Empowering women through film at the Breckenridge Film Festival Sept. 16 | SummitDaily.com

Empowering women through film at the Breckenridge Film Festival Sept. 16

As a sophomore in college in 2013, Robin Hauser Reynolds' daughter started calling home, saying she didn't feel like she was fitting in with the rest of the computer science students. Although she was always an academically competent student, Reynolds said, with only one other woman in the class, she felt like she didn't belong. Eventually she began having the sensation she was failing and that others knew more about the topic than she did. Eventually, she dropped computer science as her major and didn't receive any encouragement from her professors to stay.

"Turns out she was in the top third of her class," Reynolds said.

Soon after, Reynolds saw a White House report stating that by 2020, there would be 1.4 million computer-science related jobs, and only 400,000 computer scientists, leaving 1 million jobs unfilled by U.S. workers.

"I thought, 'This is crazy,'" Reynolds said. "Why aren't we producing enough computer scientists? It turns out that we are missing half the population. We are missing women and we are missing people of color."

Along with producer Staci Hartman, Reynolds delves into the reasons behind male dominance in the rising industry in her movie "CODE: Debugging the Gender Gap," showing Friday, Sept. 16 at the Breckenridge Film Festival (BFF). As part of the Women Empowerment block, this documentary will examine women's role in the career field and explore solutions to stereotypes.

Also part of the Women's Empowerment block, "Strong Sisters: Elected Women in Colorado," by Meg Froelich and recent Summit transplant Laura Hoeppner, will share the history of elected women in Colorado with interviews from 70 current and former political women and six historians.

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"The Women Empowerment block just naturally evolved into a great block of films that features a local filmmaker," said Janice Kurbjun, executive director of BFF. "It's women filmmakers as well as the content they are featuring — the whole block has a multilevel meaning. It's important in today's world because of what's happening in politics; it's important in today's world in terms of what's happening in the economy. … Women are doing great things and (it's good to be) able to feature triumphs in that world and create discussion around it."

BREAKING STEREOTYPES

As Reynolds and her team began exploring reasons for the gender gap for "CODE," they discovered that the stereotype of what a computer scientist was marginalizes women and minorities.

"When you think of a computer scientist, many people think of a 20-something-year-old white or Asian male, with a hoodie in the basement, doing programming into the wee hours of the morning drinking Red Bull and eating stale pizza," Reynolds said. "That image doesn't really speak to a lot of women, to a lot of girls, even young, so a lot of them stop pursuing it."

Female students, while excelling in math, stop raising their hands by sixth or seventh grade because they don't want to be known as the "smart girl," Reynolds said, and books, TV and movies only propel the stereotype, never creating intriguing women role models in the STEM field.

"The messaging that's being sent to these young girls is, 'Hey, if you're a cool girl, then you're not studying STEM,'" she said. "It's very sad."

Although part of the Adventure Reel on Friday, Sept. 16 at 7 p.m., filmmaker Michelle Bauer Carpenter's "Klocked: Women with Horsepower" is all about breaking female stereotypes. The film follows women motorcycle land speed record holders Laura Klock and her two daughters Erika and Karlee Cobb. Carpenter showcases three powerful and arguably "cool" female role models in an effort to destroy stereotypes of how women are portrayed in mainstream media.

"I think girls and kids growing up right now need to see that women don't fall into some categories we see on television," Carpenter said, prime example being Laura Klock — motorcycle racer, business woman and mother. "It's really important to have role models that have a positive force out there. To really show women as successful, smart, and that it's OK to fail and OK to win."

Carpenter produced a film a few years ago about the spirit of women motorcyclists in "Driven to Ride," and it was meeting Laura Klock and hearing her story that inspired her to create "Klocked." Not only has she beaten land speed records and started a nonprofit for youth, she also created and sells Klock Werk windshields that help keep motorcycles stable at high speeds.

Klock's nonprofit, Helping With Horsepower, works with at-risk youth. The program gives kids the opportunity to help rebuild motorcycles, using the activity as a metaphor for rebuilding lives.

"She's just an inspirational person," Carpenter said.

Carpenter, who is also an associate professor of digital design at the University of Colorado Denver, will be in attendance at the BFF, along with Laura and Brian Klock and Erika and Karlee Cobb.

"I think this film is about perseverance and not being afraid to go for it," Carpenter said. "But also knowing your limits because they try to be as safe as possible. But it really is about living life in the front row, going for it and perseverance. Knowing that you are going to fail sometimes and you're going to win sometimes, and you might see a crash, but you have to persevere if you want to achieve a goal."

WOMEN IN HISTORY

In the early 1900s, the women of Frisco, Colorado, rallied to form a new town council after one hadn't met in years. Balancing the budget and getting the town back on track, the all-women council kept the economy going in their little mountain town before women even had rights to vote nationally. Colorado has historically been a leader in women's history in office, giving women the right to vote in 1893, decades before the 19th Amendment was passed in 1920. The next year, the state elected the first three women to serve on any state Legislature in the U.S. Currently, Colorado continues to lead the country in women's representation at the state level.

Filmmakers Hoeppner and Froelich spent three and a half years compiling 76 interviews to tell the story of the important role elected women have played in history. "Strong Sisters: Elected Women in Colorado" examines three questions, with the first being, why Colorado?

"Why was Colorado so far ahead of the rest of the world and the rest of the country?" Hoeppner said. "We were the second state to give women the right to vote, the first state where men voted on that issue alone — on women's suffrage. Men were the voters and men gave women the right to vote in this state in 1893. … Why has Colorado, in the last several years, had the highest percentage of females in the state Legislature?"

The second question the film examines is, why does this matter?

"What we were told by the women that we interviewed is women function differently in that they collaborate more," said Hoeppner, who will be in attendance at the festival. "That they are more interested in finding solutions to problems than being famous or it being about them. They are more interested in solving problems and doing it in a collaborative manner."

The third question examines why Colorado has never had a female governor, U.S. senator or mayor of Denver.

"What's going on there, is there a glass ceiling?" Hoeppner said. "And how do we break through that glass ceiling?"

Hoeppner, who spent years researching and writing biographies of historical women for the Colorado Legislative Women's Caucus, wants to take the 50 to 75 hours of interviews and make them available on an oral history archive. She hopes students will have access to them for future research, to preserve these women's legacies and give the younger generation more female role models.

"There's a whole generation who doesn't have a clue who Pat Schroeder is," Hoeppner said. "Not only should they … know of her, but she's a really entertaining person. There are great stories when it comes to her. And if we don't provide them to the next generations, they won't know those stories."

CREATING CONVERSATION

Whether exploring issues in politics or the computer science field, the documentaries work to bring the issue of women in the industries to the forefront and create an ongoing public dialogue. If there is a glass ceiling to women in politics, what will it take to shatter that barrier? What kinds of steps can be taken to make computer science classes less intimidating to women?

For Hoeppner, Colorado's history can be an example to the nation. A legislative body should be a reflection of the state, a representation of the people, and it is imperative to have women be a part of the solution to problems in the state and the country.

"I often hear people say, 'Well, what would be the ideal percentage?" Hoeppner said. "Ruth Bader Ginsburg said, 'How many Supreme Court justices — how many women would be appropriate?' and she said, 'nine.' I have taken that point of view since doing these interviews and this work. Let's try 100 percent for the next 100 years. It's absurd and yet at the same time it's been absurd to have such a male-dominated political environment for so long."

In her research, "CODE" filmmaker Reynolds discovered that there is still sexism in start-up cultures where millennials dominate staff numbers, a troubling indicator that the behavior will continue to advance.

"I don't really understand even to this day how that is, other than it's sort of a follow-through, or a carryover from fraternities, and that boys will be boys when they all work together and live together," she said. "This is partly what's happening, and they tend to get away with it, and because there aren't more women in this environment, that sort of behavior just continues to breed and advance. Until we get more women in this space or women in upper management, it's just not going to happen. They won't behave that way when they're not the majority."

Her film offers solutions to diversify companies in order to keep the computer science workforce domestic.

"There are simply not enough coders, there are not enough computer science programmers, therefore we are bringing them over from abroad," she said. "If we want to fill the jobs, and if we want to keep jobs domestic, then what we need to do is we need to get more people trained and we need to bring in women and people of color. It's as simple as that."

IF YOU GO

What: Women Empowerment block at Breckenridge Film Festival

When: Friday, Sept. 16 at 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Where: Speakeasy Theatre, 103 S. Harris St., Breckenridge

Cost: $10; go to breckfilmfest.org for more information or tickets