A recent article in the New York Times drew attention to “blockchain bros” and the evident gender disparity in the blockchain industry, particularly in the United States.
“Blockchain bros” was defined by the article as the male-dominated culture buoyed by a new fleet of wealthy crypto speculators; and was mentioned alongside other notable sexist incidents such as DateCoin’s Facebook ad featuring a female model in a bathing suit and the words “Touch my ICO”.
And this experience is not unique to the US. There are other counts of sexist crypto advertising and blockchain conferences and events around the world that often feature few or no female speakers.
This got me interested in seeing why this is the case…
Statistics of Gender Disparity
- This NY Times article estimated that women reportedly make up a mere 4-6% of investors in the blockchain space.
- An Ethereum community survey found that only 4% of ‘etherians’ are women.
Coin.Dance, a website that uses Google Analytics, looks at Bitcoin statistics such as engagement by gender. At the time of writing this article, the disparity is 91.22% male, 8.78% female. On January 1, women represented 3.43%.
- An International Quartz survey of 378 venture-backed crypto and blockchain companies founded between January 2012 and January 2018, showed roughly 8.5 percent had a woman on the founding team, compared to 17.7 percent in the broader tech industry.
While there are flaws in this data, such as the argument that the Ethereum community survey was performed on reddit, a platform that is also dominated by men; and the well-documented risk aversion in female investors which may affect the percentage of cryptocurrency investors (due to the current nature and volatility of this market). But the imbalance cannot be ignored. I also looked at industries that are related to the blockchain space such as the financial services and technology industries and found these results:
- In financial services companies, female representation severely declines as the career level rises, resulting in a significant predominance of men in senior positions. Source.
- The technology and computer science industry is another place where women are decidedly a minority.
- This PWC report found a number of key findings such as the fact that the gender gap in technology starts at school and carries on through every stage of girls’ and women’s lives, the lack of female role models in the space, and the lack of information and opportunity provided on technology careers.
The Importance of Women in the Crypto-Space
Being a Cardano community member, you are all aware of the immense benefits blockchain technology can have on our society. But perhaps, women can benefit even more than men…
According to Oxfam, the majority of the world’s poor are women. A decentralized banking system will hopefully help these women gain access to their own banking. Women deal with further issues surrounding financial access and empowerment too.
For example, did you know that in Saudi Arabia, women are still legally barred from receiving a business loan or license until two men testify of her behalf? And according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, at least 94% of women who experienced domestic abuse were also victims of economic abuse, where the abuser controlled her access to income or financial services.
Having women in the blockchain space is the key to building the solutions that can help shape the future for the better. Cryptocurrencies and blockchain projects can take into account the problems that all people, men and women alike, deal with. Without diversity, these issues won’t come to the table.
More and more, there are events or organizations that bring together the female community. “Women on the Block” is a blockchain conference in Brooklyn, New York that features an all-female speaker panel. Or Collective Future is a blockchain diversity advocacy group that creates a diversity pledge for crypt-companies to sign as a show of commitment. And there’s TOKEN2049, one of Asia’s biggest crypto conferences which was held this past March, that offered a 50% discount on tickets for women.
But is it the right step forward?
As always, there are two sides to an argument. Though I believe creating a space where women feel included is important, I also believe that preferential treatment isn’t the right way.
All-women panels are a great initiative, unless they are created for the purpose of focussing on gender. Many conference organizers use this as their ‘feel good’ action or to show that they are making an effort in diversity, but when speakers are asked to discuss what its like to be a woman in the space rather than their achievements and contributions, then it becomes another form of discrimination.
And similar to the argument against board quotas, my opinion is that your place at the table should be earned. That is the true meaning of gender equality. We simply need to make sure the culture and infrastructure is there to recognize and acknowledge hardworking, qualified women in the same capacity as their male counterparts.
Additionally, a focus on education is essential. The PWC report sourced above notes that the gender gap in technology started in school. That’s why its great to see education programs and data-sharing initiatives, like Women Who Code, emerging. Women Who Code is a non-profit organization that provides training, mentorships, networking and scholarships to women who wish to pursue a technology or coding career.
Thirdly, I think we need to end the stigmas of gender in science, finance, computer engineering and the like. We, sadly, have engrained stereotypes that we don’t even realize we have. If I asked you to picture a “scientist” in your mind, I’m guessing the vast majority of us would probably conjure up someone wearing a lab coat, and that someone would probably be a man. We need to take a personal action to be conscious of this.
Lastly, we need to create an open and indiscriminating community space. As Cardano community members, we hope that you uphold the view that all individuals should be treated respectfully, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, age, disability, ethnicity, religion (or lack thereof). Join us in creating a welcome space for any and all to feel included!
What is Cardano doing?
Cardano’s very own cryptocurrency, Ada, is named after Ada Lovelace. Ada was a gifted mathematician and intellectual. She published her translation of an academic paper about the Babbage Analytical Engine and added a section, nearly three times the length of the paper, titled, “Notes.” Here, she described how the computer would work, imagined its potential and wrote what is often considered to be the world’s first computer program. One can only imagine the gender inequality she experienced in the early 19th century!
Beyond that, our project definitely supports gender equality. From a non-discriminatory community code of conduct which we strictly adhere to, to education. IOHK will be training Ethiopian developers, that will go on to invest their skills into the local economy building blockchain applications for the country. The first class is all-female.
For a bit of fun, we’d love to see how our community fairs out. Are you?
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