Women leading in blockchain believe gender diversity isn’t just a matter of what is right for humanity, but also what is right for business.
Due to a historically challenging 2020, the National Women’s History Alliance, organizers of Women’s History Month in March, has extended its centennial celebrations. So the theme this year is “Valiant Women of the Vote: Refusing to be Silenced.”
To many, cryptocurrency is about money and nothing else — but money and social issues are inseparable considerations when viewed from a macro scale, and the ideal of equal participation in an ecosystem that incentivizes positive participation is in the DNA of the Bitcoin whitepaper.
Further, disrupting traditional, centralized finance to open new opportunities for people that are otherwise excluded is central among the values of the crypto community and mentioned in most of the hundreds of blockchain project white papers that we’ve read.
The National Policy Network of Women of Color in Blockchain recently hosted an online event “National Briefing of Women of Color in Blockchain – Women’s History Month”, which according to a tweet by founder Cleve Mesidor the event included six Members of U.S. Congress and greater than 60 female blockchain industry leaders.
As cryptocurrency and the underlying technology gain mainstream acceptance — which plays no small part in the BTC bull run since December 2020 — more voices need to be heard and will be heard, shaping the projects in blockchain that shape our world and improve life on it.
On that note, we interviewed women in leadership roles in blockchain and crypto. We will let their accounts speak for themselves.
The blockchain community understands the value of positive participation and sharing information, so the trade show circuit has been a key way for people in the industry to network and get to know others in their industry. However, it seems a common experience that many of the women we interviewed got the clear impression they were in the minority among both attendees and speakers.
“I first started working in the crypto space in 2014 and at that time it was painfully obvious. To paint a picture, it was pretty typical to show up at a thousand-person conference and be one of five women in attendance and for male attendees to assume you were someone’s wife,” Emily Coleman, Director of Marketing at Casa said.
Many interviewees felt that the blockchain industry had become more inclusive since 2017, but men were still disproportionately represented.
“I first moved into the blockchain/crypto industry in 2018, and upon attending my first conference (pre-COVID) the male dominance struck me immediately, even beyond what I had experienced during my career in financial services. It was quite evident that 5% or less of the attendees were women, which was quite shocking. Even in the male-dominated world of banking, a conference would be 30-40% women,” Camilla Churcher, Global Head of Business Development at Celsius Network said.
If we are being honest, there have been challenges of good taste in crypto-driven events. Remember the Song vs. Verr fight on the Bitcoin cruise in 2018? Apparently, that isn’t the only time the community has made moves capable of causing secondary embarrassment.
“It was very apparent going to the North American Bitcoin Conference in Miami, where there were all manels (e.g. all male panels) and the after-party was at a strip club,” Nisa Amoils, Managing Partner at A100x said.
Trending Toward Inclusion
If the crypto world was a “Wild West” in 2014, we have perhaps achieved gold rush town status by 2021, with at least some of the niceties and decorum one might expect from an established industry. Mainstream press coverage of Bitcoin has had an impact not only in recruiting new retail investors but in attracting the best and brightest talent to the industry, of all genders.
“There is more press and media focus on Women in Tech, which is so important to highlight female contributions in the industry and can help close the gender gap,” Emelia Thiara Managing Director of KingSwap said.
Respondents for the most part agreed that the gap in the industry has been closing.
“To be clear, there have always been amazing women circulating the ecosystem, even in the earlier days. The business and industry needed time to start maturing to bring these individuals to light. We are starting to see more women in leadership roles, many more female VCs, and female presence in technical roles,” Coleman said.
The greater participation of women in leadership roles is regarded as a natural sign of a maturing industry.
“As the industry has continued to mature, I’ve seen so many women elevated to leadership. There are more types of talent and expertise that have expanded participation dramatically… I look at my female peers in the blockchain legal and compliance sector, and so many great crypto companies like CoinList, Polychain, Celo, Crosstower, Genesis, Algorand, Coinshares and, Binance US all have elevated amazing female leadership. There’s still a long way to go, but smart women are shifting the culture every day,” Georgia Quinn, General Counsel at Anchorage said.
Diversity is Good for Business
Of course, a simple way to frame the benefits of gender diversity is to point out the industry ideally wants the people making and selling crypto to reflect the mainstream population of buyers they hope to access.
“While crypto was not overly popular with women in its genesis, it has attracted a ton of women to space who are interested in finance and the applications that allow them to have more autonomy of their money,” Aubrey Strobel, Head of Communications, Lolli said. “In order to achieve mass adoption, it’ll be critical to have a diverse, inclusive population of people owning bitcoin. Seeing more women represented in leadership positions in the space will encourage more people to enter the space as they’ll see themselves reflected in the community. The benefits of having greater gender parity in boardrooms and leadership also benefits businesses in crypto.”
However, a broadening of perspectives in leadership in blockchain and crypto projects has benefits.
“Women have brought warmth and different perspectives to this very technical industry making it more accessible to the broader public. For example, events are more welcoming, varied in topics covered, and diverse in attendance. It’s also been nice to see more women reporters, not only because they make crypto technologies more accessible though layman’s terms but also because female technical reporters are aspirational figures for the young generation of female engineers,” Claire Belmont, Partner, Product at cLabs (Celo) said.
“Diversity in the industry is extremely important. To build a product, you need to know your target audience. In the case of tech tools and platforms, it is not gender-specific, so everyone needs to widen their understanding of what people in general want and need. Everyone brings capital and investment, but sometimes they bring different perspectives… Diversity is not only a politically correct idea; it makes good business sense,” Maria Paula Fernandez, Advisor to the Board of Directors at Golem Network said.
The belief in the crypto world has long been that we are changing the world – we are replacing traditional centralized, closed systems that keep the great majority of the world’s population from meaningfully participating in or benefitting from the financial industry.
In creating something totally new, we need the best minds of all genders — it’s good for humanity and good for business.
On that note, I’ll leave you with some advice for women interested in entering the blockchain industry.
“First, you are needed. Second, you are wanted. It’s exciting to be a woman in crypto. Other women, in particular, are very supportive, and the entire community is excited to welcome new players who are supporting the industry’s growth,” Strobel said.
It’s a cutting-edge, high-risk, high-growth part of the Fintech industry, but blockchain is bound to change the world. It is a tall order for everyone, but the community is still relatively small and there is support.
“Find a female support system. One of the lovely things about this ecosystem is that most of the women are incredibly thoughtful and supportive of one another. There are many support groups available and many strong female leaders that need little incentive to support other females around them. I think our industry of women learned from the tech industry of years past on how to change the dynamic and work together and prop each other up,” Coleman said.
Like any burgeoning “gold rush” settlement, the industry needs all sorts of talents, creating plenty of new opportunities for the curious and ambitious.
“This industry needs skills, talent, and diversity and there has never been a better time to make a career transition. Most people have barely more than one or two years of experience in the field and it’s all self-taught, so just start the journey, and then you’ll be the next expert. If you’re an outstanding salesperson, accountant, engineer, operations manager, HR professional, and more — all of these roles exist in crypto. The caveat however is that you need to be excited about the industry and have a passion for self-learning. The entire industry is a start-up, which brings a lot of excitement as well as relentless hard work,” Churcher said.
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