Women on the block: How blockchain is breaking new ground outside of technology

Liang Downey is a voting member of the IEEE Blockchain Initiative, IEEE Women In Engineering Committee, and IEEE Technology Engineering Management Society Adcom. She works for IBM’s Energy, Utility and Environment Global Industry, driving client adoption of IoT, machine learning and analytics to improve energy efficiency, renewable energy integration and worker safety. Her professional expertise spans over 20 years in mobile computing, telematics, RFID and connected vehicles space. Ms. Downey earned a Master Degree in Engineering from Clarkson University, Bachelor’s Degree from Tsinghua University, and an MBA from Wayne State University.

There has been a lot of hype related to the blockchain and, while the technology has broad appeal to build trust and help alleviate inefficiencies when transacting a wide-range of assets, there have also been numerous cases of fraud, particularly in the realm of digital currency and financial investment.

Of course, implications for blockchain in the financial and regulatory world are far reaching with a lot of upside opportunities, yet its deployment as a technology solution for general businesses is still somewhat in its infancy.

That said, and in a more positive light, there is a lot of groundbreaking work being conducted by startup companies, as innovative enterprises and businesses explore blockchain as a means to resolve real-world issues and improve on societal problems related to commerce and trade.

And, what’s surprising to some is that a good number of the startups have come about due to the efforts of a growing group of tech-savvy women who are organised and motivated through various organisations and sponsored events.

Women on the block

This past May, more than 300 female attendees showed up on Mother’s Day to discuss women’s role in blockchain during the Women on the Block Conference, the brainchild of Alexandra Levin-Kramer, ESQ., a partner at CKR Law who also heads their Blockchain Technology & Digital Currency group.

This one-day blockchain conference featured all-women panels and over 50 speakers from more than 13 countries. While the five keynotes and eight-panel discussions were heavily weighted towards cryptocurrency and tokens, one panel, “Blockchain Technology & Smart Contracts” was more focused on the technical aspects of blockchain.

As a representative of IEEE Women in Engineering and the IEEE Blockchain Initiative, it was awe-inspiring to hear from so many highly-informed blockchain experts as they shared ideas and best practices for practical use cases that are set to make the technology one of the most disruptive to come along in some time.

Outside of the formal agenda, the event also offered a unique opportunity to interface with female blockchain stakeholders and learn more about particular applications being instituted in areas where blockchain can make a real and impactful change for businesses.

Peer Ledger

Founded in 2016 by Peer Ledger CEO Dawn Jutla, the Canadian startup set out to use cutting-edge blockchain technology in supply chains to help companies collaborate on protecting human rights, improving environmental performance and significantly reducing key risks, such as addressing counterfeiting and safety concerns.

The blockchain platform employed by Peer Ledger provides one consistent view of data to permissioned organisations in value chains, certifying the conduct of organisations, and making transparent the provenance and protocols used in producing materials, securing documents, and immediately cross-checking the track and trace of materials, components and products from their source all the way to the customer.

“We’ve utilised blockchain to help pharmaceutical companies ensure the highest level of identity and access management while protecting their intellectual property, built a platform to help companies reduce conflict minerals risks and to identify and eliminate counterfeit supply chain materials, as well as provided food retailers, suppliers, and customers a means to track and trace food items back to their original source,” says Jutla.

Jutla, an IEEE Women in Engineering (WIE) member, is at the forefront of helping develop the supporting technology that will advance blockchain for business applications. Already there is a growing community to support businesses looking to incorporate the technology into their products or services, and while resources may be scarce initially, organisations such as the IEEE are committed to helping foster a forum for discussion and collaborative efforts that work towards blockchain standardisation in order to develop the technology for maximum reliability, interoperability and adoption.

“Clearly there is a key role for women in helping advance blockchain technology across a wide range of applications as identified by the IEEE and IEEE WIE leadership,” Jutla adds. “The recent Women on the Block event exemplifies how women can make a real difference as this nascent technology is leveraged in ways that can improve productivity and business outcomes, while also helping protect our fellow human beings, our environment and our livelihoods.”

It’s not all hype when it comes to blockchain. Its foundation as a distributed ledger holds a good deal of promise for vastly improving how to securely transact valuable assets, both tangible and non-tangible, and to do so with assured trust that can truly transform business operations. What’s more, the blockchain ecosystem holds a lot of promise for growth and opportunity. Current estimates are that there is a 6000% increase year over year for employment opportunities related to blockchain-related initiatives.

So, whether you are male or female, if you are interested in getting involved in a highly-disruptive industry with a lot of opportunity for professional career advancement, now may be a good time to begin to explore the power of blockchain.


Interested in hearing leading global brands discuss subjects like this in person? Find out more at the Blockchain Expo World Series, Global, Europe and North America.


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