Let's Go Girls! These 15 Women Are Changing TV as We Know It & We Are So Here for It

Shonda Rhimes, Reese Witherspoon, Sandra Oh and more women changing television right now

By Johnni Macke Mar 07, 2019 11:00 AMTags
Women Changing TV, Reese Witherspoon, Shonda Rhimes, Sandra Oh, Issa Rae, Busy PhilippsGetty Images/E! Illustration

Lucille Ball, Mary Tyler Moore, Oprah Winfrey, Carol Burnett and Barbara Walters. These are all amazing woman who have changed the face of television, but which females are leading the way now?

Reese Witherspoon, Shonda Rhimes, Sandra Oh, Issa Rae, Busy Philipps and Mindy Kaling all come to mind. Over the past decade or so there has been a shift in TV and how we consume it, who is on it, and who is running the show.

There have been a lot of changes including, different races getting leading roles, and we have many people to thank for that, but for now we're focusing on 15 groundbreaking and ceiling-shattering women in the TV industry.

Since tomorrow marks 2019's International Women's Day it seems only fitting that we shine light on some of the actresses, producers, writers and behind-the-scenes creators of some of today's most impressive shows and upcoming series.

These 10 Fierce Females Are Changing the Film Landscape & You Should Know Their Names

International Women's Day, which is on March 8 for those keeping track, is a global day dedicated to celebrating all women's social, economic, cultural and political achievements.

In that spirit we are celebrating some of the women making waves and currently changing the tide in the television landscape, so you can be inspired to take charge in your own profession today, tomorrow and every day in the future.

Women helping women shouldn't just be a thing every now and then, it should be all the time, which is why these women and their push for equal pay, gender inclusivity, more women in the workforce, and diversity among actors and crew are to be commended.

Plus, they are making awesome TV shows that you should totally be watching...like right now!

Check out 15 fierce females moving and shaking up TV right now below, and make sure to take part in this year's International Women's Day campaign theme which is #BalanceForBetter all week long.

Reese Witherspoon

Reese Witherspoon is on a mission to change the narrative for women any way she can...starting with her media brand Hello Sunshine, which does just that by creating and discovering content that celebrates women while bringing them to the forefront of the story. Throughout Witherspoon's career, which has been hugely successful with hits like Legally Blonde, Sweet Home Alabama, Wild and Big Little Lies, she has made a point of making her female characters matter. Now, she's helping other women and their stories be told whether it means creating the show herself, acting in a film that has a female-driven tale or championing other women who are making moves. With television specifically, Witherspoon's Big Little Lies, which is all about women and their bond with one another and complicated lives, Witherspoon is an executive producer alongside co-star Nicole Kidman, beginning a long list of recent accomplishments for the star. Her production company is handling Big Little Lies second season, plus she sold one of the first dramas to be produced by Apple starring herself, Jennifer Aniston and Steve Carell last year. Oh, and she'll be co-starring and co-producing the adaptation of Little Fires Everywhere with Kerry Washington, which has been ordered straight-to-series by Hulu. Need we say more?

Lena Waithe

The actress, producer and screenwriter has already made history, as the first black woman to win an Emmy for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series for her work on Master of None and we have a feeling she's just getting started. The episode she won for was about her own experience coming out as a lesbian, and that's just one of her many queer storylines she's championed to get put on TV. After making history at the Emmys she landed her own series for Showtime called The Chi, which is about to air its second season and the upcoming series Twenties, which has a queer black woman as the lead that was ordered by TBS as a pilot. Oh, and she's working on Amazon's horror anthology series series Them, nbd.

Tanya Saracho

With Vida, Tanya Saracho is changing the TV norm by actually showing stories of people who are often forgotten or overlooked. The Starz series, which makes Saracho the first Latina showrunner in premium cable, is groundbreaking because it not only puts Latin culture on full display, but it also shows the truth about lesbian and queer culture crossed into the Lantina landscape. While working on this series, which Saracho is both the creator and writer on, she has also managed to have an all-Latinx (a gender neutral term for people of Latin descent) crew and Latina directors on all episodes. It is a huge deal and it's a massive step for women and minorities in television as a whole. 

Ellen DeGeneres

Ellen DeGeneres is no stranger to being in the spotlight and making TV her stage. Beginning with her comedy Ellen, which she came out on as gay back in 1997, and continuing with her daytime talk show The Ellen DeGeneres Show, which is now in its 16th season, the comedian is continually open and honest, which is still groundbreaking in today's TV world. While she was the first openly gay talk show host ever, it's her longevity that's currently changing the game. People can't imagine their afternoons without her and that's only really happened with Oprah Winfrey until now. Not only is DeGeneres a TV staple, making it clear that all genders and types of sexuality know they're being heard, it's her current trajectory that has us excited once again. She is still the hilarious talk show host we all love, but in 2017 she began another show, Ellen's Game of Games, which is a big hit. She followed that up by becoming an executive producer on the comedy Splitting Up Together in 2018 and then she went back to her stand-up roots with her Netflix special Relatable.

Sandra Oh

Sandra Oh is having a moment and she deserves it. In addition to being the first actress of Asian descent to earn an Emmys nomination in the Best Actress in a Drama Series category in 2018, she made even more history at the 2019 Golden Globes. Not only did she become the first woman of Asian descent to win multiple Golden Globes—she won for Grey's Anatomy in 2006 and then for Killing Eve in 2019—she co-hosted the award show with Andy Samberg making her the only Asian host ever for the iconic show. With her massive presence during this award season and her past success on Grey's, Oh is proving that women and Asian actors in general are here to stay.

Jenji Kohan

Jenji Kohan likes to stir up a little bit of trouble, make TV her way and above all else, tell the stories of characters that are genuine and real. Her first series (that she created) was Weeds, which was about a pot-dealing suburban mom...need we say more? Next up, Kohan took on women's prison culture and their brash, hardcore and lovable sides in Netflix's Orange Is the New Black. As she works on the end of OITNB, the writer and producer has helped another Netflix series pull in fans and succeed as the executive producer on GLOW, which is about the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling and everything that comes with the female wrestling culture. She is fierce, unique and definitely follows the beat of her own drum and along with her humor, Kohan's proved she has her hand on the pulse on pop culture and can depict all races, genders, and classes accurately. 

Savannah Guthrie & Hoda Kotb

In November 2017, Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb made herstory as they began their roles as co-anchors of NBC's TODAY show morning program. Although Guthrie had been a co-anchor for five years with Matt Lauer, when scandal hit and he was no longer a part of the team, Guthrie got a new co-anchor with TODAY show favorite Kotb, who was best known for her fourth-hour show Kathie Lee & Hoda. Together this pair is the first all-female co-anchor team in TODAY's history, which has been around for more than 60 plus years. Throughout their time as the leads of the news show, they've managed to keep viewership up, cover the chaotic news cycle with poise and grace, go international with Royal Wedding coverage and the Olympics and show that they can handle news, lifestyle and more on the daily. Side note: their 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. time slot is also being run by a woman, Libby Leist, who is the first woman executive producer to handle this portion of the show.

Ellen Pompeo

For more than a decade, Ellen Pompeo has been drawing our attention on Grey's Anatomy as the strong, smart, female lead Dr. Meredith Grey. The show itself has changed the television landscape running for 15 seasons and focusing on diverse characters in Seattle's top hospital. Pompeo however has been making even bigger strides when it comes to gender pay gaps and women standing up for what they believe is right. In January 2018, the actress revealed that she has a $20 million salary in hopes that it would empower women to know their worth and fight for what they've earned and it did just that. Not only did her current TV-deal make her the highest paid drama actress, but she also made sure to continue to spread her wings with producing credits for both Grey's and Station 19 and a directing shot on her long-running show. Talk about a power move!

Mindy Kaling

Mindy Kaling and TV go together like peanut butter and jelly. They are a match made in heaven and we want more from Kaling ASAP. After beginning her writing, acting and producing career with The Office in 2005, the TV guru created her own comedy called The Mindy Project in 2012. Despite being canceled on Fox, The Mindy Project found another home on Hulu until the series finale in 2017, but that was really just the start for the creator. She went on to make a comedy called Champions for NBC and even though it was canceled she quickly found a new project...the upcoming TV adaptation of Four Weddings and a Funeral, again for Hulu. Throughout her TV career, the actress who also produces and writes on all her shows has managed to navigate cable and streaming services with ease in between film projects and writing books. Oh, and with every project she includes more creatives of different races and females are everywhere...as they should be. 

Issa Rae

Issae Rae is making TV for the black community, but she's also successfully capturing audiences of different races, which is huge. As one of the first black women to create and star on her own series with Insecure—she's noted as the first black woman to both create and star in a premium-cable series (HBO)—Rae is telling the stories of black America and transcending race at the same time. How is she doing it? By staying authentic to her own truths, surrounding herself with people of color and not catering to the masses, but instead working on quality. She started with success on her YouTube show The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, which she wrote, directed and starred in, has written a book and is a TV guru garnering two Golden Globe nominations for seasons one and two of her show. If she's not a modern-day female TV role model we don't know who is.  

Busy Philipps

The 39-year-old actress has a long history of TV success with cult classics like Freaks and Geeks starting her career, followed by Dawson's Creek and Cougar Town. Now, Busy Philipps is joining an elite club of late night talk show hosts and she's slaying the game. There are only three other woman with current talk shows on right now, so Philipps is definitely filling a void with her E! series Busy Tonight, which premiered in 2018. What makes Philipps a game-changer is that she is taking the pop culture side of life (filters, hashtags and memes) and pairing it with guest interviews four nights a week in the late night time slot. Plus, she is an executive producer on her talk show, which is her first producing credit. She has also surrounded herself by a team full of women, because ladies run this world, duh.

Julie Plec

Julie Plec should hereby be named the queen of The CW network because of her legacy with the network as showrunner, creator, writer, director and producer on numerous series. Her biggest claim to fame was The Vampire Diaries that not only became beloved by millions of fans, and gave us a timeless love triangle between two brothers, but she had fierce female characters ready to take command of their own happy ending. She then went on to create The Originals and Legacies as spin offs from TVD and The Tomorrow People. Plus, she has helped mentor other female TV creators including Carina Adly MacKenzie who just launched Roswell, New Mexico on The CW.

Jill Soloway

Jill Soloway has made major strides for the transgender community and she's not stopping anytime soon. The creator of Amazon's Transparent has managed to change the TV landscape by telling the stories of trans people on her series, winning awards for it and talking about the issue of gender inclusiveness throughout it all. She has also co-founded 50/50 by 2020, which is an initiative to get equity in Hollywood by the year 2020. She has continued to speak her mind both on and off screen writing, She Wants It: Desire, Power, and Toppling the Patriarchy in 2018 and continually producing, writing and running her hit series.

Shonda Rhimes

We're pretty positive that Shonda Rhimes is TV these days. We know she's only one person, but she somehow has created more iconic TV in 10 years than most people do in a lifetime. It's clear that Rhimes has been changing the TV landscape for more than a decade now with Grey's Anatomy, which is a female-driven doctor drama, Scandal, which had a black female as the lead and How to Get Away With Murder, which did the same thing. In 2017, she announced that she was again ready to change television by making a new deal to bring her smarts and creative genius as well as her production company Shondaland to Netflix for a nine-figure production pact. While she still has seasons of Grey's in the works at ABC and numerous other shows at the network, she has also begun work on eight different projects for the streaming service as of late 2018. While we still don't know how she does it—Grey's is the network's highest-rated drama—Rhimes and her inclusive casts, crews, and teammates are making TV for everyone, everywhere, all the time, and it's beyond impressive.

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