The Glass Ceiling Still Unbreakable For The Next Generation Of Women

Dec 13, 2019

Director Ashley Maria tackles gender bias in Hollywood and beyond.

As the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements continue to evolve, the problem of gender bias and discrimination in the workplace is no closer to being solved. Filmmaker Lea-Ann W. Berst saw that first hand with her own daughter Ashley Maria.

She sent her to the so-called “right schools” with all the “right” opportunities, but found that her daughter repeatedly struggled to secure jobs and compete for opportunities with men. Together they took this struggle and turned it into the documentary “Pioneers In Skirts.” They used North Carolina as a backdrop to explore the early lives of girls and examine how they develop confidence, set goals and manage troubling times.They move from there into the world of female filmmakers in Hollywood and the lives of female CEOs.The film premiered at the DTLA Film Festival in Los Angeles in October, and Maria won best new director. Berst joins host Frank Stasio to share their film, the stories that inspired it and the lessons learned along the way. 


Berst on how her daughter Ashley Maria was set up for a successful career in film: 

She graduated top 3% of her class in high school. 653 kids. She’s a smart cookie. She went to UNC-Chapel Hill. She landed coveted, paid internships. Then when she went off to college in California to get her Masters in Cinematic Arts [from USC], she did really well there too. Her very first film there won a Director’s Guild of America Award … Then she graduated. When she graduated everything changed … She said: I think it’s my fault.  

Berst on the early days of her career in the tech field:

This was quite a while ago when I started my career. It was more overt, the bias and the sexism that happened. I was always asked: Let me see what dress you have, and twirl for me. That was a joke back then. But today it’s more subtle. 

Berst on how Norman Lear helped launched the career of the first Emmy-nominated female director: 

Joan Darling started her career as a writer with “The Dick Van Dyke” show. Then she became an actress on television and movies. And her friend Norman Lear one day said: Listen, I’ve got this show called “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman,” and I want to tell you all about it. 

Berst on getting your confidence back: 

The number one way is sports. I’m trying to get my confidence back. I don’t know why it went away. I’m not broken. Women [have] got to realize we are not broken. Things are beating on them every single day.  Go out there and play a sport and not just any sport. Play a team sport.