The world of cryptocurrency and distributed ledger technology has grown sensationally since its humble beginnings in 2009, with the release of Satoshi’s early Bitcoin code. This revolutionary technology is undeniably succeeding in its aim to displace the traditional financial system, discredited and out-dated as it is. The end-goal is nearly within view; universal adoption with crypto becoming totally mainstream, to the point it becomes the money used by most everyone in their daily lives.
Every day, more and more people are getting involved in cryptocurrency for all kinds of different reasons. However, what is still lacking is the integration and involvement of women within the industry. In keeping with the cypherpunk spirit which birthed cryptocurrency, perhaps instead of seeing the lack of women as a lamentable problem, it could be seen as the perfect opportunity for an entirely new way of doing things.
The Gender Discrepancy
Currently Cryptocurrencies and blockchain technologies are comprised of a male majority, and only 5% to 7% of all cryptocurrency users are women. The discrepancy can clearly be seen in Bitcoin, where only $5 billion of its estimated $85 Billion wealth creation was created by women.
The Tech Industry is already well known for having a greater male presence and this sub-section, the crypto world, is no different - and perhaps the differential is even more pronounced within crypto. Many of the discussion forums, mailing lists and other groups around which cryptocurrency communities and development are clustered, were (and are) comprised primarily of men. This of course leads to a very masculine culture and ethos. Women might naturally feel unwelcome in such a risk-taking, deeply technical and hyper competitive environment, particularly as women tend to be more focused on stability and cooperation.
However, with the creation of ICOs, (Initial Coin Offerings) this unbalance is righting itself, with many women becoming involved in the business, communication, community-building and marketing aspects that are absolutely critical to the success of modern ICOs. These are areas in which women’s psychological strengths can truly shine and bring great contributions.
ICOs Addressing the Imbalance
The origins of ICOs can be traced back to Ethereum and Mastercoin’s intelligent plans to defy the limitations of regular Venture Capitalist (VC) funding. VC funding is notorious for being highly biased, and the people behind the projects are often far more central to successful fund-raising important than the concept, business plan or anything else. Tellingly, the percentage of successful VC start-ups led by women was only 4.94% in 2016.
Therefore, ICOs could be a way for women to route around any possible gender bias in traditional fundraising. ICOs are backed up more by the potential of their concept - as defined in their white papers - than by the connections of the people behind the project. This allows women to escape any gender bias. ICOs can also help women raise funds for necessary projects that were outside the narrow focus of VCs, by exposing their projects to normal, everyday people around the world who measure success in more than financial terms.
With this positive influence this might rid men and women of their pre-conceived ideas of who can be in involved in the crypto world and what can be achieved. Cryptocurrency offers a tremendous opportunity and is entirely accessible to anyone willing to learn. A promising woman within the crypto world, Zcash developer Jay Garber, expressed it perfectly in a recent tweet (which incidentally was extremely well-received and highly upvoted by Reddit’s Bitcoin community):
“The barriers to entry for tech are very low compared to any other professional field. Male or female, you can make it without a CS [computer science] degree, with no initial capital costs other than a computer, and all the material you need to learn and start practicing is freely available online.”
Women to Watch
There are many successful women in the ICO and crypto field that we can all take inspiration from. Here are a few notable examples of women in this field:
No relation to Iron Man nor hailing from a noble house of Winterfell, Elizabeth Stark has an even more impressive story… She’s the cofounder and CEO of Lightning Labs, the company at the forefront of development for Bitcoin’s much-anticipated Lightning Network. Lightning promises to be the Layer 2 solution which brings instant and near-free transactions to Bitcoin. Elizabeth also advises a startup developing self-driving cars, plus numerous other tech and blockchain startups. Elizabeth taught at both Yale and Stanford and played a key role in the political effort to thwart the threat to internet freedom posed by the notorious SOPA / PIPA bills.
A graduate of Johns Hopkins University, Galia is an expert in the fields of technology and economics. She is one of the co-founders of the hugely successful Bancor protocol. Founded as an ICO, Bancor is among the highest-grossing ICOs of all time, having raised an impressed $153 million. Gail is a staunch advocate for the role of women in the world of cryptocurrency.
The founder and CEO of Sensay, the cross-platform conversational matching service, is planning an ICO this September. Her company utilises artificial intelligence to connect people seeking or offering particular expertise or life experience. Crystal has already raised $6 million through conventional funding methods, the ICO’s purpose is to accelerate her endeavour’s already-considerable achievements.
Kathleen is the co-founder and COO of Tezos, as well as a graduate of Cornell University. The Tezos ICO was the third highest grossing ICO of 2017. It raised a spectacular $232 Million during its two-week ICO campaign. Kathleen also is the co-founder of the company behind that ICO, Dynamic Ledger Services. Kathleen has been intensely involved with the ICO from the start. Even though Tezos is now facing significant legal problems, she remains committed to its success.
At only 30 years of age, this driven woman launched indaHash. This company works with brand management and corporate content management. indaHash has successfully created more than 1,000 campaigns for several markets around the globe, and established a firm user base. This solid foundation allowed for its ICO (known as IDH coin) to launch in November of 2017 with the distinct advantage of pre-existing support.
This African-American woman has over 20 years in the info tech industry. She holds several consulting positions in the US government and several Fortune 500 companies. She is motivated to close the wealth gap within black American communities. Her ICO, Guapcoin, is designed to alleviate poverty within her particular community by expanding “Black Wall Street.” This ICO project also has ties with charitable organisations in fields such as education, commerce and philanthropy.
Ultimately, while there is an obvious gender discrepancy within the crypto industry, it’s up to women to take the leap of faith - in themselves and the industry - to get involved. There’s a great deal of learning and hard work required to achieve competence in this field, but that dedication will be rewarded.
Psycho-social barriers to entry - the so-called glass ceiling - should not be an excuse, given that the crypto world is all about decentralisation - routing around traditional gatekeepers - and openness - meaning that anyone who wants to get involved and has the skills, can get involved!
So, there’s really nothing stopping any woman interested in this exciting field from becoming as involved as her time and passion allows. After all, who’s to say that Satoshi Nakomoto, the pseudonymous founder of Bitcoin and hence the creator of all cryptocurrencies which followed, isn’t a woman!