Objectifying ads, a lack of female speakers at conferences, and the use of scantily-clad female models at ‘professional’ events – just a sample of the ‘gentlemen’s club’ culture on offer in a portion of the blockchain world.
The sector has something of a PR crisis on its hands: a recent article in the New York Times describing the experiences of women in the cryptocurrency and blockchain world revealed all. If you’re woman who already works in the cryptocurrency space, then the hit piece may have come as no surprise. If you’re a woman considering entering the world of cryptocurrency, you would be forgiven for changing your mind.
Gender imbalance: women are underrepresented in blockchain tech
It’s no secret that within tech, women are underrepresented. While it does vary depending on sub-sector, the rough percentage kicked about is 25 percent. The number of female tech founders stands at only 5 percent.
It’s a phenomenon even more pronounced in the cryptocurrency community. 97 percent of those involved in the space are male, while women make up just 5 percent of cryptocurrency users worldwide. In 2017 Bitcoin investors amassed $85 billion in wealth, with women getting $5 billion of that pie.
As Vice pointed out in an article earlier this year, “crypto is a total brofest”. What was supposed to be a revolution against the stale, pale, and incredibly male financial space, ironically produced an even more macho crypto community. “Bitcoin and its imitators now roundly resemble the Wall Street institutions they once rejected”, explains reporter, Katherine Gillespie.
Women just don’t ‘get’ cryptocurrencies
Various arguments exist to explain why this might be the case. Women are generally underrepresented in STEM subjects throughout academia – with 35 per cent of STEM graduates are women – resulting in a smaller pool of female applicants for key jobs in blockchain companies. There is also a line of thinking among some that women in general are far more risk averse and therefore less likely to invest in something as volatile as cryptocurrency.
However, more pernicious, misogynistic arguments also exist: some suggest that women simply do not understand, or are incapable of understanding cryptocurrency and the underlying blockchain technology.
Given the levels of misogynistic behaviour prevalent in our society, it is no surprise the crypto community remains a male dominated space. Worse still, this massive imbalance in female representation, ensures that few women are in leadership positions at crypto companies to significantly change the culture.
An ever-growing success story
The many puerile statements are easily rebuffed when you examine the successful female leaders in the financial and business sector. Christine Lagarde, Mary Schapiro, Chanda Kochhar are just a few of the hundreds of women who have successful and rewarding careers in finance and business. Even the sceptics have pointed out that while women appear to invest less on stock markets, their investments tend to perform better in the long-run.
Women don’t understand cryptocurrencies? These high-flying women within the cryptospace would argue otherwise. Although there is still much more that can be done, the assumption that women don’t ‘get’ blockchain and therefore cannot make a tangible contribution is a false assertion that needs to be erased.
Bringing more women into the cryptoworld
Despite the dominance of men in the crypto industry, not every blockchain company is a boys’ club: many crypto startups are increasingly seeking driven, intelligent, and hard-working women to join their ranks.
Other blockchain companies are currently being advised by women, and women are increasingly visible as speakers at crypto conferences. These companies understand that with a plurality of opinion and diversity of experiences within their team, their companies will thrive, and will have more outward appeal to the largely untapped market of female investors. For instance, our founder Bo Wang is a visionary and is always looking for the best candidate and that resonates in team Delphy that comprises 8 women and 21 men. We must look beyond gender.
It is important to note that, as blockchain technology becomes ever more mainstraim, we will see men and women from all professional backgrounds join the crypto space. The fact is that blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies, as of today, are still in their infancy, and are still playing catch up with the hiring practices of the rest of the professional world. However, this offers a lot of opportunities for women to enter the space and really leave a mark.
How to include women in the blockchain industry
In order to encourage more women to embark on a career in the world of cryptocurrencies, there are a few practices that blockchain companies can incorporate into their recruitment drive:
- Ensure that any and all misogynistic behaviour is rooted out of their companies.
- Targeting young women (from secondary school to university) with campaigns which communicate the widespread application of blockchain technology, to cultivate an interest in blockchain technology before they begin choosing their careers
- Encourage young girls (from primary school to secondary school) to study STEM subjects, in particular coding. More needs to be done to encourage women to study STEM subjects.
As we celebrate International Women’s Day today, let us not just celebrate the many contributions women have made in society.
Let us also recognise where they can still make such a huge impact. Blockchain has so much potential but it will never be fully-realised without the greater involvement of talented women.