I'm a Feminist, But I Love to 'Hate-Watch' the Horrible Women Leaders of 'Succession'

women of TV show "Succession"

Adobe Stock / Fairygodboss Staff

Profile Picture

Want to know what it's like to be a woman at work? Watch the hit TV show “Succession.” 

The satirical drama about a family-run media empire may feel far away from the everyday professional woman, who's most likely not dealing with billions of dollars and fighting with corrupt siblings, all while wearing what must be a thousand-dollar pantsuit.

But “Succession” has its roots based in reality. It stays true to the trials and tribulations professional women face every day, in workplaces dominated by and made for the patriarchy.

Succession’s new season primarily follows the duel between father Logan Roy and his son, Kendall, who’s leading a battle to take the company from his dad. And the women attempt to be power players in the fight.

Gerri, originally more of a background player as Logan’s General Counsel, steps into the spotlight as CEO in season three. But this isn’t a girlboss, “SHE-E-O” moment. She claims her power; she’s smart and excited about her work. 

She also knows the parameters around this new title. It won’t last forever; she’s been given this title by a man who exerts power over her. Gerri is wise and authoritative, but she is also careful — unlike the men who have held her position before, she isn’t reckless with authority. She has experience behind her, and she wields it in a pragmatic way, fending off distractions from Kendall’s younger brother, Roman. 

While she has the title, she knows she needs to watch her back — the men can take the power away as easily as they gave it to her.

Gerri’s story on “Succession” actually parallels what happened with the character during the show’s evolution. “Gerri” was originally supposed to be a man, “Gerry,” featured only in a few episodes. It was the actress’ J. Cameron Smith’s talent and compelling relationships with other top characters that brought Gerri’s character to life, and a main part of the show’s storyline.

Succession’s other leading woman, Siobhan, is an outlier from the get-go. She’s a powerhouse; a political force to be reckoned with. Early on, she separates herself from her family by working in the political field rather than for the family company. Now, in the throes of season three, she is fully entangled in the family affair — but that doesn't mean getting power is any easier for her. In fact, her father and brothers actively work against her, leaving her out of stakeholder decisions, holding secret meetings and undermining her by leaving her out of the room.

As much as Shiv tries to put up her walls, often appearing cold and pragmatic, other characters — especially the men — aren't afraid to get under her skin.

This season, in an argument where Kendall is trying to get her to join his rival company, Shiv pulls away. In his retort, Kendall snipes that he only wanted her on her side because she’s a woman.

“Girls count double now, didn’t you know?” he yells.

Shiv's usually good at keeping her cool, but here, actress Sarah Snook’s disappointment is palpable. She’s a woman who’s built herself up as an asset, but she can still get easily teared down for her gender. 

It's this reaction that's perhaps one of the most authentic moments of the show. Shiv is a billionaire powerhouse in fancy suits, fighting desperately to get what she wants; but ultimately, she is also a woman at work, who has to deal with the same patriarchal obstacles that so many women deal with in the workplace.

In an article about Succession for The Cut, Mia Mercado writes, “To know the characters of Succession is to hate them, and to hate them is to love them.” The women are not exempt from that — and sometimes, the show feels like a “who’s the least evil” contest.

But it also shows women who are taking on big roles in big places and fighting against a patriarchal world and the people that world favors. To show them winning is authentic, but also to show where they fall short, and where they have conflict, is too.

This article reflects the views of the author and not those of Fairygodboss.