I recently watched my favourite chat show host, Graham Norton, grapple with five of the eight strong female leads in the new Ocean’s 8 movie now on release in the UK from today. It was a valiant effort on Graham’s part and I am not sure that a straight male equivalent could have dealt with the egos and the oestrogen in quite the same way.
Whilst I totally applaud the prominence and success of these women, it also demonstrated that members of my fairer sex are every bit as competitive and ambitious as their male counterparts, indeed maybe more so. Could you imagine a board room full of such strong opinionated alpha women?
Back in 2015 I wrote an article for the Guardian entitled Has the Alpha Female Grown a Heart. I explored what it means for women to take the leading roles in business and the price we pay in respect of image, family life and achieving our goals. Despite my hopes at the time, the landscape for women’s leadership is still littered with unconscious bias, sexism, racism, ageism and more. The abuse and misogyny that accompanies our rise up the ranks, belies the reality that women are truly brave, powerful and often very funny.
Putting the Ocean’s 8 spin on this, women demonstrate many different kinds of leadership styles from dictators to collaborators and the film’s star-studded cast reflects this variety. Why then is is so surprising then that when women work together they are every bit as noisy, egotistical and competitive as men when it comes to the high stakes.
We have to accept that there will always be extremes of behaviour in response to change before it becomes ‘normal’. There are some big male power players on the world stage at the moment and what we need are more women’s voices to balance things out.
Women are competitive within their circles and we regroup when it appears like the men have ‘won’. As individuals, we fight for the best mate in the hunter gatherer model and in business, politics, media and sport our instincts come to the fore. We want to win!
Hence the ‘curse’. We need more collaboration. This means letting the alpha women take the lead where they are already established, support their leadership and don’t stab them in the back. We will all get an opportunity to reinvent the wheel if we want to, at the moment our priority should be to keep the wheels on and move forward. Humour helps to oil those wheels and women are really good at it! A few more laughs will change the world.
The Graham Norton interview with the cast of Ocean’s 8 had plenty of laughs, maybe more amongst the women themselves than with their host, but when they let him in on the joke that’s when the magic happened. Alpha women, after all, know how to make an impression and are not going to let any man upstage them.
I haven’t seen the film yet but the critics’ knives are already out in force. I’m guessing that with such a powerful female cast it is inevitable that they are looking for weaknesses. God help us if the women turn out to be more bankable than any of the male leads in the Ocean’s franchise.
In the meantime, maybe Ocean’s 8 can break the curse of the alpha woman and pave the way for even more funny, strong and glamorous female role models to be seen on the world stage as well as the big screen.
Ocean’s 8 is now on general release in cinemas throughout the UK.
Listen to me discussing this and more with Abigail Rebecca, host of Present Your Power, on Voice America here.
For more information about our Funny Women workshops and training to build confidence, enhance your presence and develop leadership skills, visit Your Workplace or give me a call on 020 8948 4444.