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Witchsy cofounders Penelope Gazin and Kate Dwyer
created a fake male cofounder to conduct business by
They noticed an enormous difference between how
contractors and contacts treated him versus how they treated
They’re glad to see that the story of Keith Mann, their
fictional cofounder, is bringing more attention to sexism in
tech and in the workplace.
Penelope Gazin, Kate Dwyer, and Keith Mann are the cofounders of
art marketplace Witchsy.
But Mann doesn’t exist.
Gazin and Dwyer told
Fast Company’s John Paul Titlow that they invented their
third, male, cofounder after repeated instances of condescension
with a sexist tone, like a developer who addressed an email to
them starting, “Okay, girls …”
“It was like night and day,” Dwyer told Titlow of working through
Mann. “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.”
On Quartz, Dwyer told Lila MacLellan that before Mann
existed, “it was very clear no one took us seriously and
everybody thought we were just idiots.” But when those same
people received emails from Mann, Gazin told MacLellan, “they’d
be like ‘Okay, bro, yeah, let’s brainstorm!'”
Dwyer told MacLellan they even gave Mann a backstory:
“He was a dude’s dude, they decided, the kind who played football
in college. He was devoted to his wife of five years, and he
couldn’t wait to be a dad. ‘He was just a really good guy,’ says
Gazin. ‘He doesn’t really understand Kate and I, but he’s been
happy to help us with our project before we find husbands.'”
Dwyer and Gazin’s experience struggling to be taken seriously as
company founders isn’t as unique as you might hope. Gender bias
and sexism in the business world is well-documented.
One of the biggest stories in tech this year was the
internal memo sent by Google engineer James Damore, who was
fired from the company after writing that there are
biological differences to blame for the lack of women in
Google CEO Sundar Pichai responded that the claims were
“offensive and not OK,” but that “people must feel free to
express dissent” in a respectful way.
stunning string of blows that ultimately led to Uber CEO
Travis Kalanick stepping down from his post began with a blog
post by former employee Susan Fowler alleging she experienced
gender bias and sexual harassment at the company.
In an email to Business Insider the day after Fast Company
reported on Mann’s existence, Dwyer reflected on the reaction
they’ve gotten to the news.
“People have been losing their minds over the fact that we just
gave him the last name Mann,” Dwyer said. “So masculine.”
She continued: “When people read about Keith they’ve been pretty
upset at the idea that a fake character was taken more seriously
than we were. He’s being used as a tool now to help highlight how
rampant sexism is in tech and the workplace in general. It’s been
great seeing so many people respond positively. Once again, Keith
has done a great job!!”