From fictional characters to IRL-powerhouses, women in television are inarguably playing their most powerful roles yet. Just as the quality of television has skyrocketed, so has its representation of women. Gender inequality in the entertainment industry has always been accompanied by staggering statistics. (Yes, it’s true that females make up only 7% of directors, 13% of writers, and 20% of producers.) Yet the women below — whether executives, cast members or producers — have all paved the way for a better, brighter television tomorrow. Let’s begin Spoilit’s official list of the 10 Most Powerful Women in Television.
#1 Shonda Rhimes
Oprah might be one of the most powerful people in media generally, but if we are talking TV it is all about Shondaland. Topping our list has to be the TV queen herself, Shonda Rimes. Probably the most worshipped showrunner in history, Rhimes has made nuanced, human, female roles and given them the place they deserve in primetime dramas. While her empire — consisting of shows such as ‘Grey’s Anatomy’, ‘Scandal’, and ‘How to Get Away With Murder’ — is housed at ABC, her influence has undoubtedly spread across all networks. Now, almost all major networks are creating more and more female characters, confined less and less by the usual tired stereotypes and clichés. And it’s all thanks to Shondaland.
#2 Oprah Winfrey
Words could never describe the all-encompassing impact Oprah Winfrey has had on television and media the world over. Suffice it to say her journey from local news to media stardom has opened up a world of opportunities for women in television and, well, everywhere. Her voice is nothing short of make-or-break: from presidential elections to Hollywood, she has the final say.
#3 Tina Fey
In an age when both the NBC network and comedy on TV was floundering, Tina Fey used her SNL-chops to create 30 Rock, save Alec Baldwin’s career (who knew it was possible?) and fight for a woman’s right to comedian-ship. She then went on to create more shows, like Netflix’s latest satire-comedy ‘Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’, and paved the way for a more fluid entertainment industry by transcending the film-vs.-television boundary countless times. If that’s a mouthful, you better plug your ears and start la-la-la-ing — Fey shows no signs of slowing down.
#4 Jessica Lange
At 67-years-old, Jessica Lange’s astounding television presence is making it that much easier for mature actresses to wow us with their talent. The actress’ roles on FX’s ‘American Horror Story’ series share similar themes of aging and loneliness, but are portrayed by the star with all the ferocity and power of a warrior. Word on the street is much of the premise for Season Four’s ‘Freak Show’ was Lange’s idea. We can’t wait to see what she’ll bring to the table next.
#5 Debra Lee
Currently chairman and CEO of BET network, Lee is a powerhouse we would never consider leaving off the list. Most recently, she has been at the forefront of the CENTRIC launch, the first and only network specifically targeted towards Afro-American women.
#6 Nancy Dubuc
As chief-programmer of A&E, Nancy Dubuc’s role in television has been nothing short of influential and, often times, controversial. While some blame Nancy for the ‘trash-television’ trend of recent years, Dubuc’s launching of one of the first ever reality shows, ‘Dog the Bounty Hunter’, changed the television landscape into what it is today. She led the prompt turnaround of once-floundering networks like History and Lifetime, and has already accomplished more before the age of 40 than most will do in a lifetime.
#7 Suzanna Makkos
Next time you’re on the couch, five episodes into your monthly ‘New Girl’ binge, take a moment to send thanks and all-around good vibes to Suzanna Makkos, the powerhouse responsible for FOX’s flagship comedies. From ‘The Mindy Project’ to ‘Bob’s Burgers’, nothing short of comedic perfection is developed on Makkos’ watch.
#8 Geena Davis
If you haven’t seen much of Davis since her Beetlejuice days, never fear — she’s alive and well. Even more impressively, she’s been working hard with the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, a nonprofit that researches media images geared towards girls and looks for improvement in female representation. One of the organization’s studies found that only 17 percent of characters in the current entertainment industry are female. Let’s count our lucky stars that Geena Davis & company are working hard to fix that horrifying statistic.
#9 Megyn Kelly
How did a FOX news anchor make the list? While Megyn fits the bill for FOX News’ unfortunate blond-and-traditionally-pretty standard, Megyn gives the network a rare, fresh breath of intelligence and reason. When she addressed Fortune’s Powerful Women Summit in 2015, she confirmed her mission of fighting gender inequality in the 24-hour news cycle. Here’s hoping she’ll bring more change to Fox, television news, and beyond.
#10 Wendy Williams
Recently overshadowing shows like ‘Ellen’ and ‘Kelly and Michael’ with her ratings, Wendy Williams is the officially the reigning queen of daytime talk shows. The executive producer of her own talk show, she uses her signature shock value to pull in audiences and speak about far more important topics than puppies and hairdos. While she’s known for fueling the fire of celebrity feuds, she’s generally putting her ratings to good work, attracting audiences to the important stories.