Big surprise, women are underrepresented among blockchain startups. It’s a trend that’s pervasive throughout technology and Silicon Valley in particular. But blockchain, the technology underpinning cryptocurrencies, has the potential to be better, considering its mission is one tied to decentralization and a level playing field for all.
In some ways, however, women have struggled to compete in a male-dominated culture whose fortress is reportedly protected by cliques like the “blockchain bros,” according to a recent New York Times article. The trend does not appear to be limited to startups, as evidenced by research suggesting women only represent between 4% and 6% of blockchain investors.
While it’s still early innings for blockchain, that makes this gender imbalance that much more concerning, as it’s during the early days of an emerging market that new wealth is created and influencers born, setting in motion of chain of events ranging from investments to hiring behavior.
The Times article pointed to a Tweet by venture capitalist Alexia Bonatsos, saying –
Women, consider crypto. Otherwise the men are going to get all the wealth, again.
— Alexia Bonatsos (@alexia) January 25, 2018
On Wall Street, the gender gap recently came to the forefront with a bronze sculpture sponsored by asset management firm State Street in lower Manhattan, entitled “Fearless Girl.” Meanwhile, in corporate America, big investors are putting more pressure on boards of directors for environmental, social and governance criteria, including gender equality.
So what’s keeping more women from diving into blockchain? Some suggest it’s an inferiority complex, driven by the notion that you need a Ph.D. to succeed in the space, a misconception that one female crypto investor attempted to quash in the Times story. But it doesn’t help when blockchain engineers are mistaken for models or whose qualifications are questioned, which has happened to women, including engineering students, pursuing careers in cryptocurrencies.
And while women may feel excluded at some blockchain or cryptocurrency events, such as a recent bitcoin conference that held its networking session at a Miami strip club, it’s not everywhere.
Market leaders have been tailoring conferences and events to draw more women to the blockchain space. It’s working, as evidenced by sold-out events that are also attracting thousands to a live stream.
Indeed, there are also green shoots of gender diversity unfolding on the blockchain, suggesting it may depend on where you look. In an interview with Bloomberg, Digital Currency Group’s Meltem Demirors described an industry in which the sands are beginning to shift.
For instance, she says the number of female founders among blockchain startups is on the rise as well as the number of female investors across crypto vehicles such as hedge funds and venture capital. Demirors admits, however, that “there’s still some work that needs to be done in the ecosystem.”
In the United States, men as of January still comprised nearly three-quarters of all bitcoin users, according to data cited in Bloomberg.
Featured image from Shutterstock.