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'Equity' tackles the glass ceiling for women on Wall Street

Women of Wall Street

In a week when Hillary Clinton became the first female presidential nominee, Wall Street largely remains a man's club in the C suite.

There has never been a female CEO at any of the 22 largest U.S. investment banks, according to Catalyst, a non-profit that tracks women in the workplace. Now, a group of women are looking to remedy the situation—at least on the big screen.

"Women get to a certain level and they cannot break the glass ceiling," actress and producer Sarah Megan Thomas said to CNBC's On The Money in an interview. "They just don't go any higher for some reason."

Produced by Thomas and fellow actress Alysia Reiner, "Equity" is a new Wall Street movie exploring and challenging those barriers. The film is written by, directed by, produced by and stars women.

Thomas describes the film as "an entertaining thriller" and "the most realistic Wall Street movie that we've ever seen that depicts this post-financial crisis world."

Anna Gunn in "Equity"
Source: Sony Pictures Classics

Reiner, who played "Fig"—the tough assistant warden in the Netflix series, "Orange Is the New Black" — told CNBC she wasn't sold on the concept of the project when Thomas initially approached her with it.

"Sarah came to me with this idea, 'What about a woman on Wall Street?' And at first, I wasn't that interested," Reiner said.

Then, Reiner spoke to top female financial executives about the struggles they faced rising in the Wall Street workplace. "I started talking to these women and talking to friends who consult in this world." She said "hearing their stories, truly hearing the inequity, I felt like we had to tell this story.

According to federal employment data, women in the financial services industry among S&P 500 companies hold just under 19 percent of the board seats compared to their male counterparts. Meanwhile, they are just 29 percent of the senior executive positions despite being more than 54 percent of the industry workforce.

Thomas said that what surprised her most during her research "is that women felt they had to hide their pregnancy if they were up for a promotion or it was bonus season.

She added that "if they disclosed that they were pregnant during those times, they either wouldn't get the promotion or wouldn't get paid enough. And we actually put that straight into my character in the script."

In "Equity", Thomas plays the ambitious assistant to an investment banker played by "Breaking Bad" actress Anna Gunn. Gunn has the lead role as investment banker working to take a Silicon Valley startup public, while avoiding the minefields of betrayal and counter ambitions lurking around the deal in every direction.

Thomas told CNBC: "We just wanted to show complex women on screen. What [lengths] will any woman go to to get what they want in life if they're ambitious? And let the audience kind of decide how they feel about that."

Reiner added that women see "the parallels that are across all of corporate America and across our business."

Reiner described reactions to the movie as "amazing. Women coming to us afterwards from all different jobs and saying to us, oh my God, you told my story." However, she stresses "Equity", while almost entirely helmed by women, is not a "chick flick."

Reiner explained that "What's been most exciting is men love it….that's the really fun thing." Why?

"Cause there's three hot broads!" Thomas added, while Reiner chimed in that "Equity" is "a really good date movie because guys love it, because it is a thriller."

The movie opens this weekend in New York and Los Angeles, and nationwide in August.

On the Money airs on CNBC Saturday at 5:30 am ET, or check listings for air times in local markets.