It’s not a secret that there’s a huge gender gap in the tech world.
“An Enormous Waste of Human Potential”
While the statistics have vastly improved from decades past, the numbers on women in finance and technology are still startlingly low. According to a 2017 report from the Observer, only 5% of startups are owned by women.
Only 11% of executive positions in Silicon Valley are held by women; women receive lower salary offers for the same job at the same company as their male counterparts 63% of the time–these statistics are just the tip of the iceberg.
As deep as the gender imbalance is in the tech world at large, the cryptosphere has been particularly stricken by an even deeper gender gap. It is estimated that femme-identified people only comprise 1-5% of the crypto community–investors, users, and innovators.
Just as a report by the editors at Bloomberg said last year, the gender gap isn’t just about equality and social justice–”the status quo is an enormous waste of human potential.” When the biases of those responsible for hiring and providing funding–conscious or unconscious–lock an entire sector of the human population out of an industry for something as arbitrary as gender, the whole world loses out.
Creating a Positive Work Culture–for Everyone
In places where women are present in the tech world, hostile work environments and work cultures ridden with sexual harassment remain an issue. A 2017 report from Atlantic Training revealed that as many as 81% of women have reported some sort of physical or verbal sexual harassment. While this is an issue that mostly affects femme-identified people, 17-20% of men also reported that they were also sexually harassed at work.
Because the cryptocurrency industry is so new, millions of individuals have been presented with unprecedented opportunities–to make profits, to create amazing products, and to improve the world’s existing technological, governmental, and financial systems.
However, there is one more important opportunity that cannot be ignored. Because the crypto industry is being built from the ground up, it does have the potential to be extremely intentional about the culture of work that it decides to create–who is welcome, who is included, and the voices that they have within the space.
Creating a work culture where all voices are equal isn’t just good for women–it’s good for everybody.
It is not just about equality–it’s also about economics. A more diverse workforce is likely to create a more inclusive set of products that cater to wider and untapped markets.
“Hiring and promoting talented women is the right thing to do for society – and it’s an economic imperative for Japan,” wrote Chairman Carlos Ghosn of the Renault-Nissan Alliance.
As deep as the gender gap in the world of crypto is now, there is still time for change–for now, there are some absolutely amazing femme individuals in the crypto space.
We asked a few of them about their experiences in the world of crypto: Kathy Berardi, a PR strategist and brand storyteller with nearly 20 years of experience who specializes in blockchain and cryptocurrency; Nea Simone, a New York Times best-selling author and the founder of BESPOKE Media Marketing; and Laura Cramer, Director of Brand Strategy at Melrose PR, a blockchain and cryptocurrency communications agency.
We wanted to know about the experiences of professional women in the cryptosphere. Have their experiences reflected some of the negative aspects of the work culture in Silicon Valley and other places in the tech world?
We asked these professionals to reflect on their personal experiences in the crypto sector, wondering if the work culture there echoes some of the hostility and exclusivity towards women that have characterized the tech industry.
Intention is Key–Change Doesn’t Happen Unconsciously
Laura Cramer said that although the cryptocurrency industry has been gifted with the unique opportunity to create a more inclusive culture, it won’t happen automatically. Additionally, male members of the crypto space must take responsibility for ensuring that women receive equal treatment.
“Cryptocurrency’s gender imbalance is hardly different from the gender imbalance that blankets virtually every industry in the Western world. There’s no shortage of women in blockchain, in tech, or in the world, yet here we are scratching our heads yet again; Where are the women?
Boiling down humankind’s systemic sexism would exceed a single article’s word count — as would illustrating how nepotistic work environments are damaging to marginalized groups. Cryptocurrency is imbalanced because the world is.
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Shifting that imbalance isn’t as simple as creating a new industry. We can’t just rely on the logic that because blockchain is its infancy, it will be built in a way that reflects a newer, more ‘woke’ perspective.
Sexism, whether conscious or not, runs deeper than that. Naysayers can look to the US’s current #MeToo movement to see that there isn’t a woman on earth hasn’t faced hostility at work. So how do I advance when the industry is uncomfortable and non-inclusive toward people like me? Perhaps I’m not the right person to ask.
I know all about the disadvantages of being a woman. A better question would be directed at men: How do you plan on being an advocate for women? What steps are you making to build an inclusive space? How do you educate yourself on women’s issues? And if you aren’t already doing those things, why not?”
Positive Change May Already Be Underway, but There is Progress to Be Made
Kim Miller-Anderson had some very positive things to say about her experience in the cryptosphere.
“I have worked in the technology industry for almost 20 years, and have seen the work environment change continuously, for the better, with more and more women in leadership and C-suite positions. I have not personally experienced any hostility in this space.
I have interacted, worked with, and engaged everyone from millennials to baby boomers, and people across multiple spectrums of race, ethnicity, and gender. Everyone that I have reached out to – and who has reached out to me – has been respectful, curious and more than willing to share information and collaborate.”
Nea Simone said that she had also never experienced hostility as a female member of the cryptocurrency space, but added that the expectations placed on her often differed from male-identified members of the community.
“It is always off-putting to enter a male-dominated arena and receive respect for your intellect and accomplishments if you’re female. I have often been asked to edit or spell-check a document or take notes on a conference call despite the fact that I’ve been invited to the table as a peer.
As a woman, you have to be aware of the assumption that you’re there to serve and take the reins to redelegate the same tasks that have been assigned to you. I don’t think of it as hostile or unfriendly, but definitely non-inclusive.”
When asked specifically what the most difficult thing about being a woman in the cryptocurrency space was, Nea Simone said that she sometimes feels like the conversation is taken away from her.
“When the topic of cryptocurrency investment or blockchain comes up in social situations, if I enter the conversation I am typically cut off by a man who begins to mansplain and talk over me. It is disrespectful and disheartening.”
Despite the deep gender imbalance in the cryptocurrency community at large, there are still some exciting, up-and-coming figures in the crypto community who also happen to be female.
Kathy Berardi mentioned several figures, including Laura Shin, a writer for Forbes and the host of the renowned Unchained podcast.
“[She] has written many illuminating articles in the cryptosphere and does much to promote a thorough and inclusive picture of its growth and success.
Another sharp female ‘cypherpunk’ figure is Amber Baldet, the blockchain lead at JPMorgan. Her non-role conforming attitude represents the youthful accessibility of the blockchain world and emphasizes the priorities of transparency and decentralization, which fundamentally clashes with most everything else in the financial industry.
And then there are women like Tavonia Evans, who launched the very first ICO to recycle wealth within the African-American community, a pursuit that represents all meaningful possibility in this business as not only a project, but a movement.”
Indeed, blockchain technology does have the power to change the world—for individuals, for communities, and for women.