The Empowerment Project: Ordinary Women Doing Extraordinary Things

Movie review by
Barbara Shulgasser-Parker, Common Sense Media
The Empowerment Project: Ordinary Women Doing Extraordinary Things Movie Poster Image
Doc celebrates women achieving in traditionally male fields.
  • NR
  • 2014
  • 99 minutes

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Don't put yourself in a position of regretting one day what you didn't do. Opportunity doesn't get handed to you; you need to take it.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Smart, hard-working, determined women go far, even in traditionally male-dominated fields, when they try.


A human rights attorney talks about her work against human trafficking and its basis in her desire to stop bullies.


A lawyer works to free victims of sex trafficking and forced prostitution. Women talk about feeling objectified and judged only by their looks in life and in the workplace.


Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A woman becomes a beer brew master and encourages women to enjoy beer.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Empowerment Project is an inspiring 2014 documentary about two friends who are tired of facing objectification and rejection at the workplace because of gender stereotypes that have kept women below the glass ceiling for decades. They decide that if they don't start trying to realize their dream to be filmmakers, the dream will never happen. A cross-country road trip ensues with interviews along the way of extraordinary women who have achieved in traditionally male-dominated fields -- an astronaut, a mathematician, a beer brew master, a TV producer, an architect, a human rights attorney, a politician. Human trafficking is discussed. A lawyer works to free victims of sex trafficking and forced prostitution.

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What's the story?

THE EMPOWERMENT PROJECT begins with the epigraph from the Women's Media Center: "At its current pace, it will take until 2085 for women to reach parity with men in leadership roles in government, business, entrepreneurship and nonprofits." Of TV's prime time producers and creatives, only 28 percent are women. Among commercial airline pilots, only 4 percent are women. Only 17 percent of the House of Representatives are women. The filmmakers travel across the country to talk to women who didn't give up pursuing their goals, asking how to be a "feminist" in a world that enjoys the achievements of early feminist labors yet now equates the word with radicalism and anti-femininity. Worried that some women have given up on reaching work-life parity with men and have accepted being sexually objectified and held back in their professions, they aim to inject their objectives with a less militant and more relevant meaning to inspire girls and women to take charge of their lives and achieve their goals.  

Is it any good?

This is a moving celebration of female achievement that asks the inspiring and instigating question, "What would you do if you weren't afraid to fail?" Director Sarah Moshman and producing partner Dana Michelle Cook assembled a crew of female filmmakers to look at hard questions about why despite years of feminism and attempts at fostering awareness, women still remain stranded in a cycle of stymied achievement. It assumes that years of hitting the glass ceiling has created female self censorship and caution, conditions that hold back as many women as male bias against female achievement.

This message in The Empowerment Project is offered by many of the accomplished interviewees. They observe that women labor in a cycle of self doom created in part by a lack of role models in traditionally male jobs and careers, perpetuating the sense in young girls that certain endeavors are closed to them. The film aims to dash those fears by showing a pilot, a mathematician, an architect, a congresswoman, and others in traditionally male roles who ignored naysayers and forged ahead. But it won't be easy. A black female admiral observes that for women to compete against men, they "don't have the luxury of being average." That statement questions the movie's pat subtitle as the women it presents aren't in any sense ordinary. The good news is such movies are working to raise awareness so that a female black admiral does become ordinary.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what it takes to work in one's chosen field. Do you think women have to work harder to succeed in male-dominated fields? Why or why not?

  • Some women who are financially able to choose to stay home and raise their kids instead of joining the workforce. What effect could this choice have on women's positions in high-ranking jobs?


  • Do you think the women presented in The Empowerment Project can inspire others to follow their dreams? How so?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

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