Look out! These hard-charging young gals are the alpha and the omega

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Look out! These hard-charging young gals are the alpha and the omega

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Alpha girls, from left: Lee Hee-yeon of Hanyang University, Choi So-eun of Daeyoung High School, Lee Cheong-hui of Sungkyunkwan University, Jeon Hye-rim from Yonsei University and Jang Yeon-jin of Guil High School. By Kang Jung-hyun

Here come the alpha girls.
What’s an alpha girl?
They are elite girls who excel in all aspects of life, including academia, athletics and leadership. Unlike older generations, they do not feel being a female limits them in any way. Daniel Kindlon, a Harvard professor, was the first to define the term in his book, “Alpha Girls: Understanding the New American Girl and How She is Changing the World,” published in 2006.
Let’s hear from one.
“I have never limited my goals and dreams just because I am a female,” says Lee Chung-hui, 21, a junior at Sungkyunkwan University.
She was the first female president of the university’s cheerleading club, which was established in 1977.
She competed with her male counterparts and was elected president last month.
The current alpha-girl phenomenon is causing visible changes in school environments. The increasing number of alpha girls is opening a new era free of gender discrimination.
The alpha-girls are taking over in academia.
Under new regulations from the Department of Education, schools are banned from evaluating male and female students separately, starting this year. This puts Sunjung High School in a tough spot. Evaluating students on the new scale has elicited complaints from male students and their parents. The main argument is that the evaluation method pulls down the grades of male students. Since 2004, Sunjung High School has evaluated male and female students separately as a means to satisfy disgruntled parents.
“It’s true that female students are striving in academia. With the new regulation, the male students will surely be downgraded in grade rankings,” says Hong Gwan-pyo, principal of the school.
Last month, upon selecting student interns for Korean embassies abroad, Hankuk University of Foreign Studies was surprised by the result.
Only four of the 16 selected students were male. “We evaluated students strictly on their foreign language proficiency and grades. And that was the result,” says a university official.
The notion that “girls fall behind in math and science” has also been put to rest. In the 2005 National Program of Student Assessment, females, on average, scored higher than males on all categories: Korean, social studies, mathematics, science and English. “I have never considered girls less academic in certain fields,” says Park, 19, the top student at the Department of Natural Science of Sungkyungkwan University.
The current Alpha-girl phenomenon can be seen in leadership as well. Student presidents at Guil High School have been girls for six years in a row. “Charismatic female presidents, assisted by male vice-presidents, are becoming a tradition at Guil,” says Chang Yeon-jin, 16, this year’s student president. “Having a female student as president creates a more friendly atmosphere,” she adds.
Said vice-principal Lee Man-dae: “These days, girls voice their opinion better than the boys. They are tougher.”
Alpha girls also do not discriminate ― gender discrimination is simply unheard of.
“In social studies class we learned about gender discrimination. But we debated over whether it even exists or not,” says Ahn A-rong, 17, a student at Sangsan High School.
“In fact, when we talk about gender discrimination, it is the boys who complain about reverse discrimination,” says Ms. Kim, 36, a teacher at a middle school.
Such change in the social atmosphere has changed the alpha girls’ approach to feminism.
“Feminism is based on the sense of being victimized,” says Lee Bo-ram, a Yeongdeok High School student involved in school activities.
“If women demand special treatment for being discriminated against, men should be given privileges for serving in the military,” she adds.
Lee Hee-yeon, 23, a full scholarship student at Hanyang University, has a similar view.
“If women are equally talented, there should no reason for discrimination.
“The privileges feminists ask for only lead to reverse-discrimination,” she said.
Choi So-eun, a 17-year-old student who wants to be a police officer, has shown excellence in taekwondo, and Chun Hye-rim, 21, a student at Yonsei University, is fluent in French and English.
Both are good examples of young alpha girls.
Due to the new trend, female student unions in colleges have lost their function.
In student unions, female students are no longer a minority.
Last month, Yonsei University’s student union debated about abolishing the female student union.
“There is an increasing number of confident, talented females. We may actually have to consider giving privileges for male students,” says Gwak Keum-joo, a psychology professor at Seoul National University.
Kim Ki-ho, a social studies professor at Yonsei University, says it is too early for such discussion.
“Society still needs some more time to turn the alpha girls into alpha women,” he said.


By Han Ae-ran JoongAng Ilbo/ Koo Min-jung Contributing writer [estyle@joongang.co.kr]
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