Friday, September 07, 2007

Alpha Females in the Workplace

Frans de Waal analyzes the Alpha Female in Alpha Females I Have Known. It seems like he's pointing out similarities between ape behavior and politics, but I couldn't help think of the workplace and women. And not just because I've been called an alpha female as he defines one:

It [alpha female] refers to women who are in charge, for example, by flirting and dating on their own terms. It is also used maliciously for a loud-mouthed, controlling woman who has no patience with deviating opinions.

That sounds about right.

De Waal presents a number of observations, all of which seem to fit the modern workplace in the United States:

1. Age helps a female more than a male. Since physical strength and stamina are largely irrelevant in the female hierarchy, getting older, more experienced, and better connected offers females an advantage.

2. Female solidarity is the key to female leadership. Since males respect power better than age and personality, the alpha female must be heading a large coalition to effectively deal with males.

3. An alpha female needs to be able to rise above the parties. This is hard for females. Older female primates often head large families and have a natural tendency to be extremely loyal and committed to every member. This bias may be fine in relation to kin, but if extended to friends and politics, it becomes a problem.

4. While high-status males enjoy great sex appeal, the relation between power and sex is different for females.

Indeed. Read the whole article here.