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The Female Alpha

When most people hear the phrase ‘female alpha’ they think of the most attractive, powerful or domineering woman they know. However, female alphas are not so easily recognizable. They might be beautiful or bossy or authoritative, but this is not what defines them.

The Female Alpha

The easiest way to spot a female alpha is in a room or group of females. You can easily figure out who the alpha is by observing the following female alpha phenomena.

The Female Alpha

1. Alpha females are social conductors; non-alpha females are her orchestra

Next time you are at a party or networking event, try this fascinating experiment: Find a group of three or more females —you do not need to be close enough to hear them, they should just be in your line of sight. Put a five-minute timer on your phone or watch and take note of the direction of the women’s feet. Almost always women point their toes towards the person they are most interested in or who they feel is leading the group’s tempo.  In only five minutes you will be able to see where the majority of the women are pointing their feet. Amazingly, you will notice that most of the women in the group will be pointing towards the same woman–even if they are in a circle and even if that woman is not talking.

2. All females follow the alpha’s social cues

Once you have an inkling of who the female alpha is of the group, move closer (or, if you are a woman, you can even join the circle). You will notice that the entire group is taking ‘social cues’ from the alpha. Women will hold their body like her, they will talk in the same voice tone and other females will even laugh for the same amount of time as the alpha does. By the way female alpha behavior is harder to spot in a group of mixed sexes—males confuse the female attention spans.

3. When the female alpha leaves, a social vacuum is created

Another way you can spot the female alpha of a group is by watching how each group member exits. When non-alpha’s leave the group nothing much happens—conversation continues, the gap closes and group members move-on. However, when THE female alpha (and there can only be one, see below for details) you will see something odd happen. Either conversation stops completely and female members look around expectantly for a new alpha, or the group disperses.

4. There are different degrees of female alpha-ness

Female alpha-hood is not like pregnancy (you are or you aren’t). It is more of a spectrum. Some women have a high tendency to be alpha. They enjoy social conducting, being the leader and/or the center of attention. Some women only like being female alpha’s in their home, but not in the business environment. Some women are only social alphas around certain groups of friends. If you explain the female alpha phenomenon to a woman, she will most likely be able to tell you her ‘degree’ of social alpha-ness. On a ten point scale she might be a seven or a four, for example.

5. There can only be one female alpha per cluster

What happens when there are two female alphas in an office? One word: Disaster. Or, maybe two words: Disaster and Drama. The female alpha with the higher degree of alpha-ness usually takes charge and the second alpha female backs down–well, seethes, plots revenge and then backs down. In social groups most of the female drama comes when there are two alpha females competing to be the social conductor and non-alpha females (or alpha females to a lesser degree) are not sure who to follow.

6. There must be at least one alpha female

Oddly, there must only be one alpha female, but there also has to be AT LEAST one. We have all experienced (whether we knew it or not) a group without an alpha female. Men would describe it as ‘awkward,’ ‘weird,’ or ‘boring.’ This is because in a group of women with very low female alpha tendencies no one is sure how to act, what to talk about or the social pace. Female alphas actually have the very important role of social lubrication.

7. Alpha females are social lubrication and business mediators

We have very little awareness of how important and how much we do in fact rely on female alphas. They bring social ease to a group, they tell jokes, they start conversations, they introduce people, they smooth over business disagreements and take charge. There are many names for them, both good and bad: connectors, chatty, gossipers, queen bees, leaders, bossy, self-centered, the life of the party, social and control freaks.

8. We are groomed to either accept or become female alphas

In the book. “The Female Brain” by Louann Brizendine, she discusses the evolutionary and biological importance for females to get along and keep harmony in a group. From a very young age girls are taught—far more than boys, to share, cooperate and play fair. Girls get very good at reading other’s emotions and adapting to the tone of a group. Female alphas actually make it easier for a group of girls to interact because there is one unspoken leader. This leader sets the tone for the group and allows girls to get along without having a power struggle.

9. Female Alphas are the top of the hierarchy

If I had to put a label on the different most typical female roles in group settings, here are what they would be:

Alphas: Leaders

Betas: Side-kicks or enforcers of alpha leadership.

Nu’s: The exact middle letter of the Greek Alphabet, Nu’s are fillers. They provide conversation, gossip and support for the Alpha.

Zeta’s: The jokester, comic relief, clown, goofball of the group. Most groups have a female jester.

Omega’s: (The last letter of the Greek Alphabet) The victims, the bullied, the weaklings or the “C” in a female troika are always picked on or treated with loving condescension. (See my article on Female Troikas)

Sampi’s: (An obsolete letter of the Greek Alphabet, often forgotten) The Invisibles, the forgotten girls whose quiet or shy demeanor often means they are not included or counted.

It is actually very helpful to know the female alphas in your life—or recognize if you in fact are one yourself. You will find yourself appreciating them in awkward social situations or, if you are a female alpha, avoiding other female alphas who challenge you. Do you know the female alphas in your life?

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All Rights Reserved + COPYRIGHT 2012 Science of People, LLC

About Vanessa Van Edwards

Vanessa Van Edwards is a national best selling author & lead investigator at her human behavior research lab, Science of People. Her groundbreaking book, Captivate: Use Science to Succeed with People was chosen by Apple as one of the most anticipated books of 2017. She writes a monthly Science of Success column for Entrepreneur Magazine and the Huffington Post. As a professional people watcher her unique work has been featured in CNN, USA Today, the Wall Street Journal, Inc, Business Insider and more. Vanessa leads innovative soft skills trainings for Fortune 500 companies including Google, Dove, Facebook, Intel, MillerCoors and American Express.


  1. Pingback: The Body Language of Alphas | Science of People

  2. LDancer

    Wow I not a Female Alpha but I think that they are a BIG HELP with awkwardness and help u to feel good about yourself

  3. Rae

    This article is helpful in identifying my adult daughter as an alpha. There are powerful traits and can be used ethically to be supportive but if not can be destructive. In our family she has dominated by many strategies to control my sons, create attitudes, even hosting my sons 21st birthday party without any discussion with me which has been hurtful. The alpha certainky knows how to work a room a party and other people’s lives. Why the need for this power n control?

    1. Amanda

      She might not be an alpha then. I don’t need the power or control. It just comes to me, given usually. Maybe she is exersizing her alpha tendencies but the big thing for betas to remember is it is just natural for alphas. It just comes to us. It’s not usually forced, and if I don’t have control I don’t feel like I NEED it. I usually just wait and I get it.

    2. Hannah G

      Being a control freak and or wanting and loving to be in control all the time doesn’t make you an alpha female. Personally I think it’s more about being a leader and not needing approval. And in general being dominant.

  4. Joseph Martin

    I am curious if Alpha females also reflect it on body structure, body dynamincs and organic behavior? And if so do they corelate always to Alpha males?? In the spectrum of the Alphaness is it possible for Alphas to be categorized as “Healthy well natured” or “Unhealthy and psycopatic” being a reflection of how connected they are from the original human seed??

    1. Susie Carmichael

      I would imagine that like alpha males, alpha females are very prideful in their appearance. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they all have washboard abs and butts you can bounce pennies on, but I think that’s more along the lines of they always need to look good and well presented.

  5. Zoe Katherine

    What about girls that don’t fit in with other girls, but do with boys? Just out of curiosity? Are they really classed as ‘weaklings’ just for not fitting in? I mean this sounds a little bit strange to me…

    1. Joan Bennett

      Good point. I am an EXTREMELY strong and confident female, but I don’t seem to fit in with anyone, anywhere. I don’t understand what motivates any of my fellow humanoids – they all seem to be a mess. No logic and making decisions that lead to unhappiness in life. I seem to be the only person I know who is actually happy. Everyone else seems to be looking for something – marriage, house, career. They can’t just be and I just don’t get it…

      1. Hannah G

        Personally I’m a naturally dominant person but I prefer to be friends with guys. I don’t think not fitting in with girls makes you a weakling. I usually feal that it’s better to have guy friends because your not dealing with drama and backstabbing all the time.

  6. McTau

    Thanks for the article. I was thinking about alpha and beta hierarchy among women a lot lately. An article on psychologytoday suggested that alpha females are physically attractive, very successful in their career and are dominant when it comes to relationships:

    “Her towering four-inch stilettos march off to the office, the store, the judge’s chambers, and her lacquered-red soles send a “follow me” signal, straight to the bedroom.
    She’s the MD who manages a clinic like a well-oiled machine, […] she may proudly sign her texts “HBIC” (head bitch in charge—an acronym I heard recently from a 17-year-old client of mine headed to the Ivy League who could be the poster child for the new generation).”

    The idea of the decadent, undependant woman being the next generation’s role model is getting on my nerves and pt just lost my respect. Clearly the author expressed a rare phenomenon or a wish rather than reality. Your description of alpha females comes very close to what I’ve witnessed during school and in social environments.

  7. Will

    just goes to show female alphas can’t be real alphas. all the drama and negativity is by nature beta. most things about woman scream beta.

    1. Meg

      I believe I am a “true alpha” and I agree with you, that by nature most things about women scream beta. I also believe that there are varying degrees of alpha. Most of my friends are alpha on some level bc I really don’t have a ton of respect for the classic beta female. I’ve noticed within career and social circles that some women mistake being domineering and controlling as being alpha. I believe that if one feels the need to dominate and be in control of everything, that she’s showing her beta side and insecurities. A true leader or alpha will lead naturally and won’t look for permission or approval of those around her. It would be nice if more of these articles were clear on those points. There is a big misconception by people about what a leader “looks” like.

        1. Angela Bird

          Beta males have a tendency to show aggression towards females and get angry at them when they fail at life, while an alpha male will not lash out.

    2. Sera de Versailles

      Your passive-aggressive (emphasis on “passive” or cowardly) comment reveals you to be a lower beta. Go make me a sandwich.

  8. Ivory Cn

    i do agree with u anonymous.. alpha female does not take care of ‘the pack’, they want to be the most beautiful/attractive/intelligent, sexiest. a lady here.. maybe ‘alpha-ness’ in social circle would be more valid than an alpha female.

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  10. Jessica

    Alpha females exist in all animals and yes in primate hierarchy as well. Wolf packs are often lead by alpha females and so on. It’s interesting that associated with this subject is the social conditioning we’ve all received that women will back down or step aside for a man naturally. That isn’t the case. I’m an alpha female and my husband is an alpha male. We make one hell of a team in business as well as life and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
    Alpha females are subtle sometimes but are existent and I’m proof of that.

  11. Kaylee Stephenson

    I’m an Alpha female. However, to the majority of women I am seen as threat, so the circles I lead are males. Men are extremely submissive to my requests and demands. The only men who truly have a problem with me are Alpha males, but even they are not a challenge to me.

    I am extremely attractive, smart, funny…basically the whole package. I am not intimidated by anyone, nor will I follow anyone. Women hate me, I guess this is because primally speaking I am a threat to their survival, subconsciously they automatically sense me as a threat (even if I’m not) and try to attack me, but all back down quickly.

    When I walk into a room I own everyone’s glances, all eyes are on me. Ironically, I am only attracted to other Alpha males due to them being more challenging.

    The whole reason I am in my current relationship is because he tells me no, and I love it. I love that he doesn’t give into every whim and request. He doesn’t cower in fear of losing me to another, because he’s the total package, the king of the jungle.

    Together we’re a powerhouse, unstoppable.

    1. Kitt McIntyre

      I’m not sure if what you are describing is alpha female characteristics. I think you are more than likely very attractive and know how to use that to your advantage in leading males. Alpha females are not known to be hated or seen as a threat to the women they surround themselves with – it is usually the opposite. Alpha females are the ones the other females turn to, take their cue from, and respect. They are the female that often lead the social direction of the group. It’s not about fear, jealousy, or resentment – it is the female that just by her natural disposition earns the respect and interest of the other females of the group. What you are describing is not close to the same.

    2. Funny Mermaid

      You tell em Kaylee! I’m right there with you! 😀 There’s definitely other females who’ll hate you for your position & try to take you down (some patriarchal male’s too!)

      I just recently found an Alpha male ( finally) who was strong enough to stand beside me. We both love the passion, challenge, strength, etc., we bring out in one another. He spoils me rotten, lift’s me up like a Queen, like a true King will! Yet, won’t bow to my every whim. He loves me to run as my free, wild spirit without restraint!

      We’re both fearless, dynamic, strong, courageous creatures

      I also call us a true, authentic “Powerhouse”!

    3. A Vee

      Yes, I agree with John. I can topple you and everyone in the room, you would be backing way down like all self and other proclaimed Alpha females do with me, actually. I’m probably quite narcissistic too. LOL. My family is just too powerful in their genes on both sides.

  12. Erica Kamens

    I think the notion that there are no female alphas is an absurd one. You’ve never seen a female be naturally dominant and fearless? I see it all the time. Just like how there are non-alpha males, there are alpha females. How stupid of you to make such a baseless claim…

  13. vancouverchic

    Um… you call “foul” then precede to discuss the supposed definition of an Alpha MALE. You are correct that women will never be Alpha MALES lol

  14. Pingback: I Am Told to Be an Alpha Female and Lean in, and I Refuse‏ | Youth Evolution

      1. John

        You’re correct, it does say “inkling” now. At the time I wrote this comment, it said “inclining.” Did you know It’s possible to go back and edit an article? That’s the whole point of pointing out a correction. So that it gets fixed. And indeed it was fixed. I wouldn’t have written this comment otherwise. It doesn’t make my correction any less valid if you can’t see the corrected mistake. How inane.

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  18. Nikki Thornton

    I would describe myself as a female alpha, now. however, I wonder if this is a role that you could grow into? As a child I was quite timid and perhaps a bit awkward! But over the years my confidence has grown exponentially and I find myself being in the role of the female alpha in the home and in my college class. Perhaps this is due to me being a single parent and having to fill both parental roles? I love being the alpha and that people in my class follow my lead but without being forceful 😉 Awesome article as usual!

    1. Hannah G

      As a child I used to be super introverted. I was really shy and preferred other people to take the lead. But after I turned 7 I started slowing becoming an Alpha female also. And currently I’m a naturally dominant and take charge person.

  19. pokolantin

    We are not animals. we are human. so if you compare yourself with some dog!! or penguin or whatever, it’s better to go and live with them. comparing apple with blueberry? looooooool

    1. a friendly reminder

      We are animals. Highly evolved primates. I wish people like you wouldn’t say we arent animals because we are. Look it up we share 98% chimpanzee dna.

  20. Diane Brown

    I do believe there are alpha females, however I believe it is a state of mind, presenting yourself in a positive manner is important in the business world or even in everyday life. You do not need to be physically attractive or wear stiletto heels to be empowered, alpha females are usually nurturing and they are pack leaders, they are the providers of life and teachers through out their lives.

  21. Bobbi

    I don’t have many female friends, and the ones I do have I don’t really hang out with much. How can I tell what I am?

    1. Hannah G

      I’m an high Alpha Female. Personally it depends. It would depend how well the two females could take turns being the leader. But that’s a rarity. I think it would depend how high alpha or how many alpha qualitys each person had. Two really high alphas wouldn’t work out though because there would be a constant power/leader struggle. For example both females would want to take charge so they would fight it out.

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  23. Stephanie Underwood

    I’ve seen the Alpha female in action when I was at a conference with a group of women that didn’t know each other. Everything I knew about the Alpha female flew out the window! There was a woman there that didn’t seem to stand out from the crowd. She was also quiet and reserved. The other women flocked around her hanging on her every word. It struck me as odd because she seemed a little uncomfortable with all the attention. She squirmed a little in her seat and stammered on her words before finally relaxing into conversation. When she left the group all the ladies went their separate ways. What was it about her that attracted so many women? Body language? The experience certainly piqued my curiosity!

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