A UNC graduate's film, "Pioneers in Skirts," addresses the inequalities women face in the workplace and explores solutions to solve this problem for future generations.
Ashley Maria, who graduated from UNC in 2008, based the film on the challenges she faced as a film director. She said she would walk into a room and people would immediately assume she was an actress or assistant. Many were shocked when she introduced herself as the director.
“I just kept asking myself, ‘How am I ever going to have a career in the film industry if all I’m ever seen as is someone other than the person in charge?'" Maria said.
Maria said she was confused with these assumptions and frustrated they were occurring today. She said she felt it was especially a shock to college women because often they hear from successful women, but not about the career challenges they face right out of college.
“When I entered my career and saw there were so many things up against me that I wasn’t prepared for, I knew I needed to make a film about it and properly prepare women today and figure out how we can make it so these biases and setbacks don’t exist for the next generation,” she said.
"Pioneers in Skirts" is currently in a competition for Indiewire’s Project of the Month. Indiewire, a popular entertainment website, will write an article about the winner's project. Essentially, winning the competition would mean a lot of exposure and publicity for the film.
The film's biggest issue has been time. Maria said there is only so much you can do with a small team and raising money.
The film held a Kickstarter campaign from August to September and raised $50,000, which will be used to get ready for post-production prepare for the film’s target release in mid-2016.
“I’m coming from the point of a view of somebody who doesn’t want viewers to be overwhelmed by the topic and actually trying to keep it light and have a sense of humor," Maria said. "Because how is anyone going to listen if they feel like they’re being told these really awful things about women in their careers right now?"
Junior Leslie Moen, a business and communication studies double major, said she doesn’t think too much of being a woman in her intended career of nonprofit management because so many people she has met in that field have been women.
However, she previously considered being a consultant.
She said many people found it interesting that as a woman she would have that career choice.
“I would tell people I’m a business major, and they would say, ‘Oh, you’re in it for the money,’ but I feel like my male counterparts don’t hear that," Moen said. "And people assume they’re a business major because they’re a good leader."
"Pioneers in Skirts" reflects a wide spectrum of careers and across generations. The film addresses male-dominated careers such as film and engineering, as well as women in leadership positions and women who balance a career and wanting to have a family.
Maria also wanted to address how race and sexuality affect women in the workplace.
“It’s a whole other level of setbacks that women of color have to deal with — or women of LGBT have to deal with — and we’re trying to touch on all of it,” she said.
Maria has learned a lot from directing this film and feels her confidence as a director has grown from it. While she has been working on "Pioneers in Skirts," she has also directed side projects, including a musical and various commercials.
Lauren McDonald, public relations volunteer for "Pioneers in Skirts," said she is impressed with the film’s goal and the mentorship that Maria has created.
“Ashley’s made a really good point of not only talking to women that are CEOs and at the top of their careers, but also wanting this film to be about the women that are still in school."
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