When it comes to women in the workplace, discouraging statistics are commonplace. Like the fact that Forbes’ list of Fortune 500 CEOs hit a record high last year with 20 women. Or the groundbreaking number of women in Congress (still less than 19 percent of our country’s representatives). Or that women made up just 18 percent of the directors, producers, writers, cinematographers, and editors for last year’s top 250 films. This lack of representation means female role models and mentors are few and far between. When it comes to women who are kicking ass at what they do, we’re left to simply wonder how they do it. Ladypoints, a brand-new web series created by four female film school grads, is hoping to help solve this issue, one episode at a time. And they’re doing so with a little help from Etsy and its sellers.
The main goal of the series is to celebrate women and the interesting, independent lives they’re forging by focusing each three-minute episode on one awesome gal (the pilot features actress/writer/improv comedian Nicole Drespel, and forthcoming subjects include Racialicious associate editor Andrea Plaid and puppeteer Elizabeth Hara). “In a way, each episode is like career day,” says Jamie Li, Ladypoints’ director of photography. “We get to find out about the jobs and the passions that women have.”
It opens up the floor for other issues as well, she explains, from big-picture challenges, like how to deal with sexism or harassment on the job, how to handle failure and rejection, to more detail-oriented subjects, like how to find a mentor, how to get health insurance as an artist or freelancer, and how to pay rent while pursuing your passion. “Obviously a lot of these things we all learn from experience, but I think there’s an extra burden on women because we don’t easily get access to that sort of advice,” Li says. “It has a lot to do with our gender — we’re intimidated to seek that advice, or we don’t have people we feel comfortable enough around to ask those questions.”
Li experienced this firsthand while getting her BFA in film/TV production at NYU, when she felt shy speaking up as one of the only women in her camerawork class. It was in this program that Li met Keiko Wright and Rekha Shankar; she met Samantha Knowles while doing an internship in the industry. The women realized they had kindred sentiments, especially when it came to sexism and racism, so when Wright came up with the idea for Ladypoints after an inspiring volunteer experience with the non-profit Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls, all four were on board.
But it takes a lot more than excitement to get a project off the ground, especially one that involves lights, cameras, and sound equipment. After filming the pilot episode with borrowed gear, the women realized owning their own was crucial to the success of the series, and launched a Kickstarter to raise the funds. That’s where Etsy came in, featuring Ladypoints on its curated Kickstarter page. “To us, that was a big deal. It was positive to have that recognition and be able to tell everyone, ‘Hey! We’re important, we got noticed!’” Li says with a laugh.
Within five days the women reached their $5,000 goal, covering the purchase of equipment. They decided to try to raise $2,500 more, to allow them to produce a second season with interviews beyond Ladypoints’ NYC home base. “We want to show that, hey, you can be in any city, any town in the country, and you can be doing really awesome things for yourself and for your community, and empowering the women around you,” says Li. They hit this extended fundraising goal as well, thanks to some killer rewards from Etsy sellers, including “Feminism is cool” buttons and “Fight like a grrrl” totes from ModernGirlBlitz and “Cats against cat-calls” stickers from Justyna Dabrowski.
Thanks to the success of the Kickstarter project, Ladypoints debuted this week. Planning for season two is already well underway. Which means a few more women’s stories will have their time in the spotlight. “Our audience is women. They’re the people we’re going to cater to and that’s something we shouldn’t apologize for,” Li says. “Guys can want to watch it, that’s totally cool, but our audience is women. Young women, older women, women in their 20s — their reactions are what we care about.” When asked what the response to Ladypoints has been like, Li excitedly confirms what I had hoped: “There are tons of women out there who are like — yes, it’s a call to arms! We need to do something!”