Businesswomen are being forced to change their LinkedIn profiles to avoid creepy men

Businesswomen are being forced to change their LinkedIn profiles to avoid creepy men

I think most of us would agree that asking someone you don't know on a date in a business setting is pretty inappropriate. So what's the difference on a site like LinkedIn? Despite the fact that the site is used by many to network for employment and other business opportunities, some people are apparently using it like it's a dating app.

Karolyn Hart, chief operating officer and co-founder of her own company, felt the need to speak out about this, so wrote an open letter on LinkedIn last week to explain the problem, as well as her solution. The way she gets around it is by changing her surname to "Mrs" rather than the more ambiguous "Ms", though it's unclear whether that will completely turn men away from making propositions on the site.

"I just added the 'Mrs.' to my name on LinkedIn," Karolyn, who is from Windsor, Canada, explained, "If we met in person you'd notice the wedding ring and unless you were a creep you'd respect it." She believes that the use of 'Mrs' is tantamount to seeing the wedding ring in a physical meeting, keeping guys at bay on the site. She does explain that the "inquiries" were "quite gentlemanly", but she has heard from stories from other women that were much worse.

"One woman I know had to block someone and one even changed her profile picture to a cartoon. I can see why other women would be annoyed to get these messages on LinkedIn.

"I have spoken about the sexism in the industry I have worked in. I think it is one of those things where you sadly just learn how to manage it.

"I would like to hope and believe that we are in a society that you can respect that someone is putting out a pretty clear signal."

Alyssa Hill, from San Diego, has also weighed in on this problem, explaining that the problem is due to the "current climate we are in", stating that some men simply don't see women as professionals. Receiving more persistent messages, she has no time for those that use the site for reasons other than for business.

"A lot of men are using LinkedIn to hit on people. They should know that it is not a dating site. They are putting everyone else in an uncomfortable situation.

"There was one message that said, 'hey beautiful'. As soon as you use the word 'beautiful' you are taking the conversation somewhere that isn't professional.

"In the last year I have seen women receive some really vulgar messages. I think it is to do with the climate we are in. It feels like we're going back in time.

"I think it is to do with sexism. I think they do it because they don't see women in a professional way. It's sad. They are still not seeing us as people. It's awful but it is true.

Alyssa has been with her husband for five years, and on LinkedIN since 2011, but says there has been a rise in this behaviour in the last few years as social media has become more popular. Due to this she has employed Karolyn's strategy of changing her name to "Mrs" to keep at least some of the requests at bay.

"People have asked me to go to dinner and say, "hey I live in San Diego too, let's meet up" when they are not in the same industry as me. The pet names just drive me crazy. That is not my name. It is so corny and weird."

"When I was younger I just didn't reply. I wanted to avoid that. Now I really give people the spiel that it is not a dating site. I'm here to make professional connections. 

"I thought I would have to put up a horrible picture of myself to stop them from hitting on me"

"I haven't gotten any responses from that. I think it is because they are embarrassed. I'm sure someone will respond one day. I'm very open to putting people in their place.

"It is so much worse online, people have more confidence online. Most of my negative interactions with men take place online."

While it has made some changes, Karolyn doesn't believe it will be that easy. "I'm not so naive to think that all of a sudden we are going to have this barrier of protection," she explained, "When you are interacting in a virtual place it is hard to recreate those signals you have when you meet in person".

Hopefully this does make some changes, but it does raise the question of who exactly uses LinkedIn to hook up with people? Someone expecting something work-related and instead getting flirtations from a stranger is pretty damn weird regardless of the intent.