I come from a traditional finance background where we have seen the consequences of lack of diversity. Wealth accumulated by a privileged few, gender pay gap, systems with inherent biases, and the list goes on. The fact that we are in the early stages of blockchain technology gives us an opportunity to set the right precedent and avoid making archaic mistakes.
This technology has the potential to redefine the dynamics of our society and disrupt our financial systems. It is imperative that such an enabling technology be built and represented by the diverse population it serves to benefit. Homogeneous teams run the risk creating solutions that fail to account for the needs of global users. We must do away with the “shrinking and pinking it” approach! (Bic ‘pens’ for Her, anyone?).
Women constitute 50% of the world population but their participation in the tech revolution is nowhere close to 50%. A lot has been said about the gender gap and the need to increase women’s participation in the blockchain space; however awareness alone will not bring about change. On the contrary, we are running the risk of normalizing this deficiency and accepting it as the status quo. We need to take concrete steps to break down barriers, to mentor, educate, and foster an appealing environment for women in the workplace. Several organizations are championing these efforts, and I have compiled a list of these initiatives across US. (Let me know if I missed any — I certainly hope there are even more!)
When I first became interested in blockchain, I attended meetups and events to learn more about the technology and meet like-minded people. My experience then can be very well summed up by what Linda Xie shared in this article. Though I encourage you to read the whole thing, to summarize: While no one was openly malicious at industry events, she often felt ignored (“Men would just introduce themselves to each other right in front of me”), underestimated (“People were surprised when I said anything intelligent”) and belittled (“They usually thought I was someone’s plus one”).
These experiences are not merely anecdotal but have been expressed repeatedly by women across the spectrum. I felt the need for a platform where women wouldn’t feel out of place and, rather, would be encouraged to explore this technology. I founded Women in Blockchain (WiB) in 2018 to build a community for women to get together and establish a collaborative space for learning. In our first year we have highlighted the incredible work done by women leaders to empower others to get involved.
There are so many amazing women making significant contributions to revolutionary projects, and we’ve done a poor job of highlighting their work. Instead, the focus is on their gender, rather than their accomplishments. The question asked in most panels and conferences — ‘What’s it like being a woman in blockchain?’ is irrelevant and undermines their contributions to the field. As Lightning Labs CEO Elizabeth Stark aptly tweeted:
At WiB we focus on the significance of their groundbreaking innovations. Our hope is that these incredible panelists and speakers will serve as role models for younger and newer enthusiasts and motivate them to get involved. We have been lucky to host truly inspiring innovators, including:
To read about other such amazing contributors, read Meltem Demirors’ Leader Series.
Our group aims to empower women and increase their participation in the blockchain space by fueling their education. Through our monthly meetups, we discuss the challenges and opportunities of the industry, and debate current developments offering promising solutions. WiB lowers the barrier to entry by facilitating connections to thought leaders and creating a platform for women to learn from one another. Our members collaborate and inspire each other to drive this technology forward.
Disrupting the traditional industry and replacing it with a decentralized one is not enough if we carry our arcane biases into the new economy. But the fact that we are having these conversations early on makes me hopeful. Let’s do better this time around!
Update: WiB has since conducted over 100 educational sessions & workshops, released a beginner’s guide to blockchain and expanded beyond education to undertake research, career development, community and funding initiatives. You can find more info on our website.