Yesterday was International Women’s Day, the annual event which celebrates the achievements of women and continues to lobby for gender parity. Millions of people – male and female – took to social media to support the 2022 theme, #BreakTheBias, by posing with their “arms crossed to show commitment to calling out bias, smashing stereotypes, breaking inequality and rejecting discrimination.”
Today, it is back to business as usual as women struggle to be seen, heard and accorded the same level of respect as their male counterparts. The experience of women is in sharp contrast to that of some females species in the animal kingdom who call the shots and celebrate “women’s day”, every day. Experts have observed that females lead in seven species: elephants, hyenas, spotted hyenas, lions, orcas (killer whales), lemurs and bonobos. We examined how three of these species dominate:
An elephant family is led by the oldest, biggest and most experienced female and the herd consists of females who are related to one another. The matriarch is responsible for deciding where the herd feeds, especially in times of drought when experience comes in handy; for settling disputes within the family; and, defending the herd from external threats.
Male elephants are kicked out of the herds when they reach maturity between the ages of 9 and 18 years and form loose and often unstable ties with other bachelors. They often lead a lonely and solitary life.
The female spotted hyena is the original alpha female. The females have a large amount of testosterone and are larger and stronger than male hyenas. Their elongated clitoris is sometimes mistaken for a penis, showing that females can and do win BSD contests. They take charge when hunting and in battle while raising their cubs as single mothers when the subservient males eventually leave the clan. Spotted hyenas are highly intelligent, skilled hunters and fiercely loyal to their clan showing that matrilineal species led by females thrive.
The Lion King has led the world believe that the males dominate the pride. However it is the lioness who is the power behind the scenes. Most prides consists mainly of female lions and a few males who are good for procreation and providing security from other lions. Otherwise female lions take the lead in hunting and taking care of their cubs.
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