Women We Admire: Women on TV

There are so many women in television to celebrate right now.  The media industry, including television, continues to have numerous problems in terms of how it portrays women and minorities and the underrepresentation of women and minorities in leadership positions across the media industry.  However, there are more and more shows driven by women characters and run by women producers.  Women are also pioneering new forms of programming through innovative on-demand streaming services, such as Netflix and Amazon Prime.  We wanted to highlight some of our favorite women who are dominating the small screen right now.tv women

Ellie Kemper

Ellie Kemper played Erin on The Office, and has played supporting roles in films such as Bridesmaids and 21 Jump Street.  While Kemper shined in these roles as a supporting character, she’s now starring in a Netflix original series Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, which was created by Tina Fey and Robert Carlock.  While her show only aired on March 6th, it has already received favorable feedback from critics, and it’s exciting to see more of Ellie Kemper as a lead character.

Jenji Kohan

Jenji Kohan is best known for her work as the creator of Showtime’s Weeds and Netflix’s Orange is the New Black.  Both of these series focused on female lead characters in roles and situations that were not typically portrayed in television.  Jenji Kohan received positive critical feedback for both of these shows, and the shows were nominated for and received several awards.  Orange is the New Black was also praised for its large and diverse cast of female characters, including a trans woman played by Laverne Cox.

Shonda Rhimes

No list about women in television list can be complete without mentioning Shonda Rhimes, who owns the production company ShondaLand.  Shonda Rhimes rules the Thursday night network television drama lineup with Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, and How to Get Away With Murder.  ABC even branded the Thursday night lineup as “Thank God It’s Thursday”.  Rhimes’ shows are particularly valuable to ABC given their high ratings for which network television advertisers pay a premium.  In addition to the economic value Rhimes is contributing to television, she has also delivered some of the most powerful female characters in television, most notably Olivia Pope of Scandal played by Kerry Washington.

Amy Poehler & Tina Fey

You’ve laughed their sketch comedy genius in Saturday Night Live, ridiculous plotlines of sitcom series including Parks & Recreation and 30 Rock, and wry commentary as hosts of the Golden Globe awards.  They have racked up numerous awards and critical acclaim throughout their careers.  They have also teamed up in comedic films, including Mean Girls, and have each written memoirs of their own.  While 2015 is the last time Tina Fey and Amy Poehler hosted the Golden Globe Awards, let’s hope we’re lucky enough to see more television and movies with these two ace comics.

Mindy Kaling

After writing for and playing Kelly Kapoor on The Office, Mindy Kaling pitched her own comedy series The Mindy Project.  Not only does Mindy Kaling write and produce this series, but also stars as the lead character Dr. Mindy Lahiri.  Kaling not only brings a more diverse perspective to network television, a medium in which women of color are regrettably underrepresented, but has also openly participated in the discourse surrounding the unfair and unrealistic standards women in media and entertainment confront.

Jill Soloway

Jill Soloway is the creator and director of Transparent, the Amazon original series that focuses on a family whose patriarch comes out as a transgender woman.  Transparent received an approval rating of 98% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 91 out of 100 rating on Metacritic, and won the Golden Globe award for best television series—musical or comedy.  Most importantly, Soloway ventured into new territory for television in depicting a more inclusive portrayal of the human experience and the fluidity of gender identity.

Tatiana Maslany

Tatiana Maslany plays not one but TWELVE characters on BBC America series Orphan Black.  The show revolves around the main character, Sarah Manning, who discovers she is one of numerous human clones created through a scientific experiment that aims to direct human evolution.  Don’t be put off by the mythology if you aren’t a sci-fi person—Orphan Black is one of the most powerful feminist  television shows and deeply explores issues around personal identity and female autonomy.  Despite that the clones are identical in appearance and genetic material, they could not have more diverse personalities.  Maslany masterfully portrays these twelve different characters who are some of strongest and most powerful female characters on television.

There are so many other women doing amazing things in television.  This list is by no means exhaustive and we would love to hear about the women in television who you most admire.  Feel free to leave a comment or let us know on Facebook.


About cwib blog

Columbia Women in Business (CWIB) is an organization that strives to provide Columbia Business School women with resources and contacts to assist them in their academic, professional, and personal development. CWIB is committed to working with faculty, administrators, alumni and the greater business community to promote the role of and opportunities for women in business.
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