TV That's Good for Girls

10 television shows with awesome female role models.
Sierra Filucci Executive Editor, Parenting Content | Mom of two Categories: Media and Body Image, Social-Emotional Learning, We Recommend
Executive Editor, Parenting Content | Mom of two

Girls deserve so much better than much of what they see on TV. First, they deserve to see more girls and women on the screen in the first place -- only 30 percent of kids' TV characters are female, according to the Geena Davis Institute on Gender and Media. And when girls or women do appear on-screen, they are still heavily stereotyped and sexualized -- portrayed in traditional roles or wearing sexy clothing -- in both kids' TV and prime-time shows.
 
This lack of great female role models in the media has a negative effect on kids -- both girls and boys. But parents have the power to filter out at least some of the negative images and messages and replace them with shows that kids will enjoy and that show female characters as strong, smart people with something positive to offer the world.
 
Check out this collection of great shows both old and new, and program that DVR!
 
Callie calls the shots in her town. She manages to be a strong leader while remaining honest, fair, and aware of other people's feelings. When conflict arises, she devises creative resolutions that show, rather than tell, kids why strong character is important and gives them examples of how they can use these social skills in their own relationships.
 
Peg + Cat, age 3+
Peg tackles relatable preschool problems using logical thinking and math skills. There's no trouble too big for her to reason her way through, and her friends are there to help when she needs them.
 
She's a doctor! At least for her toys. And her parents encourage her dreams and her desire to follow in the footsteps of her mom, a full-fledged human doctor. Doc also is patient with her younger brother and always willing to lend a hand when he runs into trouble.
 
She may be a princess, but Sofia doesn't balk at taking a stand on what's important to her, even if that means she seems different from the other royalty. Her willingness to stand up for what she believes often has a positive influence on those around her. Some of her peers are standoffish and snooty, but she follows her heart rather than them, and her actions sway their opinions about "proper" princess behavior.
 
This lively engineering show subverts the idea that only boys like building stuff. The hosts are male and female, and the kids who appear on the show are a diverse bunch, with plenty of girls in the mix who show off their smarts.
 
The central female characters challenge the roles they were expected to take on as high-society women in frontier days. Instead of being blindly obedient, they exercise free will and rely on their faith in God to see them through their many trials. Each is of high integrity and stands up for what's morally right, even at the expense of what she wants. 
 
Dear America, age 7+
The girls at the heart of this historical anthology series usually exhibit personal strength that sees them through the challenges of the time. Most of the time a solid family structure is behind their strong character and helps them weather the storms, and they often make surprising discoveries about people they assumed to be enemies.
 
Korra is a determined, goal-oriented heroine whose strong sense of duty guides her to embrace her training and develop her talents. She's not perfect, and she often finds that her impetuous nature impedes her ability to learn from her even-tempered mentor. Ultimately, though, she tries to be open to new ideas and is dedicated to improving her skills.
 
The quartet of strong women at the center of this period murder mystery are smart and hardworking and may make young viewers more interested in math and science, which these savvy ladies use to solve crimes.
 
Leslie Knope is absolutely brilliant and completely devoted to her job as a public servant. She's also found romance and love while wearing sensible pants suits. What else could you ask for?
 
Which is your favorite show with great girl role models?

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About Sierra Filucci

Sierra has been writing and editing professionally for more than a decade, with a special interest in women's and family subjects. She has a master’s degree in journalism from the University of California at Berkeley,... Read more

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Comments (20)

Adult written by oh no

Yay. Violence against men and shows where all the men are the bad guys or stupid and incapable compared to the females. Empowering. Nothing like having to disempower men just to make females look better as a positive message. Can't wait til there's a shift in attitudes and we start showing empowered male characters but using the same rules. will all these white knights and empowered women still agree with how empowerment is handled in the media then?
Parent of a 8 year old written by DisneyMom70

Kim Possible is back on the Disney XD channel, and I am so happy about that. My DD loves it and my DS enjoys it too. It's great for him AND her to see a female in such a strong role.
Parent of a 12 year old written by kt rose

I would add Disney's Kim Possible to the list. Female teenage spy, yay! Sadly Disney missed a HUGE market and doesn't offer DVDs. My family watched it on YouTube.
Parent written by cegr76

Dora the Explorer stands up to bullies, leads adventures and solves puzzles. I'm happy my daughter and my son both love Dora.
Kid, 11 years old

But Dora has NEVER been seen asking permission before leading these adventures, and Swiper the Fox is a VERY bad influence. (Luckily, Swiper is usually the bad guy.)
Kid, 9 years old

I started a show call Sara Lighting. Sara Higgins moved to China to live with her grandmother, Nana. Sara: MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM. Sara Higgins and the lighting boys(music): Lighting! Yea! The lighting! Nana: Good bye!
Teen, 17 years old written by sisterwhocares

Good list! One addition that I would make to the list is the show "Call the Midwife", which is for older teens (15+) and adults. The main character is a midwife working for a convent in the 1950s in a very impoverished area of London. Because of the nature of childbirth and the primitiveness of medicine back in the day, the work she has to do is very tough and helps shape her into a mature young woman. She is not perfect, but very hard-working and compassionate toward her clients and fellow workers. Plus, the show really dives deep into the world of midwifery, which mature teens may find interesting. Overall, I think this show should be added to the list because it shows a good example of strength of character for older teens and adults who like strong heroines.
Teen, 17 years old written by sisterwhocares

Good list! One addition that I would make to the list is the show "Call the Midwife", which is for older teens (15+) and adults. The main character is a midwife working for a convent in the 1950s in a very impoverished area of London. Because of the nature of childbirth and the primitiveness of medicine back in the day, the work she has to do is very tough and helps shape her into a mature young woman. She is not perfect, but very hard-working and compassionate toward her clients and fellow workers. Plus, the show really dives deep into the world of midwifery, which mature teens may find interesting. Overall, I think this show should be added to the list because it shows a good example of strength of character for older teens and adults who like strong heroines.
Parent of a 9, 13, and 13 year old written by Gigi328

Thank you for this list. I am always looking for shows for my nine year old daughter that aren't so sassy! I have a suggestion for future lists. On the main list page, could you include in the summary what channel the show airs on? As it is, I have to click two more times to find this information. Thank you for your work!
Parent written by Mara

I'm sorry, but Peg + Cat is a TERRIBLY MEDIOCRE role model for girls. She completely overreacts to every problem, and generally speaking the ideas for the solutions come from Cat (a boy) or a male friend. I'll second the nomination for Word Girl, who is very smart. Also good are the girls on Cyberchase, who work as a team together and with their male friends to solve problems using math. (One of the girls is African-American to boot, which makes her an even more unique role model in tv for girls).
Parent of a 3, 5, and 11 year old written by sipote

No WordGirl!? I love watching this show with my 3 girls, it is funny, poignant and educational! Becky/WordGirl shows she can be a girly-girl (craving bright My Little Pony-like figures) but shows she can be a great hero (with great vocabulary to boot!)
Parent of a 10 year old written by frapgirl007

I renewed my registration just so I could comment on this article. I watched Bletchley Circle last night. Even though it is an engrossing and interesting TV show and the women are strong role models, the subject of necromancy made it too disturbing for anyone under the age of 18 (and over in my opinion). The producers of this show really missed their mark, it was in all other ways a fantastic show for teen girls, but they ruined it with the disturbed, twisted and macabre nature of the crimes. I would take this one off the list.
Teen, 16 years old written by rebma97

My Little Pony is a pretty good show with good female role models. The main characters (also known as the "Mane Six" by fans) are all good friends--thought they don't always get along, they learn to overcome difficulties in their relationship and other issues. What I love most is how supportive the friends are. I know this may sound kind of sappy but I really love how much they value friendship (hence the title, of course). On a side note: I noticed a lot of these lists are for younger girls rather than older ones. I kind of wished there were some for people around my age (16) but I guess that could show how female characters are sometimes portrayed in shows :/
Educator and Parent of a 7 and 9 year old written by Sierra Filucci

When Calls the Heart airs on the Hallmark Channel and Dear America is available through Netflix.