BREAKING BLOCKCHAIN’S GLASS CEILING
Now is the time to encourage more women to get involved in the blockchain space.
Why are there more men than women into blockchain? What is stopping the fairer sex from getting involved? What can we do to reduce the gender imbalance prevalent in the industry?
Women in blockchain is a hot topic these days and questions like these are common. In a male-dominated industry, it is easy to see why. In 2017, only 16% of the top 50 blockchain startups were founded by or led by women. Recent data from Quartz shows that only one (0.3%) of the 378 venture-backed crypto and blockchain companies founded globally in the last six years had an all-female founding team; while 8.2% or 31 of those 378 companies, had a mix of male and female founders. While the blockchain community has grown over the past six years, the founding roles within most companies continue to be dominated by men.
While there is still a lack of women in technology across the board, blockchain is one area growing at an exponential rate with a worryingly extreme gender imbalance. How do we encourage more women to embrace the blockchain industry?
To understand the issue, we first need examine the education backgrounds of both men and women. Historically speaking, boys are encouraged to study science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects while girls are more likely to be ushered into traditional industries eventually becoming teachers and nurses. As a result, only a small number of women go on to study STEM subjects at university level – leading to a small talent pool.
We need to move past the cultural belief and stereotype that technology is for boys and not for girls. Confidence in coding and programming, for instance, along with the lack of role models and support from parents and teachers, are aspects that have been highlighted as hindrances for girls wanting to move forward with a career in STEM. The only way to move pass this is to start from the ground up and encourage more girls to take an interest in tech, IT, and wider STEM subjects from a young age. Blockchain and cryptocurrency topics should also be introduced at university level – paving the way for those interested in pursuing a career in the industry.
As an industry that is still somewhat misunderstood, it is important that we move away from constantly speculating on the price of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies and instead focus on the underlying technology and the ability it has to change the world around us.
While blockchain has yet to reach its full potential, we should be demonstrating to the wider public, and not only women, the impact blockchain can have on our day-to-day lives in the areas of banking, healthcare and education for example. We should also be highlighting the power we have to make a difference on a social impact level through environment, charity, or aid work. We are at the cusp of something big and it is an exciting time to be involved in the industry. While blockchain is still very much in its nascent stages, as more meet-ups, events and conferences highlighting its vast potential are organized, more women will be enticed to step into the industry.
Gender inequality affects females in different parts of the world. Despite India having high gender inequality overall, more than 35% of specialist technology roles are currently occupied by women. This figure is more than double that of the UK and illustrates how women can thrive within the industry when they are supported and encouraged to do so.
With this in mind, Social Alpha Foundation has plans to start a hackathon in India to help young female developers gain more recognition in the industry. The aim of this hackathon will be two-fold: to address the gender inequality, as well as the lack of encouragement for women within the STEM community as a whole.
Hackathons provide a platform for young women thinking of dipping their toes into the world of technology and blockchain. It offers them the opportunity to hone their skills and confidence to help propel their careers within the STEM field. Initiatives like a hackathon, where like-minded people come together, engage, learn and leave feeling confident and inspired, are a simple yet effective way to make progress.
A recent Forbes article noted that women hold only 5% of leadership positions in Fortune 500 companies. This is worrying and unfortunately is not a blockchain-specific problem. The lack of female leaders is pronounced across many industries. It is time men and women alike stand up and focus on building an inclusive and gender-balanced industry free of stereotypes.
About Nydia Zhang
Nydia Zhang is the Co-Founder and Chairman of Social Alpha Foundation, a not-for-profit, grant-making platform supporting blockchain technology for social good. In addition, she is a board member of the fundraising committee at the Hong Kong Society for the Protection of Children (HKSPC), a member of the Fintech Association of Hong Kong and sits on the Global Patrons board of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. A graduate of the University of Washington, Nydia is also a cryptocurrency investor and blockchain enthusiast.
This article was first published in MillionaireAsia Issue 49 - Sep 2018