About the Film

Pioneers in Skirts is a multi-award-winning social impact film that examines the barriers and setbacks women confront in their careers. Analyzing what it is that chips away at pioneering ambition, the film helps viewers understand what they (themselves) can do to change it.


This feature documentary is an engaging examination of gender parity in our culture from the perspective of a female filmmaker who was frustrated with her own problems in the film industry.

Not finding many answers within her profession, she decides to expand her search to include other industries and society in general.

In an inspiring portrait of perseverance and determination, director Ashley Maria not only shares her own story, but she follows the journey of 3 girls on a robotic team, their fathers, as well as a young mother – all while traveling the U.S., speaking to fellow pioneering women and topic experts who had solutions to share.

By the end of her quest, Ashley finds out how we ALL can address the stereotyping and sexism that can chip away at a woman, hurt her potential, and make her feel like she must re-think her dreams.

Directed by DGA award-winning director Ashley Maria.

Pioneers in Skirts Movie Poster with Credits

Movie Poster

The design goal for our movie poster was to express a feeling of optimism. We were mindful to weave in brighter shading from the Pioneer green spectrum into the background so you felt the hope the film brings. The poster design also reflects the movie’s message: You Are Not Alone.

Release Date

Official release date: August 2020…yeah, during the pandemic :)
Theatrical release: in a post-pandemic world :)

Screening Format

Secure online streaming link, Blu-ray disc, DCP
English | 60-min runtime
Closed captioning: English
Subtitles: Spanish, Portuguese, Simplified Chinese, French, German, Russian, Arabic

Press Kit

More information about the film and access to photos & promotional materials can be found here: pioneersinskirts.com/press-kit.

What’s A Pioneer?

A Pioneer — at its core, is a person who confronts and overcomes the barriers she encounters along her career path. – more

Movie Trailers

3-min: Watch/Embed/Download link: vimeo.com/386090624

30-sec: Watch/Embed link: https://youtu.be/0GIPamDFq_8

We’re extremely proud of the recognition we received when we screened in the festival circuit. Thank you to the many people and organizations who have been supporting us along our journey to achieve positive change for women & girls around the world!

Who We Are

Pioneers in Skirts is a film from a daughter-mother team dedicated to fast-tracking the cultural change we need in order to achieve a gender equal world.

No stranger to bias, Lea-Ann entered her career at a time where she had to fight for many of her career achievements. Like many women, she assumed her struggles made it easier for younger women entering the workforce. But during a heart-felt conversation on a drive to the beach, her daughter Ashley revealed bias was alive and well, and eroding Ashley’s ambition.

This revelation led them both on a journey to get answers around what Ashley and her colleagues were experiencing. After seeing the data around current stereotyping and sexism, Ashley and Lea-Ann decided to pause their careers, pick up a camera and produce their documentary.


We’re very pleased to have the filmmakers join us today, too! Ashley Maria is the director of Pioneers in Skirts and winner of the coveted Director’s Guild of America Award. She has been working in film & television for 10 years, is based in Los Angeles, and grew up here in Raleigh, NC! She received her undergrad from UNC-Chapel Hill and her Masters in Cinematic Arts from USC (in Los Angeles).
Lea-Ann Berst is the producer of Pioneers in Skirts. Lea-Ann started her career working for Marvel Comics in NYC, moved into the technology industry when “computer chips” were a term most people were unfamiliar with, and left her 15-year career in tech to be a filmmaker and an outsourced activation marketer.
Lea-Ann lives in Raleigh, NC, but grew up all over the world because she’s the child of an Army officer.

Fun fact, Lea-Ann also happens to be Ashley’s Mom!


Below are short and long biographies for Ashley and Lea-Ann. Please contact us for more information.

Ashely Maria Holding "I'm a Pioneer" Sticker

Ashley Maria


Short Bio:

Pioneers in Skirts Director, Ashley Maria, is a DGA award-winning filmmaker located in Los Angeles, CA. She is known for her work on many feature & short films, new media, and television commercials. Ashley received her MFA from the USC School of Cinematic Arts and her undergrad from UNC-Chapel Hill. When not on set, Ashley is a directing instructor at UCLA’s Film School.

Lea-Ann W. Berst Headshot

Lea-Ann W. Berst


Short Bio:

Pioneers in Skirts Producer, Lea-Ann W. Berst, is an award-winning global activation professional located in Raleigh, NC. Her career has spanned from Technology to Olympic Brand Activation, and now Film. Lea-Ann is known for her work on impact documentaries and building partnerships and tactics designed to deepen and advance the positive impact a film can have on our culture.

Long Bio: Ashley Maria is the director of Pioneers in Skirts. She is a filmmaker known for her work as a writer and director and location sound mixer for feature & short films, new media, and television commercials.
A winner of the prestigious Directors Guild of America (DGA) award, she has also been recognized by the DGA Women’s Steering Committee as representing The Future of Women in Film.
When not on set, Ashley is a directing instructor at UCLA’s Film School and a sound instructor at the American Film Institute’s Young Women in Film program. Ashley is also a North American delegate to the United Nation’s Commission on the Status of Women – the principal global policy-making body dedicated exclusively to gender equality and the advancement of women. Prior to transitioning to a freelance career, Ashley earned over 10 years of studio production experience with Sony Pictures Television, Mark Burnett Productions, and ESPN.
Word Count: 150

Find out more about Ashley by visiting her IMDb page and Ashley-Maria.com website.

Long Bio: Lea-Ann W. Berst is the producer of Pioneers in Skirts. She is a filmmaker known for her work as a writer and producer of documentaries focused on cultural change. 

Drawing from her experience and the lessons she learned during her over 25 year in the corporate and consultative career, Lea-Ann works on impact documentaries and building partnerships and tactics designed to deepen and advance the positive impact a film can have on our culture.

Lea-Ann has worked with several industry leaders, like: IBM, Memorex Telex, Kyocera, and Lenovo. When not in a conference room (or on set), Lea-Ann contributes to non-profit boards, guest lectures on the topic of marketing practice, and is a volunteer committee chair for the Business and Professional Women / USA organization. 

She is a winner of several technical and leadership awards – including the prestigious IBM Award of Excellence, the NC Triangle Women in Business award, and several Society for Technical Communication awards.

Word Count: 156
Find out more about Lea-Ann by visiting her IMDb page and Sleddogg.com website.

Credits -- The Crew

Directed by Ashley Maria

Produced by Lea-Ann W. Berst, Ashley Maria

Sound Edit by Amy Reynolds Reed

Composed by Alana Balagot

Sound Editing & Design by Devon Kelley at Skywalker Sound

Sound Mix by Vicki Lemar at Technicolor Post-Production Sound

Edited by Tiffany Hope, Ashley Maria, Crystal Lentz

Production Sound by Rebecca Chan

Cinematography by Elizabeth Yarwood

Written by Lea-Ann W. Berst, Ashley Maria

Graphic Design by Tom Bloczynski

Movie Theme Song “Freeway” by Mia Yara