Every year, TV series creators bring us new career women to admire. Instead of tough, cutthroat caricatures, writers create complex women who thrive in a variety of fields. We watch them navigate boardrooms, courtrooms, and tricky office politics. Through it all, they continually inspire.
Take a look at five of our favorite badass TV career women and all the great reasons to emulate them in real life.
- Samantha Jones (Kim Cattrall) – “Sex and the City”
Even though this show is off the air, Samantha remains a kickass icon we admire. She is a smart, bold woman in the PR industry. Through every episode, and both movies, we see her as a woman full of ambitions and no apologies. She believes in her right to live by the same rules as men—both in the workplace and in the bedroom. Women everywhere admired her success, sexy power suits, uncensored language, and general cougar-y awesomeness.
There’s a scene in “Sex and the City” where Sam tells off sexist hotel tycoon Richard Wright (James Remar), then escapes to the elevator just before her tears fall. No matter how tough you are, there are moments when cruel and unjust people will get to you. What Samantha showed us was how to live through them, shake it off, and land the job anyway.
- Captain Sharon Raydor (Mary McDonnell) – “Major Crimes”
Captain Raydor works for the LAPD, supervising a large squad of officers—most of whom are men. When she leaves work, she takes on the role of mother to adult children, as well as a teen foster son with a troubled past. She’s the empress of multi-tasking, handling a staggering amount of responsibility with wisdom and poise.
Sharon provides a great example of how to use the patience and empathy learned from motherhood and apply it to her work life. This does not prevent her from coldly manipulating violent suspects or efficiently smacking Lieutenant Provenza (G.W. Bailey) down when he gets out of line. Sharon shows that a woman can blend her nurturing side into work without being reduced to a stereotypical “mommy” figure.
- Joan Watson (Lucy Liu) – “Elementary”
Dr. Watson is not squeamish about anything. She can handle creepy criminals, drug addicts, gunshot-wound victims, and sitting on Sherlock’s (Jonny Lee Miller) questionable furniture while wearing chic designer clothes. She maintains a cool and placid demeanor in the most horrifying situations, only letting the emotions out when absolutely necessary.
Joan’s most admirable gift is following her instincts, an asset to her job and life. Her unusual path from surgeon to sober companion led to her current job as consultant detective. She ignored outside doubts and criticism and followed her gut to find her true calling.
- Iris West (Candice Patton) – “The Flash”
Iris is the perfect example of taking initiative and believing in yourself. She capitalizes on the connection she has to a speedy superhero and turns a self-published blog into a fledgling journalism career. The “Picture News” gig isn’t her dream job, but she’s willing to put in the hard work to move up the ranks.
Iris teaches us that persistence pays off. Despite the fact that everyone in her life feels compelled to repeatedly lie to her, Iris pushes hard enough to get to the truth. She never gives up on a story, on friendship, or on love. She might want to give up her totally inappropriate work wardrobe, though.
- Donna Paulsen (Sarah Rafferty) – “Suits”
Donna possesses a pride in her work that is greatly lacking in today’s world. She’s not worried about what her title is or if she’s making a million dollars. If she’s going to be someone’s executive assistant, she’s going to be the best one she can be. The kind of assistant that causes a hot, uber-confident law partner to have panic attacks the moment she leaves his side.
There is a lot of satisfaction in being good at your job. Donna shows us how to be clever, powerful, needed, and respected at work, no matter where you rank in the hierarchy.
These five women not only survive in their work, they thrive. Each one uses her individual strengths to succeed, and they adapt to meet any challenges. Even though these are fictional characters, we can still be motivated and inspired by them and several other leading ladies to make our own careers better.