Man gets more respect than his female co-founders, even though he’s imaginary

When entrepreneurs Penelope Gazin and Kate Dwyer got sick of men in the business world not taking their startup seriously, they came up with an unusual solution.

The two women brought on a male co-founder, named Keith Mann. But here’s the twist — Mann never actually existed.

And to make the story even stranger — “hiring” the fake male co-founder actually solved the problem.

Gazin and Dwyer run Witchsy, an online artsy marketplace that’s like Etsy, but for the bizarre, dark or slightly raunchy. They sell things like patches that say “We all die,” and pins that read “I had sex.”

The Los Angeles-based entrepreneurs, who are artists themselves, complained that their business was often met with condescension because it’s run by two young women, according to Fast Company.

Get tech news in your inbox weekday mornings. Sign up for the free Good Morning Silicon Valley newsletter.

“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 the publication.

Nevertheless, she told Fast Company that in its first year, Witchsy has sold about $200,000 worth of art and is making a small profit.

But when the founders started working with outside developers and graphic designers, who were mostly men, they started running into problems. One web developer tried to delete everything after Gazin rejected his offer for a date, Fast Company reported. Others were more subtle. They were slow to respond to the founders’ emails, and took a condescending tone, responding with phrases such as “Okay, girls…”

Keith Mann to the rescue.

Gazin and Dwyer brought on Mann, their fictional male co-founder, and used him to respond to these messages.

“It was like night and day,” Dwyer told 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.”

Perhaps the fact that a man got more respect than his female co-founders (despite, you know, not being real) shouldn’t come as a surprise, as stories of sexual harassment and sexism in the tech industry pile up. Last year less than 17 percent of venture capital deals in North America backed a company with at least one female founder, according to PitchBook. And women are speaking out about the inequality they say they’ve experienced in Silicon Valley and beyond — from Ellen Pao describing sexism she saw in the VC industry, to a string of other women calling out investors they say sexually harassed them.

Photo: A screen shot from the Witchsy website. (Witchsy)


Tags: , , , ,


Share this Post