Pioneers in Skirts™ is a social impact documentary that tells the stories of how women with pioneering ambitions identify, confront and resolve unexpected bias in the workplace.

It didn’t take a documentary to know that conventional advice to women hasn’t closed the workplace gender gap, and won’t close it. However, during our years of filming, we learned something that was shocking:

Girls grow up knowing, “I can be anything I want to be if I just work hard enough,” but as adults, women continue to experience a workplace–reality filled with cultural and systemic challenges that prevent them from being what they grew up wanting to be. And, what they don’t usually end up learning is it’s not their fault. They aren’t broken.

Many young women who are starting out in their careers are surprised to see and experience an unexpected bias and/or blatant sexism. Many are told to “just deal with it” or to “just fix yourself,” and face a future of plummeting ambition and dreams lost.

After facing this reality in her own industry, director Ashley Maria set out on a 4-year journey to hear the stories of other millennial women, find solutions from workplace experts, and share how pioneering women and men can confront the biases they see.

Studies show women are backing off from their career ambitions despite having a ‘we can do it’ attitude. (Read 2014 Bain & Company survey.)

Follow our journey as we make Pioneers in Skirts


Pioneers in Skirts is a movie about the gender-bias and sexism that can chip away at a woman’s drive to succeed, hurt her potential, and make her re-think her dreams.

Who’s in the film?

Pioneers in Skirts follows our director Ashley Maria’s journey as she come to terms with her experiences and learns she’s not alone. The film features other millennial working women, experts influencing new thought about the American workplace, and men committed to advocating for change.

And, Ashley discovers how to get her ambition back on track.

Pioneers in Skirts is also the journey of three teens as they and their parents share their transformative experiences and challenges of being on an all-girl robotics team. We also follow the life of Ashley’s best friend, a millennial woman, who discovers that being pregnant while up for a promotion warrants a penalty in her career.

A sampling of those who shared their experiences and expertise —

  • Women like UNC Chapel Hill’s Women’s Basketball Coach, Sylvia Hatchell; Focus Brands Group President, Kat Cole; MOZ CEO, Sarah Bird; Major General Heidi V. Brown; and famed film and television actor/director Joan Darling.
  • Men who want to make a difference – men like Chairman of NCWIT Board of Directors and Foundry Group’s Co-Founder & Managing Director Brad Feld, television icon Norman Lear, and the fathers of the teen-aged robotic engineers we follow in the film.
  • Some real-life Rosie the Riveters share how they paved the way for today’s working woman, and organizations like NCWITAAUW and NWHM.
  • To make sure we accurately depict what is really happening to a woman when her ambition plummets, we feature renowned leadership psychologist Dr. Hope Hills.

With their participation in the film, as stories are exchanged and revelations made, and as Ashley applies the lessons she has learned – our story brings the viewer back to how bias and sexism starts. Through this, we see how women and men can instigate change early on for the next generation of pioneering women.