For a long time, podcasts were seen as a boy’s club. But women have been a central (if less visible or heard) force behind podcasting’s rise, especially with a recent wave of podcasts specifically geared toward feminism, women’s issues, gender equality, and equity.
From hosts to audience demographics and subject matter, though, male-centric perspectives still dominate the top spots of podcasting lists.
In August 2020, The Wrap found that throughout a month-long period, 80 percent of the top-charting shows across the four most popular platforms were hosted by men. That’s not because women make worse podcasts, but because of the imbalance of opportunities they get in the podcast space. Only 23 of the 109 shows were hosted by women, while 15 had co-ed hosts. Despite this huge disparity, though, women make up about half of the podcast listening audience nationwide.
There is no lack of interest in podcasting from women, but there is sexism at play when it comes to which voices are allowed to excel in the space. Notoriously, women podcast hosts suffer from disproportionate policing of their vocal fry and upseak, with (often male) listeners complaining that they can’t take women hosts seriously.
Welp, you better start taking them seriously now. In spite of the sexism they face, women podcasters continue to put out fantastic, essential listening week after week — both specifically geared toward women’s lives and issues as well as those that tackle more general topics.
So for all the underserved women podcast listeners out here, we’ve got you. We’ve compiled a large yet inevitably incomplete list of some of the best women-led and women-centric podcasts. From issues of gender equality, equity, feminism, history, mental health, sexual wellness, relationships, and pop culture, these podcasts ensure marginalized voices are being heard.
What it is: Two journalists conduct interviews and conversations around how to say fuck you to the system and get what you deserve.
Why it’s great: In 2018, Cristen Conger and Caroline Ervin, the original hosts of Stuff Mom Never Told You, left to launch their new Unladylike podcast — and it’s been a staple of feminist podcasting ever since. With episode titles that follow a “how to” structure, they’re all about research-driven explorations and examples of women overcoming the sexism and misogyny that touches our everyday lives. As the name suggests, it’s fueled by a relatable undercurrent of rage, spotlighting rule-breakers who go against gender norms in the fight for equality.
What it is: Bi-monthly investigative deep dives into intersections of pop culture and feminism.
Why it’s great: This Bitch Media podcast offers the highest brow analysis on even the “lowest brow” parts of pop culture that impact women. Each season host Carmen Rios centers a multi-part series around a single topic, from glamour to heat, exploring the nuances of sexism in everything from the Spice Girls to diet culture — and how those all intersect with issues around race, socioeconomic struggles, and misogyny. The podcast is great for re-examining some of the negative messaging embedded into mass-produced capitalist trends targeted at women, while also making the argument for how we reclaim what we love about them for ourselves.
What it is: A storytelling focused podcast all about healing, sisterhood, finding your power, and making your voice heard.
Why it’s great: On hey, girl, host Alex Elle brings an intimacy to conversations around women’s liberation that is pretty singular. As an author, she’s often most interested in what creative and spiritual freedom means for women, bringing on guests who range from family members to activists and fellow artists.
BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour
What it is: BBC’s hour-long re-cap of global news items related to women’s issues.
Why it’s great: Admittedly, this radio show’s tagline of “a female perspective on the news” sounds pretty cringe at first blush. But in reality, BBC Radio’s Woman’s Hour offers a much-needed coalescence of current events affecting women around the world. If anything, by highlighting news for and about women, it only goes to show exactly how excluded women are from every other hour of news reporting.
Call Your Girlfriend
What it is: Two best friends tackle the personal as political, with an emphasis on women’s friendships and relationships to one another.
Why it’s great: Originally Call Your Girlfriend was unique for its premise. It’s hosted by two long-distance best friends, Ann Friedman and Aminatou Sow, who discuss both their personal lives and larger topics related to womanhood. Then during the pandemic, their relevance increased once basically everyone became a long-distance friend. Call Your Girlfriend is always ahead of its time like that, leading by example as two women who’ve committed to their platonic friendship in ways usually reserved for romantic or familial relationships. Years ago, when their friendship was in a precarious place, Friedman and Sow even went to couples therapy to work it out. That dedication to sisterhood is embedded into everything they cover, offering nuanced explorations of women’s relationships to one another, whether in the personal, professional or public realm.
What it is: Bite-sized 5- to 10-minute snapshots of women across time who made history.
Why it’s great: History class often paints a portrait of the world that excludes about half of its population. That’s what Wonder Media Network’s Encyclopedia Womannica sets out to fix, by releasing 5- to 10-minute episodes on women who made history in a certain field. Each month focuses on a different area of expertise, which most recently included activism and music.
She Makes Money Moves
What it is: A practical, zero bullshit, engaging guide to fighting for equity in a variety of women’s everyday lives.
Why it’s great: Women-focused money and business podcasts often reek of #GirlBoss rhetoric that feels disingenuous, paltry, and patronizing. But She Makes Money Moves stands out as one of the few that is not only grounded in women’s real-life struggles, but also offers them real solutions instead of platitudes. Each episode is structured around an interview with a woman facing a specific financial problem, then finishes with an expert that provides advice for how she can start to tackle it. Whether it’s negotiating salary or getting better credit as a new immigrant in America, host Samantha Barry covers a diverse breadth of life experiences while always giving universally helpful advice.
Thirst Aid Kit
What it is: A wholesome pop culture podcast that analyzes depictions of romance, love, and heartthrobs.
Why it’s great: [From our roundup] “Thirst Aid Kit is a beacon of love, light, and (of course) unquenchable thirst. Through in-depth discussions on romance in pop culture, hosts Bim Adewunmi and Nichole Perkins dive into the bottomless pool of women’s desires. While the conversation stays light and humorous, they also get to the heart of underlying issues surrounding representations of romance, from why it awakens our thirst to who it excludes. Adewunmi and Perkins create a beautiful space for normalizing the desire of women (particularly women of color), questioning social scripts while envisioning a world of healthier love with more unbridled passion.”
Therapy for Black Girls
What it is: Weekly chats on a range of mental health topics geared specifically toward Black women.
Why it’s great: Black women are one of the most underserved demographics in American society, especially when it comes to medical care. That’s why host and licensed psychologist Dr. Joy Harden Bradford’s Therapy for Black Girls is so vital. Dr. Harden Bradford, who has a Ph.D. in counseling psychology, provides informal therapy sessions on a wide spectrum of mental health issues and strategies for everything from processing communal grief to finding agency through pleasure. Episodes are structured around interviews with an expert and then a listener advice segment. Dr. Harden Bradford is careful to start with a disclaimer that the podcast is no substitute for actual one-on-one therapy, offering resources for how to find one on the Therapy for Black Girls website.
What it is: Various forms of auditory narrative art exploring intimacy from all angles, especially the experiences of women and LGBTQ folks.
Why it’s great: [From our roundup] “Kaitlin Prest brings you in closer than any other host on this list. Covering all things intimacy from an achingly human perspective, each episode feels like falling asleep on your lover’s chest, listening to the unique rhythm of their body. Often spotlighting LGBTQ and women’s perspectives, it features many guest hosts, with formats spanning from poetry to fictional stories to personal essays. In summary, The Heart is a feat of auditory storytelling that journeys into every artery of human relationships, from romantic to family to friendship to our meta relationships with larger cultural issues.”
What it is: An excruciating look at what it takes to bring down a beloved monster, both as a victim and a journalist.
Why it’s great: [From our Best True Crime Podcasts of All Time] “The Los Angeles Times is up there with the CBC in producing some of the most stellar, award-winning true crime investigative podcasts to date (others of which we covered ). But Chasing Cosby stands out because of the sheer doggedness of reporter and host Nicki Weisensee Egan, who has been fighting tooth and nail to tell these survivors’ stories since 2005. No one listened then, and there is a spine-tingling power in hearing their personal accounts and courage from this enduring the decades-long pursuit to put a seemingly untouchable attacker behind bars.”
The Guilty Feminist
What it is: Hilarious, frank discussions on feminism, on both a personal and societal scale.
Why it’s great: Roxane Gay’s 2014 book Bad Feminist popularized the feminist confessional format, finally giving us permission to admit that we often fall short of the gender equality ideals when they clash with the reality of living in a patriarchy. Comedian and writer Deborah Frances-White brings that unfiltered approach to feminism to the podcasting world. The show (usually recorded live in front of an audience but more recently over Zoom) invites special guests on to talk through the simultaneous shame, strength, strife, and triumph of being a feminist today.
What it is: Rigorous local reporting with widespread national significance, Dig reveals shocking truths about exactly how our systems fail victims and survivors of rape.
Why it’s great: [From our ] “We’ve heard it before: It’s hard to get a rapist convicted. But something uniquely strange is happening to the cases reported in Louisville, Kentucky, where a ‘success’ rate is covering up a massive failure of the criminal justice system. Reporter Eleanor Klibanoff takes listeners on the infuriating journey of understanding why, showing an underexamined flaw with wide-sweeping consequences for victims across the country. While a summary of Dig can sound too logistical to be interesting, superb storytelling and gutting personal accounts from survivors render these injustices impossible to turn away from. If you have even a passing interest in the issues brought to light by the Me Too movement, this is an essential (if enraging) podcast listen.”
What it is: Weekly deep dives into essential topics around modern life, from one of the best culture mags around.
Why it’s great: While not explicitly branded as feminist or for women, The Cut is a powerhouse of women’s voices tackling a wide range of subjects, whether pop culture, the internet, style, sex, relationships, or politics. Hosted by Avery Trufelman, each episode follows a fascinating line of inquiry that only sparks more curiosity and even bigger questions than you started out with.
History Becomes Her
What it is: Interviews with women trailblazers, discussing their pioneering work and the women in history who inspired them.
Why it’s great: Our shameless self-plug, History Becomes Her is a Mashable podcast that asks today’s biggest heroines about the women from the past who inspired them. Hosted by reporter Rachel Thompson, its an amalgamation and celebration of history makers, whether past or present. Season 1 kicks off with Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, the reporters behind the New York Times‘ Harvey Weinstein investigation that helped spark mainstream momentum behind the Me Too movement.
You Must Remember This
What it is: Great non-fiction storytelling on Hollywood history, often with a particular focus on women’s perspectives.
Why it’s great: [From our Best Podcasts of 2020 roundup] “Karina Longworth, one of the best storytellers and reporters to grace podcasting, is back with another season exploring the secret and/or forgotten histories of Hollywood’s first century. This time it’s to tell the story of Polly Platt, who died in 2011 but left behind a long and highly influential film career that (surprise, surprise) the world failed to give her full credit for while she was alive. Overcoming a litany of personal tragedies and rampant sexism in Hollywood throughout the ’70s-’90s, Platt was a driving force behind some of the most acclaimed films of those eras. Her moment in the spotlight is long overdue, but Longworth does an incredible job making up for lost time through extensive research, interviews with those closest to Platt, and even readings from her unpublished memoirs.”
You’re Wrong About
What it is: Heavily researched re-investigations of the major news stories, figures, and moral panics that we got completely wrong.
Why it’s great: You’re Wrong About is doing God’s work by correcting the record on everything we misremember or misunderstood in our collective cultural memory. While not exclusively about women, a common theme that has emerged on the podcast is that, as a society, we judge women unfairly or completely disregard their perspectives. Each week, journalists Sarah Marshall and Michael Hobbes debunk popular myths, misconceptions, and mischaracterizations of figures like Tonya Harding and Marie Antoinette, or topics like sex trafficking and events like the O.J. Simpson trial. Maligned or forgotten women are a near-constant feature of these riveting deep dives. For example, I bet you didn’t know the D.C. Sniper is actually a story about domestic violence.
Sex with Emily
What it is: A longtime favorite interview and advice podcast hosted by sex therapist Emily Morse.
Why it’s great: [From our Best Sex, Relationship, Dating, and Erotica podcasts roundup] “While the structure of this podcast is like many others, there’s something especially comforting about Morse’s approach. She’s a great voice to have in your head whenever you encounter sexual difficulties or uncertainties in your real life, with advice that runs the gamut from medical expertise to astrology charts.”
There Are No Girls on the Internet
What it is: An essential listen amplifying the marginalized voices who shape the internet and explorations of being a woman online.
Why it’s great: Listen, we love Reply All as much as anyone, but a show about the internet hosted by two white dudes is bound to leave out some crucial perspectives. Host Bridget Todd gives the under-recognized women who build and experience technology a much-needed spotlight, both through interviews as well as her own critical analysis in There Are No Girls on the Internet. For example, one recent episode was about Nandini Jammi, the Black woman who wasn’t getting credit for co-founding the Sleeping Giants tech startup. Meanwhile another explores Missy Elliot as a digital pioneer who doesn’t get credit for her innovations.
Terrible, Thanks for Asking
What it is: A place for processing trauma and how terrible we’re all doing through individual people’s stories.
Why it’s great: While this is another recommendation that isn’t only restricted to women, women’s trauma is often front and center of Terrible, Thanks for Asking. Author and self-described notable widow Nora McInerny hosts a weekly interview podcast talking through different guests’ pain, life trauma, and mental health struggles. It’s a podcast that isn’t afraid to sit with the feeling of not being OK and, weirdly, that’s oddly comforting — especially now.
Faculty of Horror
What it is: Scholarly feminist horror movie analysis.
Why it’s great: [From our Best Podcasts for Horror Lovers roundup] “If you love analyzing horror movies through the Freudian-feminist film criticism that gave us such terms as the Final Girl, then you’ll adore Faculty of Horror. Every episode, horror academics Andrea Subissati and Alexandra West choose a scholarly theme to explore deep dives on one or more horror films that exemplify it. Covering a range of topics and themes — from the gothic landscape to body horror and the monstrous-feminine — they reveal how the horror genre can give us insight into the darkest parts of the human mind.”
Stuff Mom Never Told You
What it is: Tackling the women’s issues that often get left out or under-discussed.
Why it’s great: There are a lot of things that culture (forget your poor mom) leaves out about being a woman. Stuff Mom Never Told You is all about bringing those too often invisible figures and issues to the forefront, whether through highlighting women in the U.S. Postal Service or women in QAnon, along with more themed episodes tackling subjects like misogynoir in hip hop. Hosts Anney Reese and Samantha McVey bring the HowStuffWorks format to women’s issues, and it’s as engaging as it is educating.
What it is: A hilarious, informal conversation between two friends getting into the down and dirty of all things racy.
Why it’s great: [From our Best Sex, Relationship, Dating, and Erotica podcasts roundup] “We could listen to hosts Mandii B & WeezyWTF shoot the shit about literally anything. But in Whoreible Decisions, they grace us with all the very explicit details of their enviably adventurous sex and love lives. Like the WAP of podcasts, they are unapologetically bold and audacious. Both by leading by example and giving very legitimate advice with the help of special guests including doctors and porn stars, the podcast opens listeners up to parts of sex no one else dares talk about.”
The Bechdel Cast
What it is: Weekly discussions around one film’s representation of women.
Why it’s great: Don’t write off The Bechdel Cast for being named after what’s now seen as an outdated construct for measuring women’s representation in film. Hosts Caitlin Durante and Jamie Loftus are well aware of the Bechdel test’s limitations, instead using the concept as a jumping off point for much deeper discussions around representation at large in that week’s movie. Offering a wonderful balance of humor and analysis, every podcast ends with them (and often a guest) rating the film on a 1-5 nipple scale — a system we believe everyone should adopt as the new standard.
How to be a Girl
What it is: An audio diary capturing a mother’s journey while raising her young trans daughter.
Why it’s great: When How to be a Girl first started out years ago, the host was mother to a six-year-old child who recently told her she was trans. Today, her daughter is now 11, nearing teenhood in a world that’s rapidly changing in ways a mother can’t control. After a hiatus, she’s started the podcast back up in the midst of the pandemic. The audio diary is an intimate portrait of so many different experiences of femininity, from girlhood to motherhood, both cisgender and transgender. While everything is anonymized to protect the daughter’s identity and she seems enthusiastic about participating in the podcast, there is still a certain tension in the question of who has the right to tell this story. I often wished the focus was more centered around the daughter’s experiences rather than the mother’s perspective on her experiences. Regardless, How to be a Girl offers a heartfelt, eye-opening window into the daily struggles and beauties of figuring it all out together.
Dare I Say
What it is: Women celebrities talk about the most pressing problems they and others face in their industries and at large.
Why it’s great: Harpers Bazaar‘s Dare I Say podcast is hosted by director and actor Olivia Wilde, who each episode facilitates a conversation between other well-known women in the spotlight, from Jameela Jamil to Jane Fonda and Laverne Cox. Listen, we know celebrities don’t always (or even often) have the answers, but disregarding all their voices, especially those who’ve been marginalized, would be a huge mistake. At the very least, it’s important to know how messages of feminism are being spread through those who are making pop culture.
What it is: A queer news and pop culture podcast centered around the perspectives of two lesbians.
Why it’s great: [From our Best Sex, Relationship, Dating, and Erotica podcasts roundup] “Dyking Out is one of the podcasts that incorporates more news and pop culture elements, covering whatever current events the hosts interpret as intersecting with queerness. Hosted by comedians Carolyn Bergier and Melody Kamali, as the name suggests, Dyking Out focuses specifically on the views of women who love women. The guests often offer more diversity in perspectives, though, with one of the latest being comedian and writer Ashley Ray talking about her solo polyamory lifestyle.”