There aren’t enough female bosses in the world, but one would hope that TV doesn’t have to reflect this trend. Unfortunately, gender bias still exists in the writing room, so there aren’t a plethora of kick-ass women leading companies on TV or the big screen. The female bosses that do exist on-screen appear as either ice queens or weaklings. (Just imagine Sandra Bullock in The Proposal—the boss who needs to find love to learn that she’s a horrible boss.) Of course, this gap in representation of great female bosses reflects the double standard society holds in real life: if a woman exhibits the same leadership qualities as a man, she’s more likely to be labeled as cruel or unfair.
However, there are a some gems out there. Women who make us believe that we can follow in their footsteps someday, and become the kinds of bosses this world has been waiting for. After all, finding a mentor is one of the best ways to improve your career. If you don’t currently have one in real life, there’s a handful of fictional ladies you can play “pretend mentor” with. (I just made that game up.) They can’t give you real-world advice, but they can remind you what you’re looking for in a real-life role model.
1. Leslie Knope – Parks & Recreation
Leslie Knope would be a fantastic mentor. Not only would she take you out for waffles all the time, but she’d invest herself in your education. Just look at how she encouraged April to advance from a lowly (and unpromising) intern to the successful career woman she is today. Leslie has surrounded herself with mentors she hasn’t met in person—political leaders such as Margaret Thatcher are in framed photographs around her office—and she can inspire us in the same way.
2. Miranda Bailey – Grey’s Anatomy
Miranda Bailey is the most loving tough-love mentor you could ask for. She’ll give it to you straight when you messed up, but more importantly, she’ll still tell you how you could have done better even when you did something right. Though it may be tough to hear at times, her mentorship is guaranteed to make you the best you could possibly be at your job. And underneath the tough exterior, you know there’s a big heart rooting you on.
3. Pepper Potts – Iron Man
While Pepper Potts begins as just a supporting character and love interest in Iron Man, she grows into so much more. In the films, Gwyneth Paltrow gives her character depth, defiance, and brains. She’s so intelligent, in fact, that Tony Stark makes her CEO of Stark Industries. Somehow, despite Iron Man exploding the entire place on the regular, she still manages to do a fantastic job. She’d definitely be the mentor to come to for damage control. If you think you’ve insulted your boss (or you need some advice on an inter-office romance), she’s your woman.
4. Liz Lemon – 30 Rock
Liz Lemon may be disorganized, but she’s passionate, and at the very least meetings with her would never fail to entertain. She’s already given the world her advice on the importance of night cheese. In all seriousness, Liz loves her job and has a great relationship with her boss, and those are qualities that make for a solid career path.
5. Minerva McGonagall – Harry Potter
Professor McGonagall didn’t become Headmaster McGonagall overnight—it happened because she’s the most defiant, efficient, and intelligent witch around. Besides being able to teach us a spell to get a promotion, McGonagall clearly has some know-how about what it takes to achieve success. Not to mention, she’s had to work with Snape for years, so she’d definitely have great advice on how to deal with co-workers you just can’t stand.
6. M – James Bond
Not much is known about the legendary Bond boss, but if she can manage James Bond, she could certainly whip your career into shape. Especially as played by Judi Dench in the most recent film, M is a fierce female who does what she knows is right and supports those she works with. As a mentor, she would both help you get the resources you need to make it to the next step of your plan, as well as telling you flat-out if something in your plan needs rethinking.
7. Mindy Lahiri – The Mindy Project
In addition to being ridiculously funny, Lahiri would be a great mentor for more practical reasons as well. She has experience with getting a promotion, dealing with male coworkers who underestimate her, and not letting office breakups interfere with her career. She’s also made it clear that she won’t sacrifice her morals just to get a bigger paycheck, so her advice would focus on your general happiness rather than simply a number in your bank account.