PLAYING AT SIFF | 'Dream, Girl' puts the focus on female entrepreneurs

About halfway through “Dream, Girl,” Annie Wong, a co-founder of an industrial 3D-printing company, touches on a sentiment familiar to many women 

“I also felt that society assigns behavioral stereotypes to women; they’ll say women are more empathetic, or women are really softer, maybe even to the point of a pushover. Men are more aggressive, more of a go-getter. And then I thought, wow, how am I supposed to navigate [running a company] when the behavioral traits that I’m supposed to have, in the job that I’m in, are inherently masculine?” 

It’s a question that lingers on the fringes of “Dream, Girl” even as the piece establishes time and time again that it doesn’t take a man, or even “masculine traits” to be a successful entrepreneur What each woman interviewed in the documentary has found is that feminity does not have to be at odds with results. 

As director Erin Bagwell narrates over the opening, her own feminist workplace awakening came slowly, but ultimately resulted in an ever-growing newsletter (Feminist Wednesday), a quit job, and $100,000 raised in a Kickstarter campaign to create this film. 

Bagwell’s presence in the film is mostly in the introduction and the conclusion, both areas that are already predisposed to being cutesy in a documentary devoted to girl power, and “Dream, Girl” is no exception. But once it starts flipping through its Rolodex of fiercely strong women entrepreneurs, talking to them about their entrepreneurial experiences, it gets going. 

On the whole the group of women are younger and more diverse than audiences may be accustomed to seeing. A majority of the women interviewed for the film are women of color. They work running media corporations, book publishers, angel investment firms, ice cream businesses, and more; running the gamut and truly breaking the mold of what it looks like to succeed in business. 

Of course these women, and this documentary, don’t have the all the answers about how to make life simple for businesswomen. The truth is, no one does. But “Dream, Girl” isn’t as concerned with those firm answers; though its entrepreneurs and co-founders touch on the difficulties of work-life balance, lack of maternity leave and family arrangements, and experiences of sexism and discrimination in their professional lives, it’s more interested in the innate skills these women have behind them. Many of them say they’ve always known on some level that they had entrepreneurial tendencies. Seeing such an array of women, from different backgrounds, perspectives, and industries all be successful is such an extraordinary affirmation of female power. It’s an expression of strong women we don’t often get to see — business boss — flexing in so many different ways. 

The documentary includes small little glimpses and windows into their daily discussions where it’s clear that there’s no code switching or makeovers happening between their solo interviews and their day-to-day lives. These women are powerful, in charge, and refusing to embrace the negative, masculine stereotypes of bygone bosses. 

“How could I take on these masculine traits I needed to do well in my job, and still feel like a woman?” wonders Wong. “In the end, I felt that the only way I could reconcile it was to, in my mind, decouple those traits and those roles from what is masculine and what is feminine.” 

With any luck, she and her “Dream, Girl” cohort are just the start. 

“Dream, Girl,” screens Jan. 19 at SIFF Cinema Uptown (511 Queen Anne Ave. N.) at 7 p.m. Special guests will be in attendance for a post-screening panel discussion.