File this under "enraging but not surprising." When Penelope Gazin and Kate Dwyer tried launching their business, Witchsy, last year, the two found that they weren't being taken seriously, and were often condescendingly treated by male developers and designers. The duo who set out to create an alternative art marketplace like Etsy, but without censorship, quickly realized that the issue was inherently sexist and came up with a creative solution. To combat this, they created a fake male co-founder, cheekily named, Keith Mann, and found that the difference was like "night and day."
They would deploy Keith over email, when collaborators weren't being responsive, and suddenly they'd be met with a different attitude. Dwyer explained their story in an interview with Fast Company; when she would be ignored for days, 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.”
The duo told reporters that when they tried launching their business, they were often met with sexism that ranged from a developer trying to delete all their work after Gazin declined going on a date with him, to another developer starting an email with the incredibly patronizing phrase "Okay girls...". After introducing Keith, they found that people would not only be more responsive, but also more respectful to Keith than the women. Gazin told reporters of one instance, where a developer would address Keith by name, but never the two women. Dwyer told Quartz that before introducing Keith, "it was very clear no one took us seriously and everybody thought we were just idiots," yet, Gazin adds, when Keith reached out, the same people were much more amenable to working together.
The duo seems to be taking it in stride though, "...This is just clearly part of this world that we're in right now." Dwyer told Fast Company, "We want this and want to make this happen." Witchsy recently celebrated its one-year anniversary, has sold around $200,000 worth of art, received backing from Rick and Morty co-creator Justin Roiland, and has turned a profit.
It's disappointing that women have to do this to be taken seriously, but at least by sharing this rage-inducing story, these women are exposing the double-standard facing female entrepreneurs today. Props to the Witschy founders for not only starting a successful, profitable business from the ground up, but also for sharing their story and starting a conversation that hopefully makes people more aware of their inherent biases towards women.
Over email, Dwyer said they hope people take away from their story that, "women are powerful and resourceful (duh)! They shouldn't need a man (or Mann) to show what they can do. We really hope this helps start more dialogue about how women are viewed in the workplace and how we can all be better."
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This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.