Badass Boss Ladies in Pop Culture

Posted by Lauren Thoman

As any woman who has attempted to climb the corporate ladder can tell you, it can be tough to be a woman with big dreams, especially for women who aspire to roles typically reserved for men. However, tough does not mean impossible, and below are a few fictional women who didn't let a few cuts – and the occasional stab wound – stop them from smashing straight through the glass ceiling. 


Annalise Keating, How to Get Away With Murder

Whether in the classroom or in the courtroom, there is never any question as to who's in charge when Annalise is present. An expert in criminal law, Annalise is a master strategist, teacher, and businesswoman. While there have been a few cracks in her tough-as-nails persona throughout the series, none of her students or colleagues will ever mistake her for being fragile, and – for better or for worse – will continue to jump to do her bidding as long as she's around to give the orders.


Lagertha, Vikings

Upon discovering her powerful Viking husband was not only cheating on her, but expected her to be perfectly okay with it, some women might not have seen very many options available to them, but not Lagertha. After divorcing Ragnar and riding off in one of the best mic-drops in the series, Lagertha eventually returns as an Earl of her own lands, to support Ragnar in battle with her warriors. Several men have tried to usurp or control Lagertha in the years that have followed… and all have come to deeply regret it.


Lexa, The 100

Despite being  introduced as an antagonist for Clarke and the rest of Skaikru, Lexa's quick thinking, cool head, and sharp intellect soon made it clear that she was someone they needed on their side. As Commander of the Twelve Clans, Lexa did what no one else was able to do – unite the Grounders and the Sky People for a common purpose. And although she was a formidable warrior, it was Lexa's compassion, fairness, and dedication to her people that made her such an inspirational leader.


Cat Grant, Supergirl

Cat may not be the warmest of bosses, but who needs warmth when you're running your own global media conglomerate? Despite having a glaring blindspot where the identity of the superhero right under her nose is concerned (a malady that seems to plague many DC-verse journalists), Cat has tirelessly worked her way up from being an assistant at the Daily Planet to running CatCo Worldwide Media. She can be a little (okay, a lot) intimidating, but her sharp edges are exactly what helped her cut her way to the top.


Dutch, Killjoys

As the leader of one of the best bounty hunting teams around, Dutch is an elite fighter, spy, and assassin, as well as a steadfast friend and loyal partner. While she's always laser-focused on her mission, Dutch has shown that when it comes to her team, the Warrant is not All. Her ability to maneuver her way out of countless tight spots, combined with her leave-no-man-behind attitude, make her the kind of leader any intergalactic bounty hunter would be proud to follow.


Dr. Miranda Bailey, Grey's Anatomy

As the reigning queen of prime time television, creator Shonda Rhimes has given us one strong, no-nonsense, intimidatingly competent female authority figure after another, and it all started with Miranda Bailey. One of the few characters on Grey's who's been around since the beginning, Bailey has worked her way up from her position as a surgical resident in the first season, to being named the Chief of Surgery in the most recent one. Throughout Grey's impressive run, Bailey has been consistently excellent at her job while also being fiercely protective and supportive of those in her charge. The doctors – and patients – of Grey-Sloane Memorial are lucky to have her.


Commander Melissa Lewis, The Martian

In the novel, Lewis's disco collection probably gets more page time than she does, but in the movie, we see the Commander of the Ares III is a highly skilled and efficient commanding officer that is deeply devoted to her crew. Her devastation when she realizes she left a man behind is palpable, and it's hard not to thrust a triumphant fist into the air when she decides that rescuing him is worth a mutiny. And by the time she takes it upon herself to personally snatch her missing crewman out of the vastness of space with her bare hands, I think everyone in the audience would've followed her to Mars too.


General Leia Organa, Star Wars

From Princess to General, Leia has lived her entire adult life leading one rebellion after another, first against the Empire, and then the First Order. They keep building bigger and scarier Death Stars, and she keeps blowing them up. It's no surprise that in The Force Awakens, decades after we last saw her, Leia is still in the center of the conflict and the person everyone looks to for guidance. If this is her without any Jedi training, just imagine how unstoppable she'd be with it.


Miranda Priestly, The Devil Wears Prada

No list of fictional female bosses would be complete without the frigid and fashion-forward editor-in-chief of Runway magazine herself, Miranda Priestly.  Few executives in fiction – male or female – are even half as intimidating or as ruthless as she is. And while she may not be the boss anyone would wish for in real life, there's no denying that, in fiction, she is the gold standard of a Badass Boss Lady. 


If you want advice on how to dominate in the workplace, check out Amazon's Kindle Daily Deal, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Crying by Carol Leifer, on sale for $1.99 today!

Lauren Thoman

Lauren Thoman

Lauren is a writer of YA speculative fiction and a dedicated eater of queso. She lives in Middle Tennessee with her husband, two daughters, and a half-blind dog. When she’s not busy with her family, binge-watching TV shows, or writing books about dragons or superheroes, she can probably be found on Twitter, or in close proximity to coffee, tacos, or a bookstore.