Getting a startup off the ground is not an easy feat for anyone, but it is particularly hard if you are a woman, because along with facing the usual hurdles associated with starting a business in this time and age, you will also have to put up with sexist remarks, disparaging comments and misogynistic attitudes.
Kate Dwyer and Penelope Gazin, the cofounders of Witchsy — an innovative e-commerce platform for dark, witty and beautifully weird art — realized early on in their venture how the outside web developers, collaborators, graphic designers and contractors communicated with them.
Not only were those email exchanges extremely offensive and patronizing, they were disrespectful.
In fact, a male developer even started an email with “OK, girls…,” while another tried deleting coding from their website when Gazin refused to go on a date with him.
It was then that the L.A.-based artists decided to offset tech industry’s prevalent sexism by inventing a fake male cofounder. They named him Keith Mann — because, obviously — and used the alias to communicate with third-party contractors over email.
“It was like night and day,” Dwyer told the Fast Company. “It would take me days to get a response, but Keith could not only get a response and a status update, but also be asked if he wanted anything else or if there was anything else that Keith needed help with.”
Mann was not only treated with respect, but his perceived involvement in Witchsy helped the budding business, as there were people who seemed to hold Mann in a higher regard than the actual, real entrepreneurs who were working hard to curate art and turning their business into a success.
“I think we could have gotten pretty bent out of shape about that,” Dwyer added. “Wow, are people really going to talk to this imaginary man with more respect than us? But we were like, you know what, this is clearly just part of this world that we’re in right now. We want this and want to make this happen.”
The sexism and gender discrimination in tech industry is nothing new, and while some may find the lengths these Witchsy co-founders went to a little bizarre, many women working in the Silicon Valley definitely agree with their strategy.
Sometimes, you have to beat people at their own game.
Thumbnail/Banner: Pixabay, PIRO4D