It’s 2018, and thanks to cryptocurrencies and the blockchain we stand on the brink of a sea-change in global economics. This revolution has the potential to sweep away traditional power-bases and institutions and pave the way for genuine diversity and people power, providing unprecedented access to technology, data, and control regardless of location, status or identity.
Why then do we continue to see women and other minorities underrepresented at every level?
Perhaps it should come as no surprise when we remember that cryptocurrencies are fundamentally tech innovation companies. During the previous couple of years, the technology industry has spawned some of the worst high-profile examples of institutional sexism – with cases of bullying, discrimination and toxic organizational cultures coexisting alongside some of the most innovative products and ambitious mission statements on the planet. Frankly, if Silicon Valley regards itself as the future, we’re in big trouble.There are many brilliant #women like @AmberBaldet @jinglanW @FahimaAnwar being influential in #blockchain and #crypto - but we need greater accessibility and involvement, for that, some business and development environments need to change. Click To Tweet
So we’re looking at the intersection of both the nerdiest of tech and the heavyweight presence of the finance industry… Also not known to be a hotbed of feminist liberalism. (And anyone who argues that lack of a pay-rise or a bit of workplace ‘banter’ is irrelevant in the light of the exposure of recent criminal activities in the entertainment industry and elsewhere, is simply failing to understand how such abuses of power originate and get normalized).
As long as the tech industry, in general, is perceived to be somewhere that women will face systematic casual abuse in the workplace, or simply have diminished earning potential or career opportunities, then we shouldn’t be surprised if many of the best and the brightest choose to go elsewhere. And let’s remember that the earliest waves of cryptocurrency consumer adoption and knowledge-sharing happened across the least regulated channels of online communications, such as Reddit and 4Chan – again, spaces which are intensely gender-biased and appeal to a narrow subculture of those obsessed with Lambo memes and Pepe the Frog. Not exactly embracing inclusivity, shall we say.
Crypto in the real world
But even going beyond the politics to looking at the practicalities of the cryptocurrency marketplace, it’s obvious that failing to engage with the voices of women is going to seriously obstruct future mass adoption of blockchain-based products and technologies.
Women buy 70-80% of the world’s products and act as the purchasing gateways for multiple institutions across different categories. If cryptocurrencies are ever to cross effectively into use as a medium of exchange rather than just a store of value – which is surely the objective of the industry long-term – then it’s incredibly short-sighted to ignore the female perspective.
However, in December 2017 Forbes quoted data that only 5%-7% of cryptocurrency users are women – and that means at best 5%-7% of the $85 billion wealth creation from Bitcoin in 2017 benefited women as a result. Far from leveling the playing field and empowering underrepresented groups in the way that it could, so far the benefits of crypto are actually deepening existing inequalities.
Thank goodness the backlash has started, even though it’s yet far from equally distributed. The Blockstack Summit in 2017 specifically reserved a quota of ticket allocation for women and other underrepresented groups, in an effort to amplify the voices which were going unheard, and create space for participants to speak up without feeling themselves to be in a minority. Linda Xie, the co-founder of Scalar Capital, described it as ‘one of the only crypto events I attended where I actually had to wait for the women’s restroom’!
ICOs too present increased opportunities for female engagement in the space, given that they are less dependent on the traditionally male-dominated careers related to coding and instead stand or fall on their whitepapers – in other words, effective communications, a professional realm where women have greater penetration. And stepping outside that closed (and yet again male-dominated) culture of VC funding to the egalitarian potential of crowdsourcing, ICOs have the scope to democratize access to startup capital for founders from every demographic.
Women to watch
So today let’s take a quick look at some of the women who are really making a difference in the crypto world because there are plenty of them. With a few notable exceptions, they’re doing it too quietly, compared with the airtime and exposure that their male counterparts are gaining in the press.
Let’s change that right here, right now, by rounding up a few female movers and shakers in the space to keep an eye out for in 2018. Some of these you may not have heard of yet… But you will:
Joyce is Executive Director of Stellar.org (Stellar Lumens) and managing partner at Spark Change Capital. She is passionate about the potential for blockchain on the global stage, as a tool for empowering the unbanked and tackling inequality at the grassroots.
An expert in the cryptocurrency space, she has presented on cryptocurrency platforms for banks, governmental organizations, the UN and the Bank and has advised numerous crypto-related projects and ICOs, as well as devoting pro-bono time as an attorney to helping immigrant families and domestic violence victims.
Perianne is the founder of the Digital Chamber of Commerce, advocating for blockchain “at the intersection of innovation, investment and policy” (their leadership team is 50% female). A regular Forbes contributor through her column, “The Beauty of the Blockchain.”, Perianne was named among CoinDesk’s “10 Most Influential People in Blockchain 2016” and “Top Woman in Bitcoin 2015” for her public policy accomplishments.
Image source: digitalchamber.org
Amber is the executive director of JP Morgan’s Blockchain Center of Excellence. She is working on blockchain in a bank, and she has pink-tipped hair. This would make her someone to watch in any circumstances. She is one of the real synergists in the world who will be vital to mass adoption, bridging the crypto/big-bank world, as she similarly champions the benefits of both open-source and digital privacy.
Amber also speaks up for inclusivity issues, and making the blockchain world fully accessible, whenever she gets the chance. She made Coindesk’s list of “Most Influential in Blockchain 2017”, and taught herself to code when she was 11.
Jinglan is the executive director of Blockchain Educational Network and Blockchain Product Manager at NASDAQ .
Designed to help students start and/or grow their blockchain clubs across the world, the Blockchain Educational Network cross-campus initiative ambitious seeks to propagate blockchain culture across university campuses. By connecting the various blockchain hubs through friendly competitive activities, student-leaders form strong relationships between each other and amplify their local efforts, whilst the organizational support takes the non-hierarchical form of ‘janitors’ rather than managers. In 2017 they reached new (decentralized) growth goals, exceeding 1,200 members across 270 schools in over 50 countries.
Blockchain isn’t all about making money, this organisation is engaging young people across the world using volunteer activity to make a difference in the world.
The CEO of Powered by Neureal Jennifer brings decades of executive leadership to the blockchain/crypto space.
Her adamant stances on empowering women, global issues, and educating over regulating, set her team at Neureal apart in the frenzy that is the current crypto space. With a project tackling artificial intelligence, big data, and cryptocurrency, she’ll be one to watch as she bridges some of the biggest nascent technologies.
About Neureal’s far-reaching impact, she says, “We are giving everyone the ability to matter, to make a difference in the world on a grand scale. Users will be able to predict anything they’re passionate about, from hurricane paths to the extinction of a species to climate change to medical advances. And, of course… Bitcoin prices.”
Fahima is the Director, Marketing & Communications for IVEP, and Senior Director, Global Marketing & Communications at Dubtokens. The Canada-based organisation is bringing the immutability of the blockchain to the trust-challenged industry of media engagement metrics, and Fahima is a content strategist with 8+ years in marketing, e-commerce & technology with a keen interest in cryptocurrency and blockchain.
She is the founder of Canada’s largest influencer conference, Spark Sessions, and has a background in the fashion influencer space. At IVEP she has purposefully built her team to be 90% female, in order to deliberately disrupt the growing lack of diversity in the cryptocurrency movement. “They [all] had the skills, they just didn’t know they could excel in the space”. She has exciting plans for 2018 to hopefully get other women thinking about entering the industry and making the change an unstoppable reality.
Meltem is the development director at the Digital Currency Group (whose subsidiaries include Coindesk), where she has been described as “the ‘connective tissue’ between subsidiaries, portfolio companies, investors, and corporate partners”.
Working as a synergist between the cutting edge of blockchain development and traditional investment, she is focused on creating new models for partnership and growth. As well as driving investor relations, development programmes and vendor partnerships, she incubated DCG Connect, a subsidiary of DCG that connects startups with enterprises and technology service providers to build scalable solutions across value chains.
Meltem is also a member of Global Future Council on Blockchain at the World Economic Forum.
A background in contemplative psychotherapy and now working as a blockchain engineer, would be enough to make Raine an interesting person on its own. She is still a practicing therapist, but as well as being a developer and educator in the smart contracts space, she is a founder at Maiden – teaching modern cryptocurrency investment and development skills to women, people of color, LGBTQIAP+, and others who have not traditionally had access to wealth.
As with many of the women making this list, Raine is working across the boundaries of the technological and social change, quite possibly the only place where the true implications of the impact of the blockchain revolution might be understood.
Indeed, education is where change has got to start. Whilst valuable initiatives such as Girls in Tech can start to bridge the gap for women to enter the highly male-dominated world of coding, it’s vital that more generally financial literacy is heightened for all young people.
Investing has been the largest wealth generation tool for decades worldwide, so it’s essential that women are equal players in this system. A lack of financial literacy and no social empowerment to invest for those in developing markets is leading women to miss out on opportunities such as cryptocurrency. The only way to fix this is to work financial literacy and investment training into global education programmes, so all young people will be more able to advance their financial positions in a rapidly changing world.
Sadly our educational institutions in the ‘developed’ world have always failed badly at this area. Watching my own daughters struggling with schoolwork covering critical life-skills like trigonometry, I can’t help thinking how much more useful it’d be for them to be learning to understand trading, risk, and even compound interest… Whatever their future holds for their generation, a fundamental understanding of triangles probably won’t help them as much as understanding how to value and manage and make their most of the assets they acquire.
But in a world where learning is a click away for most of us, the traditional curriculums surely become less and less important, and so in parallel will the institutions which gate-keep such knowledge. I look forward to the next generation of men and women in cryptocurrency, who are the self-taught pioneers of a new age and will build the new economy to fit a world we can’t begin to imagine. I believe, or at the very least sincerely hope, we won’t be looking around wondering where the women are.