Portrayals of Professional Women in the Eyes of Media

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My parents have always emphasized education and how that would relate to my success when I become an adult. My parents are immigrants and they didn’t have the opportunities that I have when I arrive in America. My goal is to become a successful business professional, but what criteria define a successful woman professional. I don’t know how women professional are portrayed in media, because I don’t consume American television or movie on a daily basis. I am interested in how media portray women professionals because it is my future career path. I have looked for some sources to find women professional representation in media. I found a movie, a commerical, and a comedic video that is related to women professional. I will analyze the content and see what I can find.

Some questions that I have in my mind are

1) How are women professionals portrayed in media?

2) What common themes or ideas are presented in the three sources?

3) Is it an accurate portrayal of women professionals in reality?

The Devil Wears Prada


In The Devil Wears Prada, Miranda Priestly is the editor-in-chief of a top fashion magazine called Runway. She is at the top of the top of her organization. Everyone follows her commands. She is married twice with a pair of twins. People in Miranda’s surrounding often view her as bossy and demanding. Some common names for Miranda include “dragon lady” and “career-obsessed”. Miranda got the name “dragon lady” when her husband divorced her and she continued to work and put on a professional attitude. People think Miranda is too “career-obsessed-” and that resulted in her divorce.

Andy was Miranda’s assistant and she went through a dramatic transformation in the movie. In the beginning, Andy was just a typical college graduate desperately looking for a job. Andy wanted to become better at her job, so she put in more effort and devoted her time. When Andy got better at her job and devoted more time to work, her friends and loved ones think Andy is changing into someone else that they don’t know and decided to leave Andy’s life. In the movie, Andy was portrayed as someone that was “career-obsessed” and that couldn’t manage the balance of a social-work life.

Miranda and Andy went above and beyond for their job. They should be recognized and respected at work and home, but Miranda ended up in a divorce, and Andy ended up by herself. Both portrayals of Miranda and Andy have a negative connotation. The movie portrays these two women incapable of handling family and work life. When they have to pick one side, they generally pick work which would get them labeled as “career-obsessed”.



Label Against Women






On the left are some images from  a commercial made by Pantene. In the video, it showed labels of women and men in the same job position. The interesting thing is that labels of women and men were opposites. A woman executive would be called bossy, while their counterpart, a male executive would be called a boss. A woman dressing fashionably for work would be called show-off, while the male counterpart would be called smooth. What struck me is the labels women get in this video, is that really what happening in the workplace or is just how media portrays it. In the video, women are labeled as bossy, pushy, show-off, and selfish. The men are labeled as a boss, persuasive, a dedicated, and smooth. The labels for women tend to be negative, while it is positive for the men. It is unfair for women that the get negative labels due to their gender.  I encourage you all to watch this commercial. It really shows the “double standard” we have for female.


If Men Were Treated Like Women In The Office

Buzzfeed created this comedic video to shed light on mistreatment of female employee in the office. A frequent scenario that happens in the office is women getting “domestic tasks” assignment. Domestic tasks refers to task that is associated with women such as cooking. Often times women are talked over by their peers, defined by their gender or family. Another scenario that  women can encounter at work is when a woman is asked” how do they walk in high heels” or being ask “how do you manage the work-life balance”. As a woman, I would never ask a man “how do you walk in those sneakers”. Something a woman typically wear(high heel) would be questioned, but not for men(sneakers). Something a woman has done for awhile such as taking care of her family and working would be questioned.

Findings of Women Professional in Reality

Women are portrayed as incapable of handling work and life in media, whereas in reality that is not the case. A Wall Street Journal article “Women in the Workplace”, gives examples of how women can achieve the work-life balance. More and more women are getting positions in the top management, which helps to create policies that benefit women. An example that shows top management are helping women is Adobe Corporation. A female manager saw her subordinate in need of extra time to take care of her family, she went to the CEO and ask for special early leave for her fellow subordinate. With that extra time, the subordinate is able to manage her work-life balance.

   Another thing that is not brought up often in media is the topic of women mistreatment in the workplace. The article “Interpersonal Mistreatment of Women in the Workplace” by George Cunningham talks about mistreatment women encounters at work. Mistreatment can be mild such as being left out or severe such as sexual harassment. The Buzzfeed video shows mild mistreatment that women encounters while this articles dives deep into severe mistreatment. Sometime industry norms hinders the success of women and that is considered as a mistreatment. Since it is an industry norm, a woman might not know that they are being mistreated. The stagnant industry norm can cause women to leave their job since they are not happy. The article conclude mistreatment does happen to women more frequently than men  and it is harmful to women in many ways.


Mismatch Between Media and Reality

Female professionals are portrayed negatively in media because they are negatively labeled and media often show that women can’t have a work-life balance. On the other hand,  the media often don’t reflect accurately of what is occurring in reality.  In the big screens, women are portrayed in many different ways, but one thing that the portrayals have in common is that they are negative.

The Devil Wears Prada shows how women can’t have a work-life balance and shows how women can be“career-obsessed”. The Pantene commercial present negative labels women get in the workplace, and the Buzzfeed video shows the mild mistreatment that can occur in the workplace for women. Why are women portrayals negative, I am not sure. There could be many causes, but I believe women are portrayed negatively due to their gender. Usually, we don’t hear a man “being career obsessed” because it is normal for them to do that, but when we switch the gender, women get titled negatively. The repeated theme in my primary artifacts is women either get labeled or treated differently due to their gender. My secondary resource brings different information to the table, different from was found in my primary artifact. In reality, many women can a good work-life balance. 90% of the time, women leave their job due to workplace problem, not because of the stressful work-life balance.(Lublin 2016) In the real world, many women are mistreated at work and that topic is not brought up in the big screens. Ursula Burns, the CEO of Xerox, is a great example of a successful woman professional. In 2015 she brought in $18 billions in revenue for Xerox.(Forbe 2017) Do we see any negative articles about this successful female professional? After conducting a Google search, that answer is no. The big screens morph women professional into this negative being. The media’s portrayal of women is inaccurate and often doesn’t represent how women are in reality. The continuation of negative portrayals of women in media will negatively affect women’s image. The media need to stop portraying women negatively on screen and need to start incorporating realistic portrayals of women on screen. As a future business professional, I am shocked by my findings, but that doesn’t “scare” me away from my goal. I want to educate people about reality and media. What is shown in media isn’t accurate. The media is here to entertain us, so sometimes it has to portray a character in a certain way (what we call stereotype) in order get the effect that is needed. When we, the audience, watch a movie or consume popular media, we need to be aware of “what is in movie” and “what is happening in reality”.


Learning Moments

In week 4, the analysis move approach strengthens my analyzing skill. Before watching Devil Wear Prada,I rewatch the analysis move video to refresh my memory. Usually, when I watch a movie, I just absorb the content without giving it a thought. When I apply the analysis moves, it helps me to analyze different parts of the movie rather than just blindly watching the story.


In week 5, I was amazed by the statistics found in the “Inequality in 700 Popular Film”. This paper points out many inequalities in films such as gender, race, and minorities. Women are “noticeably absent in films”, and Whites makes up 73.1% of the characters in films. I was shocked by these statistics. America is a diverse country, yet in films, it doesn’t accurately portray the diversity that we have.

Work Cited

The Devil Wears Prada. Dir. David Frankel. Perf. Anne Hathaway and Meryl Streep. 2006.


If Men Were Treated Like Women In The Office. Youtube. Buzzfeed, 16 July 2015. Web. 20 May 2017. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tq5OQafDVxc>.


Interpersonal Mistreatment of Women in the Workplace, George B. Cunningham, Mindy E. Bergman, Kathi N. Miner, Published in Sex Roles : A Journal of Research (2014)https://link-springer-com.proxy.lib.pdx.edu/article/10.1007/s11199-014-0398-0


Labels Against Women – Philippines Pantene Commercial 2013. Youtube. Pantene, 12 Dec. 2013. Web. 20 May 2017. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-K2kfgW7708>.

“Ursula Burns.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, n.d. Web. 02 June 2017. <https://www.forbes.com/profile/ursula-burns/&gt;.

“Women in the Workplace (A Special Report) — the More Women in Power, the More Women in Power: When Women are in Top Management Positions, the Impact is Felt Throughout the Organization.”, Lublin, Joann S.,Wall Street Journal, Eastern edition, Sep 27 2016