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Fighting Sexism with Fake Male Co-Founder, Melania’s Shoe Disaster, and Michelle Bachelet’s Mission

August 30, 2017, 7:08 AM UTC

The gender bias against female founders is well documented. And Penelope Gazin and Kate Dwyer picked up on it immediately after launching Witchsy, an upstart marketplace for quirky art that turned a profit after sales of $200,000 in its first year.

“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. The pair noticed that the (mostly male) developers and graphic designers they hired assumed a condescending tone over email; they were terse and slow to respond.

That all changed when Gazin and Dwyer invented a fake, third co-founder named Keith Mann to correspond with contributors over email.

Dwyer told FastCo what a difference Keith made:

“It was like night and day. 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.”

The duo’s experience puts into stark relief the everyday sexism women face in the most mundane of business forums, and it backs up research that points to bias against women’s names. For instance, a 2014 study by Insync Surveys and recruitment specialist Hays found that a candidate named Simon Cook was more likely than “Susan Campbell” to get called for an interview.

And, like Dwyer and Gazin, other women have worked this blatantly biased system to even the playing field. Erin “Mack” McKelvey told Fortune last year about how—after getting zero replies to job applications submitted with her given name—she sent out CVs listing her first name as Mack and got a 70% response rate.

“Was it because it was an unusual name? A male name? A catchy name?” said McKelvey. “I’ll never know.”

It’s certainly hard to know for sure, but we could wager an educated guess.



The Diana divideAhead of the 20th anniversary of Princess Diana's death tomorrow, the New York Times has a look at how different generations view the late royal. For older Brits, she remains a national hero and a symbol of the era. But many young adults simply know her as someone who died in a car crash.New York Times


Stepping down in Scotland
In a surprise move, Kezia Dugdale has stepped down as leader of the Scottish Labour party after serving as its head for two years. Dugdale said the party needs "fresh energy and a new mandate" and denied that she resigned to avoid conflicts with Scottish supporters of U.K. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.


Helping Texas heel?
Melania Trump's shoes—of all things—caused a bit of outrage yesterday, when the U.S. first lady boarded Air Force One en route to flood-ravaged Houston, Texas in sky-high stilettos—not exactly all-weather footwear. Her office pushed back against criticism that her glamorous pumps were an insensitive choice for visiting victims who'd lost house and home. "It's sad that we have an active and ongoing natural disaster in Texas, and people are worried about her shoes," her spokesperson told Fortune. Trump was wearing sneakers when she disembarked in Houston.

Sending mixed signals
Even as Dara Khosrowshahi, Uber's pick for its new CEO, stated publicly yesterday that he plans to accept the role, speculation about the company's selection process—particularly HPE CEO Meg Whitman's candidacy—continued to swirl. Whitman told The Wall Street Journal that she was out of the running until last Friday when an unidentified Uber director asked her to reconsider the gig. Yet other sources told the WSJ that Whitman was pursuing the job even as she made public statements denying interest in it.
Wall Street Journal

Michelle's on a mission
Just a week after the country passed a landmark abortion bill, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet has proposed yet another liberal reform in the ultra-conservative country: a bill to legalize gay marriage. In 2015, Chile legalized same-sex civil unions, but only after years of legislative wrangling. “We can’t let old prejudices be stronger than love,” Bachelet, whose bill is also expected to allow gay couples to adopt, said on Tuesday.


Lovable lenders?
The headline says it all: Anna Bligh "May Have the Toughest Job in Australia." Bligh was appointed head of the Australian Bankers' Association less than six months ago, giving her the unenviable task of convincing the public that bankers really aren't so bad. The job is made all the more difficult by recent allegations of money laundering and terrorism financing at the country's biggest lender. 

Feeling their pain
A series of deaths in Japan is fueling misinformation about the safety of epidurals. Data shows that of 271 women who died during childbirth since 2010, 14 had pain-free births. Yet headlines about the fatalities could discourage even more women from choosing epidurals in Japan, which already has one of the lowest rates of epidural use among developed countries. 


Beth Mowins will be the first woman to call an NFL game in 30 years. Here’s how she’s preparing
Sports Illustrated

On being a woman under ISIS's control: 'Our worst fears became reality'

Google explains how artificial intelligence becomes biased against women and minorities

Twitter is loving Chelsea Clinton’s subtle jab at Ivanka Trump


"[B]ehind this black dress with Swarovski crystals, this girl has a lot of grit and she’s not going anywhere.”
—Maria Sharapova, after defeating No. 2 seed Simona Halep in the U.S. Open following a suspension for drug use.