At a recent Blockchain conference, a panel of women was at a loss for an answer to the question, how can blockchain help gender equality? The question and the answers, or non-answers the panellist gave, made me, an old ‘analogue’ feminist, realise that there is a dire need to raise awareness of the problem of gender inequality in the blockchain and crypto space.
Working for SwissBorg, a crypto wealth management platform on the Blockchain, I realised after researching the subject, attending conferences & meetups, and talking to colleagues, that the paucity of women in the field is so obvious it is worrisome. Women account for only around 5% in the crypto space and/or market. Oct. 2017, a survey conducted by Reddit user loveYouEth, found that 96% of Ether users are men, and MyEtherWallet reported that 84% of their wallet holders were male. So the need to raise our numbers is necessary not just for women but for the space as a whole. In order to do so, we have to start with some old-fashioned networking and gathering. Strength is in numbers and only when we come together can we be counted.
As with any field, there are women in different roles in the blockchain and crypto industry. Not all of us are coders and engineers, you can find us in every corner of this industry but we have less of us on the tech side of the blockchain. What is painful to see is that there are fewer women in tech now than ten years ago. Women are discouraged for one reason or another from entering the field. Obviously, we are burdened by huge patriarchal baggage and we need to be mindful of our weak position. Women own only 5% of startups, they earn only 28% of Computer Science degrees and receive lower salaries for the same job 63% of the time at companies.
What is even more concerning is the lack of a grasp of the history of gender equality among some of the young women most impacted by these very inequalities. For example, not many people, I canvassed, know that the world’s first computer programmer was a woman, Ada Lovelace, who wrote the world’s first complex computer program in 1843. Making the space more aware of women’s history in general and women’s achievements in the field, in particular, will help raise awareness which is essential to mass adoption.
“The percentage of women invested and involved in cryptocurrency is far lower than that of men. This could be confirmed by numerous surveys and research studies. Moreover, incidents like the North American Bitcoin Conference, where only 3 of the 88 speakers were women and the conference after party was held at a strip club, show a disparity trend present in the industry.” But that is beginning to change because for an innovating force to be truly disruptive it has to embrace the whole of the population. Mass adoption, the dream of blockchain enthusiasts, clearly needs to include women.
At SwissBorg, when I first began my journey in this space, we were only two women, now we are proud to have grown to fourteen. A market that excludes half the population of the world can not be a sustainable market.
Whenever centralised power is interrupted, those on the periphery, those who were up to now disenfranchised have a chance to benefit. Not only does blockchain help disrupt the old banking system that shut women and minorities out but it provides us with a way to get around authority that acts as an obstacle to our progress. Nowhere was this more evident than in Chinese women who, to avoid government censorship, posted their #metoo letters on the blockchain in the spring of 2018.
If we want to usher in a new era of finance like our project at SwissBorg promises to do, we need to make sure it reflects the best of us, that it embraces the notions of diversity and gender equality that much of humanity has adopted.
The blockchain and crypto space is less female-friendly than the world of traditional banking and that needs to change if we want to make the new technology achieve mass adoption and bring about revolutionary change.
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Notes & resources:
- History of Women in Tech: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HV2DqkXC1qI
- A Queer theory of software studies. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/0966369X.2017.1383365
- Four women giants of blockchain: https://www.barrons.com/articles/4-women-who-make-a-difference-in-blockchain-1534554704 1. Blithe Masters, CEO of Digital Asset Holdings. the blockchain sisters at IBM, 2. Marie Wieck, general manager IBM 3. Amber Baldet Clovyr 4. Linda Pawczuk, US bc leader, Deloitte.
- Why involving women on the blockchain is important? https://www.coindesk.com/women-on-the-block/
- Where are Women on the Blockchain? https://www.forbes.com/sites/lamjackie/2017/12/10/where-are-the-women-in-the-blockchain-network/#3165e9a1530a
- How to tackle inequality: “The percentage of women invested and involved in cryptocurrency is far lower than that of men. This could be confirmed by numerous surveys and research studies. Moreover, incidents like the North American Bitcoin Conference, where only 3 of the 88 speakers were women and the conference after party was held at a strip club, show a disparity trend present in the industry.” https://cointelegraph.com/news/women-in-blockchain-and-crypto-how-to-tackle-gender-inequality
- According to Coin.dance, https://coin.dance/stats/gender as of May 2018, 94.73 per cent of Bitcoin community engagement and active participation comes from men and 5.27 per cent from women.
- In Oct. 2017, a survey conducted by Reddit user loveYouEth found that 96 per cent of Ether users are men, and MyEtherWallet reported that 84 per cent of their wallet holders were male. https://www.reddit.com/r/ethtrader/comments/6xm8oo/the_big_ethereum_survey_the_results/
- Crypto Divas (Irish) youtube channel: https://irishtechnews.ie/women-in-blockchain-lets-get-going/
- Women In Blockchain Foundation: https://womeninblockchainfoundation.org/
- Blockchain women influencers to follow: https://medium.com/polyswarm/10-powerhouse-women-in-blockchain-to-follow-on-twitter-85ff8046bd72
- Google’s sexist memo: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/aug/08/why-are-there-so-few-women-in-tech-the-truth-behind-the-google-memo
- Women in Tech history: The History of Women in Tech is Longer (and Cooler!) Than You Know https://www.themuse.com/.../the-history-of-women-in-tech-is-long...