Why Witchsy's women entrepreneurs created a made-up male co-founder
- Penelope Gazin and Kate Dwyer, co-founders of Witchsy and art entrepreneurs, developed a fake male co-founder to see if "he" would be treated better than they were by male business collaborators, Fast Company reports. And they were right.
- Gazin and Dwyer said that before introducing "Keith Mann" as a fictitious co-founder of Witchsy, male developers, graphic designers and other specialists they dealt with for their business were condescending, short and slow to respond to their inquiries, says Fast Company. However, with "Keith," Gazin and Dwyer said men were exceptionally polite and anxious to please.
- According to Fast Company, Witchsy sold about $200,000 worth of art in its first year. Artists get 80% of each sale, resulting in a small profit for the business. Earlier this year, Gazin and Dwyer received a small investment from Justin Roiland, co-creator of the animated series "Rick and Morty."
Unfortunately, the problem at hand is fairly systemic. Two co-workers at a different company, one female and the other male, also tested sexism with the same results. Nicole Hallberg and Martin Schneider, both Philadelphia writers, swapped identities to see whether clients would respond to them differently based on perceived gender. Believing Schneider was a women, clients were rude and condescending. One asked if he was married, and another accused him of being a liar. Results for Hallberg, posing as a man, were just the opposite. People were more polite and quick to respond to her emails.
Bias is a real, entrenched problem in the business world. Both men and women assume that men make better leaders and are more dependable under pressure thanks to long held prejudices about each gender. Women also tend to be punished more often for using perks also open to men and bullied more often when they first enter the workforce, widening the success gap further.
Tech companies say they're trying to recruit more women, but face an inordinate number of sex discrimination and harassment allegations due to their male-dominated cultures. Of course, these charges aren't unique to the tech industry; Ford, Fox News, Sterling Jewlers and companies in other industries have also dealt with sex discrimination allegations as of late.
But until these "bro" cultures change, sexist attitudes and the bad behavior that goes with them will persist. HR can step out in front of the problem by promptly following up on and investigating complaints, and auditing departments with tests similar to that of Gazin and Dwyer and Halberg and Schneider.