Today is International Women’s Day, when we can all celebrate the progress of the women’s rights movement.
This year’s theme #pressforprogress is calling for change – change in gender equality across the globe. The blockchain and cryptocurrency industry is not even a decade old, but unfortunately it seems to carried over some of the gender disparities and biases of the more established tech industries.
On this important day, we spoke to some women involved in the blockchain industry to get their thoughts on the current state of the industry and its trajectory.
How is the blockchain industry doing with regards to gender parity?
Brigid McDermott, VP of IBM Food Trust: “While I do agree that the cryptocurrency space tends to have an under-representation of women – I attribute that to it looking a lot like trading (in the banking sense), an area that is historically more male than even other areas of banking.
“On the opposite side, in blockchain itself I see more women (than average in technology) attracted to the opportunity to transform business processes and whole industries. In my role at IBM, I have a full female reporting chain (up to our CEO) and a significant number of women on my team. I think this opportunity to combine technology with real business impact is where I see women getting very excited about their opportunity to drive real change.”
Jane Zhang, Marketing Partner, Delphy: “Sadly, for all its talk on innovation and disruption, the world of cryptocurrencies trails behind in diversity and there is underlying tone of a “gentlemen’s club” culture. The wider technology industry has faced many issues with gender equality, but strides are being made in the right direction. Yet why do we see and read about cryptocurrency events being held at gentlemen’s clubs? Why are there so many stories from women who have attended cryptocurrency events only to be subjected to sexist and condescending remarks? An innovative and exciting new world is stuck in the dark ages.”
Hannah Drake, Chief Operating Officer, Energi Mine: “Throughout my career in both the energy and crypto space, I have found that these two very different industries are worryingly alike; Women only make up a fraction of the community that drive them and this must change if they are to move forward. I am proud to be at the forefront of a fast paced and innovative company, where both women and men move forward as one.”
What can be done to encourage more women to enter the space? Why would that be beneficial?
Jane: “There is hope. The crypto community is still relatively new. We need to ensure that women’s voices are being heard, that women are being brought into the industry whether that be from a business, investment or development perspective. This is an exciting world, but it can only succeed in truly disrupting if it is inclusive.
“We definitely see a wave of talented women bagging leadership positions in blockchain start-ups. Our founder Bo Wang, is always looking for the best candidate for the job, and that is reflected in our team composition, we have 7 women and 21 men in our team.”
Hayley McCool Smith, Head of Strategy Energi Mine, says: “As a company, we believe that great ideas are born out of a diverse team. Working alongside people who think differently from you means we can tackle creative and technical challenges in a sharper and more innovative way. Our commitment to hiring and promoting more women in an industry that is very male-skewed forms part of our resolve to ensure that Energi Mine embraces diversity.”
Brigid: “Since blockchain is still relatively new, we are only starting to realize the potential of this transformative technology and it is the perfect time for women to get more involved and learn and grow together. At some level, blockchain is more of a strategic or a social enabler than anything – it allows you to think differently about how businesses and people interact and build trust. I think helping women understand the power and the potential of significant change will build interest. Given some of the great work women in academia, consulting, etc. have done to get businesses and organizations to work together more efficiently and effectively, we are doing ourselves an extreme disservice if we don’t encourage this type of diverse thinking and limit ourselves to just the technology portion of the change that blockchain enables.”