Female CEO Shares the Email She'll Never Forget

Lilit Marcus, Shine Contributor

As CEO of tech startup Locket, Yunha Kim often sends out emails to potential employees to ask if they'd be interested in meeting with her about a work opportunity or available position at her company. And although she's professional in sending out these emails, not everyone is professional in how they reply.

Recently Kim, whose company helps users change and personalize their Android smartphone homescreens, contacted a male developer about whether he'd be interested in joining Locket. He responded, "Hey Yunha, I'm pretty happy with my current job, but if you're single I'd like to date you. Perhaps there are some unconventional ways to lure me away from my company (besides stock options) if you know what I mean. ;)"

Unfortunately, Kim, whose startup boasts investors like Tyra Banks, says that such emails are not rare. She posted the email, with the sender's name blacked out, in a post she wrote for Medium about the pros and cons of being a female CEO. Underneath the screencap, she added, "And the sad news is, this is one of the more professional emails."

Although Kim's post coincided with the premiere of the latest season of "Mad Men," the CEO says some women are still so used to subtle and not-so-subtle sexism in the workplace that they see such experiences as normal. Kim told Yahoo Shine, “The first time I got a similar type of email, I gawked at it. Now, I just don't take it so seriously anymore. We simply joke about it at Locket, and forget about it.”

According to a recent Pew Research Center study, Millennial women (of which Kim is one) are still experiencing some level of gender discrimination in the workplace. Sixty percent of women aged 18-34 say that they believe men are paid more than women for doing the same amount of work, and 51 percent say that society as a whole favors men over women.

And there's also all the stuff that can't be measured with a survey. There's no data that exists about how many women, CEOs or otherwise, have had men ask them out or proposition them for sex in professional emails. But it's fairly safe to say that these kinds of things don't happen to men in anywhere near the same proportion. The brazenness of Kim's prospective employee, respond with a  "joke" about sex, shows how people still consciously or subconsciously bring their ideas about gender roles and relationships into the office.

The reason there isn’t data to back up these stories is simple: many women are afraid to come forward. “I don't think many are willing to speak up about this in public," Kim told Yahoo Shine. "If you look through some hurtful comments people post in response to the article on Business Insider [where Kim’s original story was reposted], you might understand why."

Kim adds that the email she screencapped in her blog post wasn't her only experience dealing with guys who were more interested in dating her than working with her. "You may get more sales meetings because some of the guys you are pitching to have a different agenda," she warns other female CEOs and executives. "Since it's difficult to distinguish it early on, you may end up wasting some time. If you turn down their advances (and it gets awkward), doing deals with their companies can become difficult."

Still, Kim isn't giving up on making things better for women in the workplace. At the end of the day, she concludes, you can't change your gender, but you can alter your approach: "The lesson here is that it is all about how you frame your perspective."