Most aspects of society are dominated by men. Business, engineering, mathematics, science, the military, fiction— the list goes on. But once in a while, a woman comes along and shows just how successful she can be in this field, to the surprise of all around.
Often the women entering the field end up surpassing the men who were once reigning champions, just to drive the point home of how good women can really be. A Day in Her Apron is a cousin to this trope; often showing the woman does a flawless (or at least adequate) job of the man's duties while he is depicted as hopelessly inept at handling her job.
This has happened in athletics so often that it's its own subtrope, but there are plenty of other stories where women have poignantly proven themselves in traditionally male-dominated areas outside of sports, whether it's in STEM careers, business, or whatever.
A Super-Trope to:
- Action Girl
- Hot Scientist
- I Was Beaten by a Girl
- Passionate Sports Girl
- Pirate Girl
- The Queenpin
- Wrench Wench
- You Go, Girl!
Women Are Wiser can also come into play if the woman's solutions are more practical on top of being better than her male critics. Can also veer into Common Mary Sue Traits and Flawless Token in the hands of a timid or inept writer, especially if the critics of the female characters aren't developed past Straw Misogynist.
See also Mars-and-Venus Gender Contrast, Breaking the Glass Ceiling. This trope is to gender what Jackie Robinson Story is to race, making them sister tropes. The Distaff Counterpart to "Gender-Normative Parent" Plot. Contrast Never a Self-Made Woman, Men Are Better Than Women, Stay in the Kitchen.
- In Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, Batou suggests that the Major (the only female member in Section 9) should switch out her female chassis to a male body instead, reasoning that she'll be physically stronger and that the others would respect her authority more. Motoko asserts her position as the leader by smiling at Batou, hacking his cyberbrain, and making him punch himself out. She tells Batou that as long as she has no problem literally make others do what she wants, her current body suits her just fine.
- In Ghost in the Shell: Arise, Batou often shows disapproval of being ordered around by the Major, who gave him the only option of joining her team instead of rotting in jail. When he finally confronts her about her leadership style, he takes a swing at her, but she easily dodges and lays him out in a single punch. In a later incident, she hacks his cyberbrain and makes him punch himself out for saying something chauvinistically stupid.
- Token Evil Teammate Reggie Mantle from Archie Comics likes to opine that boys excel at various activities ranging from sports to chess to puzzles, while girls are mere cheerleaders. Either Betty Cooper or Veronica Lodge will challenge Reggie to a contest in which Reggie comes up short. After one issue handed Reggie a series of defeats, Reggie comments to Archie, "Betty and Ronnie often speak of equality. Why do you suppose they want to lower themselves to our level?"
- In the Kingdom Hearts/Sword Art Online crossover fanfiction SAK: Sword Art Online, when Asuna learns the Chinese Imperial Army doesn't allow women into their ranks, she outright enters the camp as herself and challenges Captain Li Shang to a sword fight so she can prove a point, refusing to let anyone walk over her pride as a woman. She defeats Shang easily, who allows her to fight alongside the army, but not be a part of it.
- In Barbie and the Three Musketeers, Barbie/Corinne sets off to become a musketeer but is mocked for her dreams by several who believe a girl can't be a musketeer, which angers her. She and her three friends end up proving them wrong by defeating the villain, Philippe, who attempts to kill his cousin, the prince. At the end, the prince becomes king and the four heroines become royal musketeers.
- Ratatouille: Colette Tatou is the only female chef at Gusteau's, which required her to be better and tougher than anyone else. As Linguini's mentor, she's a Stern Teacher who doesn't hesitate to intimidate him with her knife skills.
- Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse: When Peter B. outlines the steps of his infiltration plan of Alchemax Labs to obtain the plans for the Super-Collider that is threatening to destroy Brooklyn, he assumes the head scientist is male. He learns that Evil Genius transcends gender as the head scientist is a frizzy-haired hipster woman. This prompts him to add a step to "re-examine my personal biases".
- The made-for-TV movie The $520 An Hour Dream from 1980 stars Linda Lavin as Ellen Lissick, who works at an automobile plant doing "women's work." However, as a divorcee, Ellen needs more income to keep her children fed, clothed, and housed, so she applies for the higher-paying engine assembly job. This is considered "man's work," and the entire assembly section is male. However, the supervisor likes the idea of an in-house transfer rather than a "cold" hire, so he coaches Ellen well enough that she can pass the tests set by a pessimistic auditor, and slowly earns the respect of the male assemblers.
- Implied to the case in the flashbacks of Carol in Captain Marvel with her being taunted by males whenever she seemed to fail at something while growing up (Go-Kart, Baseball, Military Training, etc). Once she managed to get her memories back, we see her getting back up in each of the memories despite the taunts, ready to try again and indeed comes into play when she confronts Yon-Rogg and he tries to get her to fight him to prove to him she is the better fighter in a callback to the start of the movie when he was training her and beat her easily. She just simply blasts him instead. Considering she was indeed a jet pilot back before the accident, it's very clear she proved her male jeerers wrong.
- Hidden Figures follows three female mathematicians recruited by NASA to calculate the ideal time and trajectory for putting John Glenn into a stable Earth orbit. At first, some of the senior staff disbelieved that women could handle the number-crunching of rocket science. The documented calculations of these women consistently check out, quieting the doubters.
- In Thor, it's implied that Lady Sif had to pull one in order to be taken seriously as a warrior.
Thor: And who proved wrong all who scoffed at the idea that a young maiden could be one of the fiercest warriors this realm has ever known?
Sif: I did.
Thor: ...true, but I supported you!
- All over 9 to 5. The Pointy-Haired Boss is just as much a sexist (and sexual harassing) creep as he is a completely inept blowhard. The heroines kidnap him and keep him away from the office, taking over and implementing policies more favorable to the mostly-female staff, sending productivity through the roof.
- A Mage's Power: Tiza thinks she has something to prove because she's in a mercenary guild. To this end, she makes everything into a competition and doesn't like Nolien taking a leadership role among the three novices. This confuses her teammates because they don't think she has to prove anything. Two of the five guild captains are female, the other three captains have female lieutenants and the overall guildhead is female as well.
- A villainous/The Mole example in Alice, Girl from the Future: when Alice infiltrates a juvenile delinquents' school, she becomes the best student, in particular, by excelling in subjects usually reserved for boys, such as fighting dirty. When she first shows up to fight, the teachers allow her to participate because they think defeating a girl would be amazing training for the boys.
- Downplayed in the Aratta series by Maria Semyonova and Anna Gurova. In the Nakh tribe, a woman is required to be The Amazon before her marriage (she can't even marry without proving herself on the battlefield), but afterwards, she ought to make a 180-degree turn and become a Proper Lady housewife basically locked up in a tower, leaving the leadership to her husband. The saari (head) of the Bungar family is a woman who defied the custom, refused to marry and have children, commanded her family's army, and eventually managed to earn fame and respect among the male leaders.
- The Bible:
- The book of Proverbs ends with a poem called "The Wife of Noble Character", which paints a word-picture of the ideal woman. Some traits it praises are ones you'd expect, like kindness, caring for her family, and generosity, but other traits include business savvy and making piles of money.
- The tale of Deborah from the book of Judges has the only female judge in the book, who is contrasted with a cowardly Israelite general. In the same tale, the enemy general is killed by a woman.
- When Jesus visits Martha and Mary (the sisters of Lazarus) in The Four Gospels, Martha is annoyed that Mary doesn't help her with the cooking and instead sits and listens to Jesus's sermon. When Martha complains about this, Jesus tells Martha that she worries too much about minor matters, while paying attention to God's word is a lot more important. Some theologians who analyze this part note that the fact of women learning religion just like men (or better than them, since it's a group of women, Martha and Mary among them, who get to be the first to know about the Resurrection and believe in it!) was quite a sensation in the 1st century AD-Middle East.
- City of Bones by Martha Wells: Elen struggles with being a rare female Warder Magic Knight, further complicated by her being an Inept Mage. By the end of the book, she's hugely increased her magical power, helped save the world, defeated her chauvinistic Evil Mentor, and been instated as Master Warder.
- Delilah And The Space Rigger is a 1950s story by Robert A. Heinlein about the first woman working on a Space Station. The main character worries about all the trouble a woman will cause. One scene has him telling her to listen to another technician because he's very good. She replies, "I know. I trained him."
- Equal Rites sees the rather insular and chauvinistic world of magic receive a reality lesson at the hands of Discworld's witches. Prior to the mix-up at birth that led to Eskarina Smith becoming a wizard despite the handicap of being born female, the wizards held to the smug and inaccurate point of view that women were incapable of doing serious magic. Although they could be trusted with the small mundane stuff such as healing, blessing, and sustaining - all the better for the men to get on with the important stuff. Esk and her mentor in witchcraft, Granny Weatherwax, go on to prove them wrong.
- Averted in Legacy of the Dragokin. Despite Lydia's status as the first female general in Baalaria's history, all her critics focus on her Improbable Age (15!) instead of her gender.
- Given its Feminist Fantasy premise, nearly all the heroines of the Tortall Universe have to do this to get taken seriously in an overwhelmingly patriarchal society. Their attitudes towards it range from amused (Daine) to annoyed (Kel) to highly annoyed (Alanna), since they're all very dedicated to their jobs and having to deal with sexist nonsense gets in the way of getting actual work done. It's deconstructed with Alanna and Kel though: Kel is the greatest knight in her year and Alanna is the greatest knight in all of Tortall because they know that even the slightest flaw will be taken as proof that women don't make good knights, and both of them resent having to repeatedly prove themselves.
- Deconstructed in Iron Widow. Wu Zetian is by far the most powerful pilot that Huaxia has ever seen, and the patriarchal society responds by trying to either tame her or kill her to preserve their status quo. Unfortunately for them, they kill her beloved Li Shimin in the attempt, and her Roaring Rampage of Revenge results in her killing the entire ruling class.
- The Cry of Mann: Played With. Courtney at first seemed to just be Tank's new Gold Digger wife and a Wicked Stepmother to the Mann children. Then she has her Motive Rant and it's discovered that all the major war machinery advances people credited Tank Mann for were actually her ideas. She stood up and did incredibly in her male-dominated field...only to be ignored and for Tank to take the credit.
- The Orville: Downplayed with "About a Girl" and "Sanctuary." The Moclans are a Proud Warrior Race and One-Gender Race that identifies as male...mostly. If one of their species is born female, their gender is "corrected," and it's mostly an unquestioned custom...until the Moclan Bortus sues to keep his child from being "corrected." Bortus loses the case, but one of the experts he called to testify in his unsuccessful case is the planet's most celebrated writer who was born female and her parents didn't "correct" her. This causes a huge ripple in their society, as they had to face that female births were far more common than thought and were being covered up. A season later, you find she is heading up an underground railroad of sorts to create a sanctuary for female Moclans who refuse (or whose parents refuse) the gender correction. At the climactic space battle in orbit and the blaster battle on the surface, the ones leading the charge are Commander Grayson (on the ground) and Lieutenant Keyali (on the ship), both very tough ActionGirls, and they send the (male) Moclan attackers turning tail. However, they were both backed up by male crew who were fighting just as hard and it's Captain Mercer (male) using his skill with words (which can be seen as a "female" skill) at the Union Assembly that gets the compromise in place to allow the colony to stay.
- Unsounded: Vienne was a genius Magitek engineer and forgemaster who creates a revolutionary Construct design. She got by in her isolated village, but magic is illegal for women in her country, which led her to funnel aid to La Résistance and ultimately got her killed. In a prequel story, a resentful employee reports her to State Sec, so she evaporates the agent's head in front of him.
Vienne: No one lets me do anything.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender: Even though Northern Water Tribe tradition forbids women from using Waterbending in combat, Master Pakku has a Heel Realisation and permits Katara to become his first female student at the end of "The Waterbending Master". It doesn't take long before she can beat all of his male students in single combat, and he dubs her one of the fastest learners he's ever tutored and permits her to take over the responsibility of training Aang from him.
- Dudley Do-Right: In one episode, Dudley and Nell switch places, with Dudley keeping house while Nell becomes a Mountie. Nell ends up managing to capture every criminal and lowlife in Canada, to the dismay of Dudley and Inspector Fenwick, who fear this could lead to women's suffrage.
- The Simpsons: In "The Secret War of Lisa Simpson", Lisa enrolls at Rommelwood Military Academy, and ends up becoming its first female graduate despite sexist bullying from her peers and the Stay in the Kitchen attitudes of many of the staff.
- Wacky Races (2017): Penelope's motive in "Race to the Moon" is to prove herself as a capable woman astronaut in a male-dominated field. Lampshaded by I.Q., who goes on a tirade about outdated rules placed on women by society, complete with caption slides reading "SUBTLE SOCIAL COMMENTARY" and "NOT SO SUBTLE, ISNT IT?".