Nora Poggi is a Sciences Po Master of Communications and the Director-Producer of the award-winning documentary film, "She Started It" on women tech entrepreneurs. The film was named one of "5 Must-Watch Movies for Entrepreneurs in 2017" by Inc Magazine and was shown at over 300 events, at Harvard University, Columbia University, Yale University, Stanford University, The World Bank, Disney, Google, Apple, Microsoft, as well as numerous film festivals, conferences and high schools. Shot in Silicon Valley, New York, Vietnam, Europe and elsewhere, the film follows five young women on their road to start-up success. Nora Poggi will be at Sciences Po for a projection of the film on 3, April 2018.
After the success of the documentary in the US, Nora and her team are launching the film in France. Interview with the Director-Producer.
Sciences Po: What led you to make a documentary on women entrepreneurs?
Nora Poggi: My co-producer Insiyah Saeed and I started this documentary, called She Started It, in Spring 2013. I was covering the tech industry as a journalist and noticed the lack of women. One day I attended a conference by Women 2.0 and discovered top women entrepreneurs who I had never heard of. I thought, how come their stories are not all over the news? Today, women account for only 9% of founders of high-growth firms, and 96% of venture-capitalists in the United States are men, controlling the majority of the money. We decided to tell the stories of women starting their own companies to showcase this entrepreneurial revolution. We followed five young women through the ups and downs of their entrepreneurial journey. We want girls who see the film to know that they can take risks, that failure is okay and that it is worth trying something you are passionate about.
Sciences Po: Sciences Po is a university that pays great attention to gender studies. Would you say that your studies at Sciences Po were what sparked your interest in women’s entrepreneurship?
Nora Poggi: At Sciences Po I majored in Communication, and my studies at the School of Management and Innovation were a great springboard into creative and media work. It was mostly my discovery of women business founders in San Francisco that sparked my interest in women’s entrepreneurship, but I have always been particularly focused on gender equality issues, including during my Sciences Po years, where incredible teachers gave me the tools to lead me where I am today.
Sciences Po: When Sheryl Sandberg gave a lecture at Sciences Po in 2014, she said that women “suffer from the tyranny of low expectations.” You interviewed many female tech entrepreneurs when making your documentary and you got to know them well. From your perspective, what was the most common obstacle that these women had to overcome to make their projects successful?
Nora Poggi: Studies show that girls give up on maths and science when they get a bad grade in school, but boys don't. Research also shows that fear of failure hits girls the hardest, which prevents them from going after their dreams. The women we interviewed all had one thing in common: they believed in themselves enough to overcome these doubts, that little voice which asks "Am I good enough?"
They learned how to build their self-confidence, and their family, friends or mentors were instrumental in supporting them. It is crucial for any entrepreneur to develop a support system and a network. Anyone can start within their local community or outside their ecosystem by reaching out to like-minded individuals and by looking for people willing to support them on their journey. That being said, it is imperative that we as a society change and fight against the structural barriers that prevent women and girls from following their ambitions. There is a lack of capital, ressources, role models, mentors, and support specifically for women and diverse founders (founders of color, LGBTQ, founders with disabilities, and more). We have to diversify the entire ecosystem and the venture-capital risk community, and also fight against cultural norms and media that show us a very narrow perspective on entrepreneurship. That is the part I am tackling with "She Started It.