Flag Bearers Of
Reel Feminism

by Donna Bhansali

Flag Bearers Of Reel Feminism

Have you ever googled the meaning of the word — boss?

If you have, then you would know that all descriptions and meaning indicate a male. Why are the qualities of a leader stereotypically masculine?

Is this purely coincidental or is it systemic sexism that has been overlooked and blissfully ignored for decades?. Why are women leaders considered as mythical creatures that exist in the imagination of a 21st century modern woman?.

Over the years, there has been a substantial shift in the perceptions of women leaders in popular media. Even though woman are still portrayed as the kinder sex with a motivational and participative style of leadership, it is no longer characterized as a weakness or a drawback. Instead, it is these qualities that makes them effective leaders.
Here is a rundown of all the fabulous fictional female leaders who are motivating young girls all around the world through their carefully curated persona.

The Bold Type:

Jacqueline Carlyle who is the editor-in-chief of a fashion magazine is the stark opposite of Miranda Priestly (The Devil Wears Prada). Priestly is an excellence driven, task-oriented leader. Depicted as an autocratic leader who uses threat and harshness to get compliance from her writers, she is feared by her employees.

Contrary to this, Carlyle uses a supportive style of leadership, motivating and empowering her writers to give their best. She encourages her writers to explore excruciating topics and , celebrating their victories. Carlyle can be best described as a transformational leader, who created a progressive vision for her magazine.
She’s goal oriented, tough, yet deeply concerned about her writers. She gives enough time to mentor and train her writers and co-create with them. The show also exhibits glimpses of other female bosses like Lauren who is portrayed as an intimidating, brash corporate lady but is still seen helping her assistant achieve her dream job. The show tackles serious issues related to racism, white privilege faced by working women skillfully.

The show with its affable work environment is a prime example of “women lifting women” and a dream place to work at.

How To Get Away With Murder:

An esteemed criminal law professor, Annalise Keating, is next in our scrutiny. Keating is creative, smart, passionate and in one word — Brilliant. However, her pattern of leadership is different, she’s often seen using a directive style. She usually makes her decisions unilaterally and orders her associates and students alike. Keating has competently compartmentalized her tragic personal life from her thriving professional life. Keating’s character undergoes numerous arcs throughout the seasons from having an impeccable life with the best clothes, supportive husband, and big house, to dealing with addictions and criminality. Trying to find control in the chaos, she seeks refuge in alcoholism. Regardless of her struggles, she proves to be a charismatic leader.
The show has created a very pragmatic portrayal of Black women who are working at high ranks and the harsh reality they deal with.


This is another legal drama with drastically different undertones than the previous. Here, you can see multiple leadership styles adopted by different partners of the firm,- Jessica Pearson, Harvey Specter, Louis Litt,. but we’ll be specially focusing on Jessica Pearson. She adopts a goal-oriented directive approach and expects loyalty and truth from her lawyers. She displays a high level of social and emotional intelligence. She’s a powerful dynamic leader who is assertive and is strategic in her moves.

Mentoring comes naturally to Pearson, she considers Harvey her protegee and has an open door policy wherein anyone can consult her. She constantly motivates and goes to extreme extents to preserve her firm and ensure that it remains the best in town. Working her way from the bottom, Pearson has developed invaluable insight about the nuances of her field. Suits not only tells us what an ideal leader looks like but also asserts the qualities of a good employee through Donna Paulsen. Paulsen displays integrity and loyalty towards the firm. She always does her research before approaching an issue and is quick-witted.

Looking at these shows, we realize that there isn’t one successful strategy of becoming a good leader. These empowering women are quite dynamic in their leadership styles, tailoring and adapting based on the demands of the situation and needs of their employees.

All of them have qualities of a transformational leader, as they focus on inspiring and creating an optimal work environment that allows the employees to reach their full potential. Even though there is a fine line between considerate and complacent, these women show us that women can be patient, polite yet professionally acclaimed.
Clearly, these shows have successfully de-stigmatized the notions of female leaders, but there’s still a lot for them to learn and incorporate. We as future leaders need to move beyond the inherent categorization and negative stereotyping based on gender, caste and race. These shows are the first step in exposing and progressively eliminating stereotypes, facilitating a positive work culture centered around gender equality.

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