Making a Difference

Pioneers in Skirts activation efforts are aimed at casting a broader scope of awareness for the need to address gender equality issues. Screening in a host of locations around the globe, we aim to help organizations utilize the film to:

  • be a catalyst for meaningful conversation about taking action against cultural bias, sexism, and unfair stereotypes, and
  • re-ignite schools, community organizations, governments, businesses, and other stakeholders to work to eliminate discrimination against women and girls and achieve equality in all areas of life.

With women being disproportionately affected by the pandemic, this team is also pushing for women to be at the heart of post-pandemic recovery efforts.

Ashley Maria

Director, Producer, Co-Writer

Pioneers in Skirts Director, Ashley Maria, is a filmmaker located in Los Angeles, CA. Featured in the film as well as leading the making of the film -- Ashley now focuses on an ambitious International Impact Campaign to maximize the film’s reach and engagement with people so that we can achieve equality in all areas of life. Ashley received her MFA from the USC School of Cinematic Arts and is known for her work on many feature & short films, new media, and television commercials. She is the recipient of the prestigious Directors Guild of America award, and most recently, she was recognized as the “Best New Director” at the DTLA Film Festival.

Lea-Ann W. Berst on Set

Lea-Ann W. Berst

Producer, Co-Writer, Activation

Pioneers in Skirts Producer, Lea-Ann W. Berst, is a filmmaker and global activation professional located in Raleigh, NC. Leading the ambitious International Impact Campaign for the film, Lea-Ann wants to maximize the film’s reach and engagement with people so that we can achieve equality in all areas of life. Her career spans from Technology to Olympic Brand Activation, and now Film. Lea-Ann is known for her work on building partnerships and tactics designed to deepen and advance the positive impact a film can have on our culture. She is the recipient of various leadership and business awards, including the prestigious IBM Award of Excellence and Triangle Women in Business in North Carolina.

Vanessa Bennett

Segment Manager - EDU / VET

Pioneers in Skirts Educational and Veterans Segment Manager, Vanessa Bennett, is a former Staff Sergeant in the U.S. Army and is located in Raleigh, NC. After serving as an Advisory Board member to the film during Production and Test-screenings, Vanessa took over the leadership role of making sure the film has a positive impact on students and with female veterans around the globe. Also, as the Director of Marketing and Admin Operations at S&M Seamless Gutters, Inc., Vanessa manages HR, sales & marketing and outreach events. During her two decade career prior to being part of this family-run business, Vanessa held positions at major U.S. universities in human subject protection administration.

Suzette Cotto

Suzette Cotto

Strategic Outreach Lead

Pioneers in Skirts Strategic Outreach Lead, Suzette Cotto, works with the Producers to design effective, creative strategies to bring the film to diverse audiences around the globe. Located in Houston, TX, she leads a team of volunteers who explore and identify unique opportunities for the films' outreach campaign. Prior to this, Suzette served as an Advisory Board member to the film during the Production and Test-screening phases of the film. Also, with a long history of running successful campaigns, Suzette is CEO of Innovate Social Media, a digital marketing agency specializing marketing for startups in the medical, technology, and energy industries.

CONTACT Ashley Maria:

CONTACT Lea-Ann W. Berst:

CONTACT Vanessa Bennett:

CONTACT Suzette Cotto: Pioneers[@]