Work hard, spend hard: Rise of the alpha female

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The Independent Online

A survey has highlighted the rising number of successful women in Britain - such as Clara Furse, the chief executive of the London Stock Exchange, Karren Brady, the Birmingham City Football Club chief executive, and the actress Kate Beckinsale - and provided an insight into their tastes in fashion and beauty.

It also revealed the number of women earning £100,000 a year or more had grown by 57 per cent in the past decade. Most of these high achievers, aged between 28 and 64, are stylish, and have a "treat yourself" mentality, buying themselves expensive jewellery and watches that previous generations would have received as gifts from their partners. The growth of the alpha female emerged as part of a two-year Vogue magazine survey of the modern British women's fashion tastes and attitudes to life.

Most women admitted to a weakness for shoes - they had an average 16 pairs, five of which were unworn - and had once splashed out on a fashionable item worth £800. But on a day-to-day level, the fashion-conscious female was found to shop at affordable chain stores such as Gap, H&M and Topshop.

The Style Census 2005, which questioned 1,365 glossy magazine readers aged between 20 and 54, found that just over half owned a designer Calvin Klein label although most named Alexander McQueen and Chanel as the most stylish brands.

The research was part of a two-year study, the fifth conducted by the magazine in a decade, into readers' fashion predilections and views on life. Stephen Quinn, publishing director of Vogue who commissioned the survey, said the findings reflected modern women's growth in wealth. "It is a reflection of the increase in affluence among middle and upper-middle class women. There's a lot of high spending going on. Women are becoming much more a part of the mainstream of top executive life," Mr Quinn said.

There had been a huge increase of women shopping in department stores with 100 per cent visiting stores such as Selfridges and Harvey Nichols compared to 69 per cent 10 years ago.

Personal grooming was central to their confidence and most thought they looked five years younger than they were. They were not only health conscious but also environmentally friendly with 69 per cent buying organic food and 81 per cent recycling. A further 39 per cent worked out in the gym two to three times a day. The vast majority did not smoke or take drugs and 37 per cent had been in therapy. Many had a complex about the size of their thighs, the part of the body they would most like to change.

Unlike the alpha females, whose attitudes to fashion were not easily swayed, a quarter of the average woman interviewed were guided by the internet while newspapers, television and posters also had a bearing on their shopping choices.

A Vogue spokeswoman said: "The alpha females are very difficult women to influence in terms of purchasing decision."

Most women sought a work/life balance and wanted to retire by the age of 55. They said they favoured conventional medicine, private education and were open to trying IVF.

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