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Tough and caring fictional female mentors who prove the Queen Bee myth is exactly that


A new study has found the concept of the 'Queen Bee' - one powerful woman who rules supreme in the office at the cost of everyone else - is a myth. In fact, researchers at Columbia Business School in New York discovered that a lack of women in top roles is down to men’s determination to retain control, and that women are more likely to reach senior positions in organisations where there is already a female CEO in place at the top.  

Of course, we at Stylist.co.uk have long been aware that women make brilliant, loyal and inspiring mentors. A quick straw poll of the office revealed we've garnered some of the best advice and guidance from other women, whether in the workplace or beyond.

To drive the point home, we take a look at some of the most powerful and effective female mentors ever captured on film, books and TV. Forget the bitchiness of Mean Girls or Devil Wears Prada; these women are as kind as they are tough, and will happily take others under their wing. 

From The Good Wife's Diane Lockhart to Elaine Stein from The Help, behold some golden words of advice from the fiercest, strongest and wisest female role models that fiction has to offer. 

Diane Lockhart from The Good Wife


Job: lawyer and co-founder of a leading Chicago firm

Golden words of advice: "When the door you’ve been knocking at finally swings open, you don’t ask why. You run through"

Diane Lockhart is everything you want in a kick-ass muse. She's the kind of woman who breaks balls in the court room before sharing late-night giggles with you over a Bourbon or six. Perceptive and tenacious, she never falters over big, difficult decisions and is adept at legal and political game-playing with a host of tricky characters. Those who at one time or another fall under her command - including Alicia Florrick and Kalinda Sharma - are quick to cotton onto her unwavering strength and sensitivity. Watch and learn. 

Daenerys Targaryen from Game of Thrones


Job: Ruler

Golden words of advice: "All men must die, but we are not men."

Mother of dragons, liberator of slaves, champion of women; Daenerys Targaryen has packed a lot into her relatively short life.

And, in among overthrowing oppressive regimes and winning over ancient tribes, Daenerys has taken her role as mentor and boss incredibly serious. After freeing the young Missandei, she took her on as translator and looks to her for support and advice as she navigates some of her toughest decisions.

She’s also willing to make personal sacrifices for the benefit of her citizens, overlooking her own romantic desires for Daario Naharis in order to marry Hizdahr zo Loraq and ensure peace returns to the streets of Meereen. Despite being ruler of an army of thousands, Daenerys continues to treat those who work under her with respect and care, a rare trait indeed in the land of Westeros – and beyond.

Olivia Pope from Scandal

Olivia Pope

Job: Political fixer

Golden words of advice: "If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work, but you have to try, because if you try, if you leap and you try, and it doesn’t work out, it’s not on you"

Olivia Pope is the mentor of dreams. Sure, she'll throw you in the deep end but she'll be there every step of the way to pick up the pieces. Just look at the way she rescued both Abby (battered wife) and Quinn (convict on-the-run), not to mention every other member of her dysfunctional hit team. She supports and challenges her employees and gives them the confidence to be brilliant bit players of a ruthlessly efficient team. There's a lot to learn from her relentless, lateral approach to problem-solving.  No matter what, it's handled. 

Leslie Knope from Parks and Recreation


Job: Deputy Director of the Pawnee City Department of Parks and Recreation (later Governor of Indiana)

Golden words of advice: "We need to remember what's important in life: friends, waffles, work. Or waffles, friends, work. Doesn't matter, but work is third."

Whether she is challenging senseless bureaucracy, seeking vengeance on the privileged inhabitants of Eagleton or organising an idyllic wedding in a matter of hours, this is a woman who stops at nothing to get things done. Nothing, that is, bar ever falling into the tired TV cliché of the ruthless, ambitious boss willing to walk all over people to get to the top . Quite the contrary.

Leslie is proudly ambitious and ruthlessly determined to be the best but never at the cost of the people who work for her. To both Anne Perkins and April Ludgate she is a mentor, supporter, friend and champion; encouraging them to take risks, cheering them on at every turn and being there to fall back on when things go wrong. And to the relentlessly grumpy Ron Swanson, Leslie’s sunny demeanour provides a much needed antidote to the standard bureaucratic bore he is used to working with (though he’ll rarely admit it).

This is a woman’s woman in the very best sense of the term, doing all in her power to make the world a better place for the sisterhood and calling at double standards or inequality no matter what it takes. Leslie, we salute you! 

Elaine Stein from The Help

Elaine Stein

Job: editor for Harper & Row

Golden words of advice: "Don't waste your time on obvious things. Write about what disturbs you; particularly if it seems to bother no one else."

Elaine Stein doesn't have a large role either in the book or film version of Kathryn Stockett's bestseller, but it's an important one. A formidable New York-based editor of the 1960s, she lives the kind of emancipated, glamorous life that protagonist Skeeter craves. Elaine instinctively realises that Skeeter is trapped in a humdrum world in Mississippi, cornered on all sides by ridged gender expectations and widespread racial prejudice.

Elaine gives Skeeter the courage to confront and write about the injustices of segregation that surround her - to find the story that matters. She also infuses Skeeter with ambition, helping her to look beyond the walls of the small, viciously governed society she finds herself in. 

M from the James Bond films

M from Bond

Job: Head of MI6

Golden words of advice: "Any thug can kill. I need you to take your ego out of the equation"

Bold, practical and calculated, M - in the film versions captured by Judi Dench - is a stalwart character who rules over the agency with a steady, unyielding grip. She has little time or patience for the glib backchat of Bond and his ilk. But once you have her on your side, she's full of loyalty and integrity. She showers her charges at MI6 with her very own brand of tough love and, when push comes to shove, she's there for them come what may.

Cameron Lynne from State of Play

Cameron Lynne from State of Play

Job: Editor of the Washington Globe

Golden words of advice: "Don't throw those dewey cub-reporter eyes at me, it's nauseating"

As editor of struggling broadsheet the Washington Globe, Cameron Lynne is straight-talking and irreverent. She shoots from the hip and has no problem barking orders as she directs her team on a killer story. But she's not as tough as she might like when it comes to up-and-coming online reporter Della Frye. She sees the kind of hunger for action in Della that she herself once had, and despite her lack of experience, reluctantly lets her cut her teeth on the largest and most scandalous story line the paper has ever seen. Not only that, but she backs Della when the going gets tough, giving her no-nonsense advice and supporting her every step of the way (even with the occasional sarcastic retort thrown in). She's a firm ally in a hardened and murky world. 



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