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10 Female Empowerment Shows You Should Add to Your Queue

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Columbia Barnard chapter.

It’s hard to find a lot of leading women on primetime television — even harder to find women on TV shows that are reflective of the way that real women act and whose main agenda is not to please a man. Oftentimes, when women are written, they are either pushed to the side, fridged, or deemed as too emotional or crazy, leaving most viewers rather unsatisfied. 

However, not all shows relegate women to small roles or write them as two-dimensional people; in many more recent shows, women control the plot. Here are ten female-led shows that will inspire you to take on the world. 

Good Girls Revolt (2016)

Good Girls Revolt is inspired by women who sued Newsweek for equal pay and job opportunities. The show depicts the female researchers of News of the Week who are not allowed to go for higher positions at the company, despite often being more talented and better educated than the male reporters they work for. The show is the build-up to women evenually rising up against their employer to no longer be seen as second-class citizens. Good Girls Revolt fights against sexual discrimination in the work place and inspires women to seek equality on all levels — which sadly remains a struggle to this day.  

Grace and Frankie (2015–)

Grace and Frankie, starring Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, follows the titular characters after their husbands announce that they are leaving their wives for one another. Grace and Frankie, gives insight into women reconciling their differences in order to reconstruct their lives without their husbands. This Netflix original looks at what it means to get a new outlook on life and move on after one believes their world has ended.  

Pose (2018–)

Pose gives a voice to the underrepresented LGBT community in the 1980’s and 90’s ball scene. Blanca, a transgender woman, breaks away from the House of Abundance to begin her own family after finding out she has AIDS. This show portrays the discrimination trans women experience, highlighting the strength and tenacity of women as they face adversity.   

Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madame C.J. Walker (2020)

Self Made is based on the life of Madame C.J. Walker, who was the first recorded self-made female millionaire. It tells the story of Walker as she was the first child in her family not born into slavery. She is orphaned at a young age and must jump through hurdles to find success as she attempts to begin her haircare line for Black women, dealing with racism, sexism, and colorism. Self Made is a true story of overcoming adversity. 

GLOW (2017–)

While Ruth in GLOW must fight to fulfill her dream of being a star in Hollywood, even if it means joining GLOW — the Glorious Women of Wrestling. This show shows Ruth and the other women of GLOW deal with sexism while creating a sisterhood. GLOW is all about chasing one’s dreams and not letting preconceived notions of gender and femininity get in the way. 

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (2017–)

This Amazon smash hit created by Amy Sherman-Palladino follows Midge Maisel as she leaves her husband and starts a career in comedy in an age when mothers were not expected to work. Midge must learn how to be independent and become successful in a male-dominated industry. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel paints a clear picture of a woman beginning to make a life for herself outside of her husband.  

Reign (2013–2017)

Reign is a historical drama about Mary, Queen of Scots, portrayed by Alelaide Kane, as she deals with her role as a female monarch. Mary must fight for the respect of her people, the people of France, and fend off impending attacks from the British, who seek to claim Scotland and her throne. While Reign is highly fictionalized, it still puts into perspective how far women in leadership have come — and how far we still need to go to be viewed the same as men. 

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (2018–)

Everyone loves Netflix’s reboot of the 1990’s series. Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is a darker look on everyone’s favorite witch. Sabrina deals with the institutional sexism of her coven that prevents women from gaining any power or leadership. While juggling both her education at Baxter High and the Academy of Unseen Arts, Sabrina also deals with breaking boundaries for witch-kind and seeking equality. 

Girlboss (2017)

Girlboss is inspired by the life of Sophia Amoruso, the founder of Nasty Gal, and follows her transition from struggling to pay the rent to “Girl Boss.” This show highlights the many challenges young women face in their twenties, especially those trying to be entrepreneurs, from dealing with competitors to balancing a relationship and a budding business. While Girlboss ended prematurely, it still presented a really good picture of the adversities young women face while entering the business world. 

Derry Girls (2018–) 

Derry Girls follows four girls and a boy in Northern Ireland during the Troubles, who struggle with growing up and understanding who they are within their small town. While this may not seem as the typical “empowering show” since the Derry Girls spend the majority of the time lying, joking around, or scheming, its extremely inspiring to watch individuals who are so confident in their differences, especially in such a turbulent time. 

The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (2015–2019) 

The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt tells the story of the titular character, played by Ellie Kemper, who spent the last 15 years locked in a bunker. The show follows her as she takes a hold of her life after gaining her independence with a sense of optimism. Kimmy faces a series of adversities, especially since she missed over a decade of her life, but throughout the series she never gives up on herself or humanity. 

Elizabeth Karpen

Columbia Barnard '22

Lizzie Karpen is 2022 graduate of Barnard College, the most fuego of women’s colleges, who studied Political Science and English with a concentrations in Film and American Literature. To argue with her very unpopular opinions, send her a message at @lizziekarpen on Instagram and Twitter. To read her other work, check out Elizabethkarpen.com.