If you are thinking of starting your own business, or struggling to get the respect you deserve in the workplace, you need to hear what two badass women entrepreneurs had to do to dodge the sexism bullet:
Penelope Gazin and Kate Dwyer are the masterminds behind an online marketplace for dark-humored art, aptly named Witchsy. The two knew when they started their company selling things that shun the typical HGTV-inspired art that you are typically overwhelmed by on sites like Etsy, it wasn’t going to be all smooth sailing.
For starters, they had little working capital and limited tech experience. There were lots of “helpful” critics, of course, asking them if they were absolutely sure they wanted to do this.
“I think because we’re young women, a lot of people looked at what we were doing like, ‘What a cute hobby!’ or ‘That’s a cute idea,'” Dwyer told Fast Company.
Their biggest hurdle though? Dealing with outside developers they’ve hired to help build their business, most of whom happened to be male.
The two were soon faced with condescending tones and bad attitudes, with some staff treating Gazin and Dwyer like they were silly girls who didn’t know what they were doing. In one case, a web developer tried to delete everything after one of the women declined his proposal to go on a date with him.
Gavin and Dwyer started to notice a trend. Most of the the tech professionals they hired started acting superior to the duo over email saying things like, “Okay, girls,” instead of addressing them by their names. Typical misogynistic bullshit.
But these motivated women were not going to let the patriarchy stand in their way. They decided it was time to bring on co-founder Keith Mann, who would take over the position of communicating over email with those outside Witchsy. The catch? Keith Mann wasn’t real.
So yeah, they came up with a fake dude in order to get the respect they deserved in the first place, and their strategy was immediately effective. Surprise, surprise.
“It was like night and day,” said Dwyer. Where it used to take her or Gazin days to get a response, Keith was receiving replies right away. Not only that, people would go as far as to ask if they could help him in any other way. People were falling all over themselves to support Keith and secure his contract. Are you freaking kidding me?
Please excuse while I run outside to scream my head off.
It seemed that Keith was the secret ingredient to getting respect and moving their business along in the direction they wanted, minus the patronizing comments and pickup lines.
“I think we could have gotten pretty bent out of shape about that,” Dwyer told Fast Company. “Wow, are people really going to talk to this imaginary man with more respect than us?” Unfortunately, yes, that was the case because this is the reality when you are a business woman who wants to achieve her goals in this patriarchal society.
Gazin and Dwyer utilized good ol’ Keith until they didn’t need him anymore, but they will not hesitate to bring him back on board in the future.
Pathetic? Yes. But it’s not a reflection of the ladies behind Witchsy. What’s pathetic is that in the United States in 2017, women still have to pretend to be a man to get the professional respect they deserve.