Inspiring, lady-led audio shows abound, whether you’re in need of a career spark, family care pointers, kitchen inspiration, or just some serious belly laughs.

By Lexi Walters Wright

When you pass someone on the street wearing earbuds and grinning wildly or pull up next to a pensive driver nodding thoughtfully, you’re likely witnessing a tech trend in real time. As of 2019, more than half of Americans over age 12 have downloaded a podcast at some point on either a free podcast platform (like Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or Pandora) or a paid app (like Luminary, $7.99 per month, or Stitcher Premium, $4.99 per month).

Why? Because podcasts are an intimate way to learn, understand, and experience things deeply. But with everyone from your local middle schoolers to single-name superstars like Martha Stewart, Karamo Brown, and Gwyneth Paltrow hosting their own, how do you choose which shows are worth the megabytes on your smartphone or home automation device—and which really are going to make you feel smarter (or saner) once you listen?

Image courtesy of Getty.

This roundup of free podcasts aims to offer listeners a little self-empowerment, a dash of motivation, and a lot of female solidarity, on a garden variety of topics.

1. Best Home Design Podcast: Style Matters

You’d think it would be hard to translate a topic that relies heavily on visuals into a show for your ears, but then you maybe haven’t listened to Style Matters yet. Dedicated to “designing your home from the inside out,” this weekly interview show details do-now ways of changing up your spaces according to the way you actually live. Hosts Zandra Zuraw and Karen June Grant chat with the big-name home design bloggers and Instagrammers you likely follow, but should if you don’t already.

2. Best "Big Questions" Podcast: On Being

This is a show for tackling the Big Questions: What kind of person do I want to be? What do I really believe? What really matters in the end? Host Krista Tippett interviews literary, spiritual, political, and pop culture greats, and subtly encourages listeners to dive deep for themselves. (Warning: On Being may cause you to invent new reasons to wear headphones throughout the day.)

3. Best Science Podcast: Science for the People

A rotating cast of captivating female hosts tackle scientific topics that touch our lives every day and in unsuspecting ways. What can we do about the plastics in our oceans? Is what we think about workout recovery real? How much must we worry about *shudder* the bugs and fungi in our homes? Each episode is a fascinating listen, whether it covers biology, geography, psychology, or the "ologies" between.

4. Best "Besties" Podcast: Call Your Girlfriend

Dubbed a podcast “for long-distance besties everywhere,” this show will not only nudge you to check in more regularly with your own BFF, but also fills your female support tank with its useful discussions around work, relationships, and finding your own sense of balance. Hosts and longtime pals Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman live on opposite sides of the country, but listening to them champion each other’s work and the efforts of fellow female creators make you feel like you’re in the room where incredible connection happens.

5. Best Taboo Subjects Podcast: Death, Sex & Money

Weekly, host Anna Sale covers the dicey topics that are often left out of polite conversation. She interviews everyday men and women and some famous ones (of note: Lisa Ling, Jane Fonda, and Awkwafina) about cringe-worthy but crucial subjects: How does money change our relationships? Which new dating rules are shaping our love lives? When crises strike, how do we bounce back?

6. Best Outdoorsy Podcast: She Explores

Whether you’re constantly replacing your hiking boots or are someone who simply pines for a more outdoorsy existence, this show will empower you to pick up a trail map—or maybe just add to your ‘Go Someday’ Pinterest board. Host Gale Straub speaks with women who fit solo outback adventures, group mountaineering explorations, and basic weekend fun hikes into their lives, despite the obstacles we all face: Time, money, and health constraints. (And, yes, fear.)

7. Best Career Advice Podcast: The Broad Experience

No matter where you are in your career, chances are you’ve wrestled with the work worries that host Ashley Milne-Tyte covers on this biweekly show. Can you say no to employer requests without being professionally punished? What can you do to safeguard yourself from workplace ageism? This podcast will appeal to career in-betweeners, freelancers, and full-time workers alike.

8. Best Self-Care Podcast: Therapy for Black Girls

There are scores of general self-care podcasts available for women. But psychologist Joy Harden Bradford’s poignant show is specifically geared toward “encouraging the mental wellness of Black women and girls.” Thousands of listeners of color have submitted rave ratings and reviews about how distinctly valuable they find this weekly show—and how it’s helping bust the stigma around mental health needs for African-American women.

9. Best Foodie Podcast: Chewing

Chicago-based food reporters Louisa Chu and Monica Eng dish with chefs, restaurateurs, and everyday foodies about food trends, cookbooks, and regional can’t-miss meals. Less a show about recipes than it is about the sheer pleasure of cooking and eating, Chewing is a delightful morsel to consume bimonthly.

With more than 700,000 active podcasts out there, it’s easy to dabble in several at a time. (In fact, the average podcast listener downloads seven weekly.)

Still haven’t found “your” show? These additional niche women-hosted podcasts can help you jumpstart tackling topics like …

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