‘nice.’” Too often I’ve been told I could be “nicer” when I am making a serious point. I’d say – I extend respect until I find that I am not respected. Benefit of the doubt, but not to doormat extremes.

    • June 24, 2012 at 6:52 am | #22

      Yes it’s true, I hadn’t really thought through “nice” and whether I’d actually *want* to be nice. But I certainly don’t want to be a bully.

  14. GirlGeekNYC
    June 27, 2012 at 10:12 pm | #23

    I just discovered your blog, and I love it!

    One thing about this particular post: this is, word-for-word, the same experience that I had at work.
    _____________________________
    What happened was, one day at work my boss mentioned that he and everyone else is afraid of me. I looked around and realized he was pretty much right (there are exceptions).

    I went home to my husband and mentioned how weird it was that people at work are afraid of me, and he said, “No, it’s not weird at all. Don’t you realize that you’re constantly giving people the impression that you’re about to take away their toy and break it??”. No, I hadn’t realized that – and that sounds pretty awful! Am I really that mean? Then he told me I was an alpha male living in a woman’s body.

    If you google “alpha male in a woman’s body,” (without the quotes) which I did, you come upon the phrase “alpha female” pretty quickly.

    It came as a surprise to me – I’d always thought I am nice. But it wasn’t a surprise to anyone else; in fact when I mentioned my realization to my close friends, each and every one of them laughed out loud that I hadn’t known this about myself. One of my friends told me it was less that I was about breaking toys and more about how I call out people’s bullshit, which is something I have to admit I relish doing.

    Upon further reflection I had to admit to myself that I am nice, but only to people who I think are nice themselves. So I guess that means I’m not just simply nice. And if I enjoy calling people on their bullshit, that’s not exactly nice either.
    _____________________________

    However, beyond this point of your post my experience and insight did not mirror yours. Instead, I had a hard time gaining comfort with and harnessing my alpha female attributes in the context of my work environment, I was one of about three women in a completely male dominated engineering department at a male dominated tech company. I have since left the company. In any event, your insight following this part of your post is EXTREMELY valuable, and contains many character attributes that I feel like I have lost touch with over the years – so many many thanks for the post. More importantly, its refreshing to hear that other women, particularly in technology and science, have had similar experiences.

  15. mathchique
    June 28, 2012 at 7:22 pm | #25

    Thanks Cathy, for commenting on this issue. I’ve been discussing the idea of Alpha Person, with my friends and colleagues, for quite awhile now so a math colleague sent me a link to this post. The idea of the “Alpha” perfectly ties in with, “the tail shalt not wag the dog” (in reference to children and students in the classroom). I also think it is amusing that my screen name is so similar to your blog name.
    MathChique

  16. July 1, 2012 at 2:03 pm | #26

    Loved this post Cathy! it is so you, and I am so happy that you are setting an example for all the alpha females out there. Especially growing up in a world where we are taught to be subtle and soft to be perceived as “feminine”. Love this! Congrats :)

  17. July 1, 2012 at 2:40 pm | #27

    As an alpha female, I have to say I love reading about this kind of like one loves looking in the mirror sometimes. I of course met you the day you wore a shirt that said Alpha Female :-) so I knew instantly. What’s new/different about what you’re saying though is about the idea that women can “try” this on and use it as the situation might require. I’ve always been very careful to tread down this path because women in the generation before me (and even in my early career I saw traces) were subjected to “assertiveness” trainings in corporate that essentially boiled down to teaching women how to be, dress, and in all ways BE like men. One can only hope that someone got sued. Needless to say, that culture is there still, but I think the implicit lunacy of that tactic has more or less been acknowledged, so it’s there is more subtle ways.

    You’re not saying be a man though, you’re saying you’re a woman and this is not about being a woman who acts like a man but rather you’re embracing what comes naturally to you (it happens to be a vocabulary and demeanor that our society favors, though less so when it comes from women where the same attributes are often looked at as unseemly or ‘unattractive’ or my favorite, ‘unlady-like’)…and you’re taking it one step further and saying, here’s how you can learn some of these things that come naturally to me and they might help you as you navigate the world. Looking outward, I see how that makes sense.

    Looking inward is another story, because I have to admit that we alpha females, at least if you’re anything like me, tend to benefit from learning exactly the reverse…to occasionally allow ourselves to inject a dose of estrogen into our lives because some of us have forgotten or maybe never developed those skills. My staff reviews always read like the kind of thing you’d give an army general. In hindsight I see that like you, my staff were also all probably pretty well afraid of me, though they did respect me and my intellect on some level. Bottom line, I think it goes both ways, we stand to teach something because our skills can, in certain situations, help us…and likewise, for our own health, and the health of our relationships, many of “us” stand to gain a lot from the more empathetic, collaborative and sensitive side of the room. It would be awesome to see a non-alpha’s version of your post, telling us how we can try out their skills for size (ideally a powerful one that has used it to her benefit and found the benefits of using her spectrum of skills) :-) The reality is we all have both inside, some of us just REALLY lean in one way, ha.

    Most importantly though, we definitely need to get over the arcane idea that “touchy-feeliness” is weak, especially since being vulnerable is about the most brave thing a person can do. I know, because like you, I’ve spent a lifetime looking brave and acting competent and in control…and the thought of ever allowing myself to appear otherwise is simply unimaginable.

  18. Euro Ninila
    July 2, 2012 at 2:06 pm | #28

    I can relate to this totally, at my previous job I had a lot of people scared of me and I didn’t realize until I found out one of the assistant managers who had a higher position was even intimidated by me! (His girlfriend told me, LOL!) And then it hit me, I am pretty blunt about things and I did want things done a certain way at my job, and I was straight to the point about everything in a “as nice as can possibly be” way, or so I thought. But I think it’s a great thing, especially if you realize it, then you can stop yourself if you feel you are being “too much” at times.

  19. TSeral
    July 8, 2012 at 5:03 am | #29

    Thanks a lot for this post. You mention a lot of things I realized about myself a little while ago – mostly in a painful way, because I would actually LIKE to be nice. But usually, my goals and ideas are more important, so I suppose it’s alright.
    The thing I am wondering about right now, is what kind of partner I should whish for. What partner do alpha-females have? Someone nice and ‘soft’, or an alpha-male?

    • Monique
      January 8, 2013 at 4:45 am | #30

      I have come to the realization that I am an alpha female because I clash with alpha males. Its a natural thing. Dont go for the alpha males, go for all the other men, Works perfect!!!

  20. September 28, 2012 at 8:07 am | #31

    i love this! i’ve recently come to a similar realization myself. i have a natual tendancy toward this in my personal life and am slowly building it into my professional life (i work in a field where many of my co-workers have 20+ years of experience and i’m pretty fresh of the presses). awesome.

  21. passerby
    November 16, 2012 at 12:58 am | #32

    Another data point.

    I knew you casually from grad school days. We were not close in any way, but certainly had any number of short conversations, friends in common, and opportunities to observe each others’ behavior over a period of years. I would never have used the words “alpha female” to describe what I saw, and would have used the word “nice”. It was clear that you were more direct and more verbally intense than most females and many males in that environment, but it did not come off as obnoxious, commanding, dominant, or in any way unpleasant. As it turns out, I too am probably an alpha (male), with a high tolerance for aggression, so might have been too thick skinned or obtuse to be a good indicator of what an observer more attuned to social norms would have perceived.

    Like you, I thought of myself as nice for most of life. But I was only comfortable socially around very strong personalities and conversational settings where aggressive back and forth is easily tolerated (e.g., NOT upper crust academia!). I was externally informed of alpha tendencies eventually, which was surprising and quite explanatory but also undesired. These days I consciously modulate how I speak or act compared to the inner aggressive tendencies to shout down bullshit, speak in the imperative, offer unsolicited advice, and assert opinions. A sort of mellowing out with age, or belated socialization. Not that it is a difficult thing to do given explicit awareness, but there is always some balancing between keeping the positive elements — such as transparently nonsense-free communication interspersed with standup comedy and outrageous not-widely-shared opinions — and not distancing others.

    Interesting blog, by the way.

  22. December 5, 2012 at 10:50 am | #33

    I wish I had read this before I saw you over Thanksgiving! You’re totally an alpha female. It just means you are immune to the societal expectations of women to be passive/passive-aggressive. You also get things done and that scares the hell out of people who don’t!

  23. nor
    January 5, 2013 at 6:46 am | #35

    I just found out that I am an alpha female……it explains a lot that has happened in my life. Thank you for sharing. I enjoyed your article very much.

  24. Monique
    January 8, 2013 at 4:42 am | #36

    I was looking on the internet for information on alpha female and stumbled upon your blog. I have recently come to the realisation that I am an alpha female. I could have writting your piece; it’s a description of me. Wonderful! Glad to hear there are more women like me. xx

  25. anon
    January 23, 2013 at 6:34 pm | #37

    Unfortunately my boss is the complete opposite to the alpha female, she’s afraid of several people in the office, some people lower in the organisation chain than her and some on her own team. She struggles with strong personalities and finds herself easily bullied by them. I’ve started monitoring her and unfortunately she just appears very weak. She’ll quite often go with the flow rather than risk conflict. My last boss was not the complete alpha female she certainly wasn’t afraid of anyone and she respected you once you respected her. My team was recently involved in some work and done it to the spec required however some flaws were discovered and my team was getting a portion of the blame unfairly. My colleague in frustration was saying to me why does she just sit back and take it. There’s a real danger that she could find as people on my team get promoted she’ll get bullied perhaps by other teams too, unless she does something about the weak aura she gives off.

  26. Eric
    April 20, 2013 at 2:15 am | #38

    Funny thing is, I brought this up to a woman once… not one I was dating or anything, we were just friends and she was having problems socially with people, always arguing with guys and wondering why people would do things like block her facebook page then request to be friends again a few days later. I studied this subject in psychology class in college and I knew immediately what was happening, she was a misunderstood alpha female who was also misunderstanding all the males around her. So I brought it up to her and I asked her to read an article on it and tell me if she felt it applied to her. It obviously did, whats funny tho is now she’s mad at me?? I don’t get that, but ohh well… just another misunderstanding I suppose. You tryn help people these days… jeeesh

    • April 20, 2013 at 6:27 am | #39

      I don’t understand why “people would do things like block her facebook page then request to be friends again a few days later” because she was an alpha female. That doesn’t happen to me!

  27. ewww
    May 4, 2013 at 7:19 pm | #40

    Alpha females are supposed to be pretty..
    just saying .

  28. Paul Sintetos
    June 27, 2013 at 2:38 am | #41

    When you said alpha, I thought you meant what it tends to mean to me in the male world: blind arrogance. But your tips to me sound more like no-nonsense survival skills. I shy away from encouraging people to be indiscriminately assertive, since I see such behaviour as often destructive, but I think intellectual women and men alike do well to follow your example.

  29. sheela
    August 6, 2013 at 2:11 am | #42

    I’m still accepting my alpha femaleness. Sometimes it feels like a burden. Being different. I never asked for this, I believe I was born this way. I really am somewhat masculine, but I look like a very feminine woman. I think like a man. It works to my advantage sometimes but also causes me to make enemies. And I suck at relationships. The only men I can truly submit to are alphas. I would like to meet and be with my equal.

  30. August 26, 2013 at 3:28 pm | #43

    Ladies (and gents) I am coming to this party late!! but I love the topic (being an alpha and publishing a emag for “alpha women” so of course I would!)

    Here’s my questions though … where do we as alpha women congregate? (what drives our need to be such loners) and is there a difference between the term “alpha” and “alphanista”? I have used both but as I “mellow” in age and experience I seem to be morphing from an alpha to an alphanista… (or so I am told)

  31. Laurie
    November 17, 2013 at 9:17 am | #44

    Before I had never contemplated the idea of being an “alpha female”, but this would certainly explain why most of the men I work with are afraid of me.

  32. Lucy
    January 21, 2014 at 4:25 pm | #45

    I googled “alpha female” and came across this post. In reading the article and the comments, I was reminded of a friend of mine who has a business where he walks large numbers of dogs (sometimes up to 25). The dogs always look completely content and happily trot along in a large pack– all different sizes, shapes, ages, etc. Then they all lay down together at the same time for their breaks, and my friend goes around and gives water to each of them. I asked him, at one point, if he demonstrates to the dogs that he is the “alpha” in the pack. His answer was very interesting. He said that he treats them all as “alpha dogs”, and he is more so the leader of the alphas. Basically, he has high expectations and respect for all of the dogs, and in turn, they have allegiance to and respect for him. I feel that this is the best way to lead. Simply being an “alpha” male or female is one thing– however, in terms of what is the strongest form of being and or leading– one can transcend the hierarchy and have an egalitarian respect for all. I would simply like to make a distinction between what is a “leader” or, for example, a “visionary”, and what is an “alpha” individual. Because I don’t think that they are the same thing. I also believe it is more effective and honorable to be a good leader than to be in an “alpha” role. One can be at the bottom of a hierarchy and be a leader.

  33. Lucy
    January 21, 2014 at 4:30 pm | #46

    I also feel that the truest expression/evolution of being an “alpha” is transcendence into being so comfortable with one’s strengths/capabilities that “power” or being right even matter. I have seen this transition in my own style of being. My natural tendency strongly leads towards being an “alpha”, yet, I’ve found, the only way to transcend out of that position into a position of true strength and peace, is to submit to the whole, in a sense (which in turn has brought more impact and influence on others).

  34. Lucy
    January 21, 2014 at 5:03 pm | #47

    or being right *don’t* even matter.

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