A well-worn topic is the gender disparity at cryptocurrency events with young male attendees being the predominant industry representatives at fintech conferences, particularly those that relate to cryptocurrency.
Writer Caroline Preece recently asked the question “why are cryptocurrency events still ignoring women”, illustrated by the blanked-out face of a female conference attendee above her piece. Bitcoin News wrote a similar such piece earlier this year reflecting the problem of gender equality in the industry, which focused on women who were becoming movers and shakers in this male-dominated industry.
That the industry accepts it “as the norm”, as Preece suggests, is perhaps oversimplifying the issue of gender equality in new technology development such as cryptocurrency. What is perhaps more relevant is how to encourage women into the sector, which is the only factor which will influence those conference numbers she refers to.
The success stories for women at top levels of the industry are already piling up. Civic Ledger‘s Katrina Donaghy saw her company named as emerging fintech organization of the year at this year’s annual Fintech Industry Awards. She managed to secure a blockchain deal with the Queensland government, launching the startup which uses smart contract and blockchain technology to build tools for people to engage with government. She commented:
“If you just look at the companies that have done ICOs, there are very few women, but if you look at the ones that have been built based on customer validation and actually have sales, well most of the good blockchain companies that are still around were co-founded by women in the early days.”
Cryptocurrency adoption statistics don’t augur well for women though and this should become a focus for the industry; how to encourage women to see cryptocurrency as a viable option for them in the future. Blockchain Women Ireland (BWI) is one such organization which has been fired up in the Irish Republic to further advance awareness of the blockchain sector in the country by selecting women already in the industry to make decisions on its future.
BWI members draw from a wide scope of financial representatives in the country including the Department of Finance, BNY Mellon and the Science Foundation Ireland-funded Adapt research center for digital content technology. BWI includes two prominent women from the business sector: Mai Santamaria, a senior financial director at the Department of Finance, and Joyce O’Connor, founding president of the National College of Ireland and chairwoman of the Institute of International and European Affairs digital future working group.
The idea behind the new group is to promote blockchain as a potential career for women and also keep the community up to date with educational opportunities in the industry.
However, the numbers of women adopting cryptocurrency as a form of investment, or simply as a way of managing their financial assets, is on the rise according to recent surveys with numbers jumping from 6% to 13% over the course of this year. London Block Exchange senior business analyst Agnes de Roeyer believes women have recently become keener to join the crypto market, explaining:
“There’s still a common misconception that cryptocurrency is a game for men, but we’ve seen hundreds of women sign up for our exchange in the last few months and some of the most inspiring and knowledgeable investors, leading the way in the industry are female.”
Back to the conference event. These numbers can’t swell until first women begin to take a more from the top of the industry as many have already demonstrated and as Mysterium Network‘s CMO Sharmini Ravindran observes: It’s about making the industry more open to women, and this needs to come from men understanding the social complexities of doing business in an industry where you are vastly outnumbered.”
This also means dumping the “booth babes” and scantily-clad models that are often used to advertise ICOs and crypto projects, a daunting problem on its own for female speakers where the models at such events often represent the predominant female gender representation in the room. Marion Vogel, director at aeternity put the case well:
“The crypto scene started off as a male-dominated space and probably will be this way for a while. That’s okay, but let’s also put an emphasis on not only welcoming women to the space but also on having them prove and demonstrate their skills. I believe every talented person will find a home in crypto, regardless of gender.”
Gracie Wong, who co-founded Liven alongside her brother William Wong, perhaps puts it best when she suggests that blockchain needs as much expertise as it can get, particularly as it’s still in its infancy. Reflecting that diversity is the key, she argues:
“While blockchain might be a newly-named technology, the reality is it’s a combination of existing technical competencies. We need people that are great data scientists, who understand governance, who are cryptographers… and AI experts. When you combine this together in a novel way, it becomes enlivened.”
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Image Courtesy: National College of Ireland