To avoid sexism, two businesswomen get imaginary male co-founder

The technology world has been widely criticised for its sexism problem. Now, two female entrepreneurs have revealed they had to invent a male co-founder in order to get their firm started.

Penelope Gazin and Kate Dwyer, who founded the online art marketplace Witchsy, created an imaginary third co-founder Keith Mann, which they would use to correspond with male developers and designers.

It came after developers and designers, most of whom were male, used a condescending tone towards them. In one instance, a developer opened an email with the phrase, “Okay, girls”. Another attempted to delete their website after Gazin declined his offer of a date.

Kate Dwyer and Penelope Gazin, co-founders of Witchsy CREDIT: WITCHSY
(Pictured: Kate Dwyer and Penelope Gazin, co-founders of Witchsy. Credit: WITCHSY)

“It was like night and day,” Dwyer told Fast Company after they started to send emails under the “Keith” pseudonym. “It would take me days to get a response, but Keith could not only get a response and a status update, but could also be asked if he wanted anything else or if there was anything else that Keith needed help with.”

After they set up an email account for Keith the people they were working with became more responsive, they said. Despite the damning indictment for the industry, Gazin and Dwyer said they didn’t let the experience tarnish their ambition.

Witchsy is a craft marketplace similar to Etsy but with a more gothic vibe
(Pictured: Witchsy, a craft marketplace similar to Etsy but with a more gothic vibe. Credit: WITCHSY)

“I think we could have gotten pretty bent out of shape about that,” said Dwyer. “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.”

The co-founders are not the first women to report experiencing sexism in Silicon Valley’s tech scene.

Major companies including Google, Uber, Oracle and Peter Thiel’s Palantir have been embroiled in gender and sexual discrimination scandals in recent months.

Google fired engineer James Damore for perpetuating harmful gender stereotypes in an open letter to the firm that said the yawning pay gap was partly down to biological causes.

True or false? T-shirt by witchsy.com/Sarah-day

A post shared by Witchsy (@shopwitchsy) on

Uber’s former chief executive Travis Kalanick had to step down after a report found sexual misconduct was endemic at the ride-hailing company. It fired 20 employees and reprimanded a further 40.

Similar problems affect tech companies in the UK, with the funding process for start-ups often discriminating against female entrepreneurs. A report from Barclays and the Entrepreneurs Network in March found 9pc of investment into upstart firms went to those run by women in 2016.

Witchsy is similar to craft marketplace Etsy but with a gothic twist. In its first year the company made around $200,000 worth of sales, according to Fast Company, and signed an investment deal with Justin Roiland, co-creator of Rick and Morty.

Source: The Telegraph