Recently, there was a story about how a Black couple’s home was valued at $500,000 higher after they had a white friend pose as the homeowner. The value of one woman’s home also shot up by over $100,000 after she made a white friend act as the homeowner.
Amid the discussions about racial discrimination in the housing system, one Black woman in tech has shared a similar story about how people took her more seriously after creating a fake white male assistant.
Jamira Burley told the Insider that she has used the fake male personal assistant she calls “Matt” for 10 years now and that has opened doors for her in the tech industry, which is male-dominated with Black workers still being underrepresented in the sector.
“I immediately noticed that Matt garnered a level of respect that I, as Jamira, didn’t,” she wrote to the Insider. “People would offer me more money when Matt was involved, and they treated me as more of a force to be reckoned with.”
And it all started by accident. According to the 34-year-old, she had made a separate email account for people to contact her with opportunities. But she received an email where the person seemed to assume that a third person, like an assistant, was behind the contact email address.
So Burley rolled with it, she said. “As a woman of color who works in tech, I’m often the only person like me in the room. Having ‘Matt’ on my side – a person who could be a white man – made me feel more confident,” said Burley. “Talking through a man’s voice helped me be able to ask for things I never would’ve asked for as myself,” she added. “I try to remind myself that to change the rules of the game, you have to get yourself into the room first. Matt helped me get into more rooms.”
But creating Matt did not always feel good, said Burley. And after posting her story on TikTok, she realized that other women do the same thing. “And it’s not just women or women of color who do this — it’s disabled people or people who are a part of any minority group,” she said.
Interestingly, Burley’s fake Matt is based on a real Matt, a close friend she met in high school who until now did not know that he is the inspiration for the fake assistant. “As a white man, he [real Matt] moved through the world with a confidence that it seemed like he was almost born into. I wanted to emulate it, so I did,” said Burley.
In all of these, this is what Burley said she has learned: “We all have to move through the world with the certainty and confidence of a white man. We are just deserving. And until we can ask for what we need ourselves, have Matt ask for you.”
Over the years, it’s been difficult for many Black tech entrepreneurs to raise money or be taken seriously. A study of 9,874 U.S. business founders by California-based social enterprise RateMyInvestor says only 1% of start-ups receiving venture capital were black.