At the age of 27, our main character, Ashley, did what many other up-and-coming millennial women do: she started to burn out. A phenomenon that has experts guessing as to what to do, Ashley decided to not give up, and instead, find out why this was happening to her.

Pioneers in Skirts is a social impact documentary about the sexism and gender-related bias girls and women experience in their lives and in the workplace. In the form of relatable storytelling and showcasing research findings, we show that entrenched cultural narratives can undermine fairness, tolerance, and inclusion and encourage a persistent prejudice against women who venture outside the expected norms.

As Pioneers in Skirts weaves in several elements about being a director in the film industry, the viewer also experiences other stories of how women with pioneering ambitions identify, confront and resolve obstacles in the workplace.

Main characters go through a transformation. MADDY and SOPHIA and IMAN are thirteen when we first meet them. They’re on an all-girls robotics team and achieving goals together. During the next three years they transition from energetic girls who ‘want it all’ to cautious and trying to comprehend why they must work harder than boys in order to convince people of their capabilities.

There’s a lot of parallels with their and ASHLEY’s path, too.

We have cameras rolling when LILY phones to tell Ashley she’s pregnant. She’s up for a promotion and is afraid to tell her employer. As we follow Lily we see her disheartened when her employer won’t pay her for any maternity leave and is reminded, “You won’t be returning to work anyways.” Lily starts off feeling humiliated and confused, but soon is angry.

With an aim to transform existing beliefs and values, we know we must help audiences be aware of what’s going on around them. Then, in order for real change to occur, audiences must feel they can be a part of the solution. That’s why we tell a relatable and impactful story.

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

Who’s in the film?

It didn’t take a documentary to know that the past 40 years of conventional advice to women hasn’t closed the workplace gender gap, and won’t close it.

It does take a documentary to show us how to we ALL can impact change.

Our movie addresses the gender-bias and sexism that can chip away at a woman, hurt her potential, and make her re-think her dreams.

In the film Ashley Maria takes the viewer on a nationwide journey to reveal the biases and obstacles women face as they pioneer their career paths, what can realistically be done about them, and how to dramatically change the outcome for the next generation.

Pioneers in Skirts is a story about Ashley’s journey, and 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.

Some who have shared their experiences and expertise with us on-camera —

  • 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.