Exploiting Sexism is not the answer!
Kate Bischoff (@k8bischHRLaw) a fellow HR Pro, who is also an attorney, tweeted an article about female entrepreneurs who created a fake male co-founder to dodge sexism (here’s the link to the article: https://www.fastcompany.com/40456604/these-women-entrepreneurs-created-a-fake-male-cofounder-to-dodge-startup-sexism?platform=hootsuite. Kate acknowledged that this was a gutsy move, but believes that it carries a fair amount of risk. She and I also agree that the entrepreneurs’ actions don’t pass ethical muster.
Wendy Dailey (@wyndall93) a fellow HR Professional mentioned that that there was a similar article recently where a male and a female employee switched names for emails and received similar outcome. https://medium.com/@nickyknacks/working-while-female-59a5de3ad266
Above all, these approaches improve nothing. Yes, we exposed sexism (again), but are we headed in a productive direction?
If anything, this move only serves to perpetuate the idea that we need a male to get things done. It even creates a scenario in which it becomes easier to sweep sexist attitudes and outcomes under the rug. How would we feel if a male entrepreneur faked a female co-founder in order to pose as a champion of diversity, or appeal to those seeking role models in male-dominated fields?
(This is already happening, by the way and it is not ok.)
If the people you hired are sexists, fire them and make the reason for their dismissal clear. Call them out on it. If they represent an organization, report them to their employer. Anti-Harassment applies to vendor’s action toward their clients and vice versa. Stop tolerating it. It’s your business.
Pretending to be a man is not the solution. If you can’t get respect from male web designers, hire a woman. There are female web designers, DB/software developers, and graphic designers. As a matter of fact, my daughter is a web & graphic designer who has helped female & male entrepreneurs in the past. They’re out there, seek them out.
Sexism exists, and will continue to exist if we treat the threat it poses as a game. Women need to stand up and resist the temptation to perpetuate old patterns by engaging in sloppy workarounds rather than direct confrontation.
That said, it’s also important to resist the temptation to exclusively hire women, when faced with such challenges. An eye for an eye leaves everybody blind. Be an equal opportunity employer, not because it sounds good, but because it’s the right thing to do. You can’t change the rules to an unfair game by playing along.
Move on and be better.
There are decent male professionals in the start-up game. If you need a VC and you can’t get funding because you don’t have a male co-founder, either you partner with one, or keep looking for a VC who will fund you anyway. Creating a fake co-founder is a blatant misrepresentation, fraudulent and unethical. False pretense is a lousy foundation for a fledgling business.
Women finding success in business is not new. Find them here: http://www.businessnewsdaily.com/2156-women-owned-businesses.html
For an example of the pitfalls of exclusively hiring one gender, take a look at this: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-1168182/Catfights-handbags-tears-toilets-When-producer-launched-women-TV-company-thought-shed-kissed-goodbye-conflict-.html