Are Women Really The Key to the Future Success of Blockchain Applications?

in cryptocurrency •  last year

AKA Women as Blockchain Talent and Women as a Global Market

The Question

I was at dinner with friends and we were talking about Bitcoin and cryptocurrency applications and online sites. We all agreed that it still seemed to be an arena dominated by men.

The one exception was the Steemit site. Steemit has its problems. But one thing I really admire is how they’ve built a diverse community that includes men, women, all races, and citizens from all countries. It’s amazing and there’s something there for other sites to learn from.

Aside from Steemit, my impression of the Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency communities was that the user base seemed heavily male. I formed my opinion from a variety of experiences. Admittedly, because people who use bitcoin are usually in favor of net privacy, in some cases I made assumptions based on usernames and content.

First Impressions

  • Cryptocurrency forums seem to be dominated by male users.
  • Bitcoin and cryptocurrency conferences are attended by vastly more men than women
  • Bitcoin and cryptocurrency conference speakers are predominantly men
  • Bitcoin and cryptocurrency meetups are often predominantly male , although there are more meetups being held for women only


I decided to explore the subject of women and cryptocurrency from two angles:

  1. The gender participation in the Bitcoin community.
  2. Participation of women in key cryptocurrency leadership roles: Founder, CEO, President

The overall goal was to better understand the level of participation by women in the community, the market potential that women might offer to the cryptocurrency-based economy, and the related issues cryptocurrency businesses will have to address to make that happen.

I. Gender Participation in the Bitcoin Community

There are a number of surveys out there about the Bitcoin community. I had high hopes for one study by the University of Illinois at Urbana. However, they decided to exclude gender as a variable, because their survey responses were overwhelmingly male. So I took the two most current surveys:

Coin.Dance Statistics (2017) Coin.Dance reports Bitcoin Community Engagement by Gender. The data sample appears to be based on their subscribers. 

  • Male: 97% 
  • Female: 3%

CoinFund Survey (2017) 223 respondents CoinFund revealed at the Token Summit conference in May reported that: 

  • 91.5% of respondents were male 
  • 8.5% of respondents were female


Despite the small sample, I went with the 8.5% female participation in CoinFund Survey. It’s clear that a large number of women have not embraced Bitcoin and don’t participate in the community.

Which begs the question – WHY?

Possible Reasons Why Women Haven’t Embraced Bitcoin

  1. Women are more adverse to financial risk
  2. They may be more reluctant to invest in Bitcoin because of the volatility
  3. The feeling that it’s more difficult to buy cryptocurrencies and then use them to buy products and services. Too many hoops to jump through.
  4. All the negative associations: used in the drug trade, used for money laundering, scams etc.
  5. High visibility failures like Mt. Gox, the Dao, MyBitcoin, Paycoin/GAW Miners, Bitcoin Savings and Trust
  6. The concern that lack of regulation provides more opportunity for fraud
  7. The fact that Bitcoins are intangible and a bearer instrument owned by whoever has the public and private keys and that makes it seem riskier
  8. Lack of understanding how to keep coins safe.
  9. Disinterest in learning things like basic encryption, wallets, wallet addresses
  10. It’s just too geeky and not easy to use

Here’s One Additional Reason that Resonated

Kevin Drum suggested in a 2015 Mother Jones article:

“The lack of women in Bitcoin isn’t just an issue of equality. It’s a fundamental weakness of the currency itself. As long as the Bitcoin community is dominated by men geeking out about the Blockchain, it’s never going to be able to make the human connections that are required for widespread adoption. “

He goes on to discuss how Bitcoin is an attempt to solve socioeconomic problems with technology. As long as men dominate the Bitcoin ecosphere, this will be the goal. As a result, they’ll focus more on the economic problems and will ignore larger social problems.

“Unless and until women can be brought into the Bitcoin fold, broader adoption is simply not going to happen.”
  • Widespread adoption should be the goal. Men, especially technologists, are used to focusing more on how applications work technically than how they’re used in the real world.
  • Ease of use, time to complete tasks, and the user's subjective perception of the technological experience are important to women when it comes to adopting technology.
  • If Blockchain and cryptocurrency applications are technically stellar but functionally difficult to use, most women won’t embrace them.


II. Female Participation in Leadership Roles In Blockchain & Cryptocurrency Companies

In an article about the top 50 Blockchain startups in 2017:

  • 42 of the companies (84%) were founded and/or led (CEO, President) by men and
  • 8 of the companies (16%) were founded and/or led by women.

Women are taking leadership roles in cryptocurrency-related companies, but in far fewer numbers than men. Why are we seeing this gender disparity?

Since cryptocurrency positions are highly technical, I looked at the state of jobs for women in STEM professions (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) for insights. (There are not many studies available specific to women, cryptocurrency and Blockchain jobs).

Hopefully the lessons learned for the women in STEM careers would also apply to the Crypto/Blockchain space.

There are Fewer Women in STEM professions and Finance

Although things are improving in some professions, women are still under-represented in STEM professions and in Finance. Compounding the problem is that a higher percentage of women leave STEM professions within 10 years of being hired.

1. It Starts Out Well in Grade School and High School

Girls now make up about half the enrollment in high school and math classes and are scoring almost identically to male classmates on standardized tests. This is according to data collected by National Girls Collaborative Project.

There have been major efforts to encourage girls from elementary school on to enjoy learning math and science. Some believe if you don’t reduce gender stereotypes in grade school, then you’ll have fewer girls interested in math and science by middle school. Consequently, school districts and non-profits have provided after school STEM programs for girls, mentors and scholarships.

2. Then the Numbers Slip in College

After high school, the numbers start to decline. At California State University, the percentage of undergraduate women has increased to 55 percent, but the percentage of women majoring in STEM fields has stayed at 37 percent. At the University of California, 52 percent of the student body is female, but only 24 percent of those pursuing engineering degrees are women.

3. And They Slip More in the Workforce

When we move beyond college, the numbers decline even more (Source: https://ngcproject.org/statistics)

“Women remain underrepresented in the science and engineering workforce, although to a lesser degree than in the past, with the greatest disparities occurring in engineering, computer science, and the physical sciences
Women make up half of the total U.S. college-educated workforce, but only 29% of the science and engineering workforce.
Female scientists and engineers are concentrated in different occupations than are men, with relatively high shares of women in the social sciences (62%) and biological, agricultural, and environmental life sciences (48%) and relatively low shares in engineering (15%) and computer and mathematical sciences (25%).”

For example:

  • 35.2% of chemists are women;
  • 11.1% of physicists and astronomers are women;
  • 33.8% of environmental engineers are women;
  • 22.7% of chemical engineers are women;
  • 17.5% of civil, architectural, and sanitary engineers are women;
  • 17.1% of industrial engineers are women;
  • 10.7% of electrical or computer hardware engineers are women; and
  • 7.9% of mechanical engineers are women

But here’s a terrible statistic. Of those women who secure jobs in STEM fields, more than half the women leave them within a decade, which is almost twice the frequency of their male peers.

4. Why Do Women Leave STEM Professions?

The SWE Corporate Partnership Council conducted a study (2016).

“Overall, the men and the women surveyed weren’t all that different. What did emerge was that women reported more negative descriptors and less confidence in the company’s direction, especially among female leaders–who another study found, were more than 50% likely to stick with a company once they reached the C-suite than their male counterparts. What’s causing the disconnect? Female leaders said that while their companies focused on short-term items such as cost reduction, hierarchy, and resource constraints, they were missing the boat on some key elements of engagement:
* Accountability
* Balance
* Continuous improvement
* Coaching/Mentoring
* Empowerment
Women reported accountability as their number one personal and professional value. The fact that they are leaving in greater numbers than men shows that they have less tolerance for unfair practices that inhibit their ability to achieve excellence. We know this sense of dissatisfaction is running rampant among younger female workers, too. Half of millennial women felt they were being overlooked, according to a report by Deloitte.”

In short, they found that women are not leaving engineering because of work/life integration issues, anger over evaluations, or failure to be promoted. They leave STEM jobs because they see their employers fostering a corporate culture that puts up barriers to their achievement. They view this as a lack of accountability.

The Women’s Message:

  1. Define the goal you want
  2. Remove the barriers to achieving the goal
  3. Let me do my job

If corporate management doesn’t get the message, women will continue to leave.

Some additional reasons from other studies that women leave STEM professions:

  • Sexism
  • Harassment
  • Negative teamwork experiences
  • Non-challenging work assignments based on gender
  • Limited or nonexistent maternity leave benefits

5. Observations on Womens’ Reasons for Leaving STEM Positions

So, the women in STEM professions have successfully earned degrees and secured positions in rigorous professions. Then they leave, often within ten years, of being hired for some of the reasons in List 1 and List 2. Here are the lists again:

List 1

  • Accountability
  • Balance
  • Continuous improvement
  • Coaching/Mentoring
  • Empowerment

List 2

  • Sexism
  • Harassment
  • Negative teamwork experiences
  • Non-challenging work assignments based on gender
  • Limited or nonexistent maternity leave benefits

The reasons in List 1 revolve around the people and personal development issues that are important to women. They want the ability to do their jobs without corporate management erecting unfair obstacles. They also value work-life balance, the ability to improve their skills, coaching and mentoring to help them to progress, and empowerment , the authority and responsibility to do their jobs.

The issues in List 2 are mostly related to the continuing reality of women being judged by their gender alone. This includes still being subjected to unwanted sexual comments and advances.

The negative teamwork experiences relate to women being relegated to more clerical tasks on team projects. Even worse, some women are routinely given non-challenging assignments because they’re female.

Finally, as a part of work-life balance, younger women in STEM positions eventually want to have children. However, many reported that their companies had very limited or poor maternity benefits.

A Path to a Solution

These are ALL issues that need to be addressed by corporate management in any industry.

  1. Written corporate policies can help to clarify the company’s stance on all employment issues.
  2. List 1 points can be addressed by working with each STEM industry employee to define a work and growth plan that the employee and management agree on. Then follow through! This same approach would work in Crypto and Blockchain companies.

The second list is a bit mystifying. By 2017 you’d assume that male managers would assign their female professionals to challenging projects that take advantage of their education and skills. Even more, you’d think that male managers and employees would understand sexism and avoid sexist comments, harassment, groping, and stereotyping. This behavior is not only causing women to leave STEM positions. It’s also resulting in expensive lawsuits for the companies.

6. Where Does That Leave Women and Blockchain Companies?

Returning to the article about the top 50 Blockchain startups in 2017:

  • 42 of the companies (84%) were founded and/or led (CEO, President) by men and
  • 8 of the companies (16%) were founded and/or led by women.

The leadership teams for those companies are predominantly male. Beyond senior level positions, by looking at team photos for most of the 50 companies, there were female employees in some management positions and others in technical positions.

There was also a 2016 post on Forklog admitted that men still dominate the cryptocurrency space:

“Bitcoin developers are mostly male, the key subject matter experts are male, and the major investors seemed to be male.”

This may reflect where this sector is at in its development.

- Wave 1 – the Founders and Maintainers

The cryptographers and computer scientists developed the Blockchain and Bitcoin. Brilliant and uber geeky. More cryptographers and computer scientists became involved. They maintain the Blockchain.

- Wave 2 – The Crypto-Anarchists

The crypto-anarchists saw bitcoin as a technical solution to a sociopolitical problem. Bitcoin would be the mechanism to free the world from the control of oppressive governments and fiat-based financial systems that could be manipulated because it was centralized and hidden from view. The crypto-anarchists have been described as the “heart and soul of Bitcoin.” They continue to fight for decentralization and want Bitcoin to be faithful to its roots.

- Wave 3 – Financial Experts or Enter the Money

Digital currencies caught the attention of finance professionals in 2013. These are the people who have helped to mainstream cryptocurrencies. By popularizing cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, they’ve attracted large amounts of institutional money. Consequently, the price of many cryptocurrencies has increased. The other impact has been the wildly creative Blockchain and crypto companies that have sprung up. This is also when more Silicon Valley money started coming in.

So, we’re still in Wave 3. We’ve kind of emerged from a geeky Wild West and are seeing Blockchain and cryptocurrency projects in almost every industry.

Since so many of the key players in all three waves were men, I’m hoping that more women will now become involved, not only in C-level positions, but in every position of Blockchain application development. Flip to the end to see some of the women currently in significant positions in a variety of cryptocurrency and Blockchain companies.

7. Some Suggestions for Blockchain & Crypto Companies

- Women are a talent pool for Blockchain/Cryptocurrency Companies

I won’t belabor this point. As discussed above, many women have the skills, education, and desire to work in these companies. Hire them. Create a work and growth plan and follow through. Challenge them. Listen to them. Mentor them. They can help you to both build and package your application for widespread adoption.

Also, don’t repeat the errors of the STEM and Finance industries. There are talented women in engineering and computer science out there. It’s not enough to attract them to your start-ups and emerging companies. You have to create a positive, challenging, and fair environment for them to thrive in. If you don’t, they’ll leave.

I’d also challenge women to explore the cryptocurrency and Blockchain world. If you have the aptitude and desire, jump in! It’s an exciting time to enter an industry that’s just now starting to produce mainstream products and services. Share your talents! Trust me, they need you.

- Women are a HUGE, untapped Consumer Market for cryptocurrency and Blockchain products and service (Insert Cha Ching)

Some of the following studies are older so the numbers are likely much higher now:

  • The purchasing power of women in the U.S. ranges from $5 trillion to $15 trillion annually. (Source: Nielsen Consumer, 2013)
  • Women drive an estimated 70-80% of consumer spending with their purchasing power and influence. (Boston Consulting Group)
  • Women now own 40% of America’s privately owned businesses
  • Women control more than 60% of all personal wealth in the U.S. (Source: Federal Reserve, MassMutual Financial Group, BusinessWeek, Gallup)
  • Women influence 91% of all home purchases. (Bridget Brennan Why She Buys 2011
  • Approximately 40% of U.S. working women now out-earn their husbands. (Source: U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics)
  • Even with the pay gap factored into the equation, economists predict that by 2024, the average woman in the U.S. and a number of rich European countries will out-earn the average man. (Bennett, Jessica and Jesse Ellison. "Women Will Rule the World.” The Daily Beast (2010).
  • Over the next decade, women will control two-thirds of all consumer wealth in the United States and be the beneficiaries of the largest transference of wealth in our country’s history. Estimates range from $12 to $40 trillion. (Source: Mediapost, April 19, 2013; She-conomy)
  • Women purchase over 50% of traditional male products, including automobiles, home improvement products, and consumer electronics. (Source: Andrea Learned, “Don’t Think Pink”)
  • Online Shopping: 56% of women have shopped on marketplaces, 74% at large retailer sites, 48% on webstores or independent boutiques, and 40% at category-specific online stores.
  • 83% of adult women use Facebook (2017)

In short, women have growing purchasing power, drive 70% to 89% of consumer spending, own 60% of America’s wealth, shop online, and in 2017 83% of adult women used Facebook.

If you’re not directing mainstreamed, Blockchain-based applications toward women, you’re turning your back on a HUGE market that continues to grow.

- Women Are Already Making a Contribution in the Cryptocurrency and Blockchain Arena

  1. Elizabeth Rossiello – CEO of BitPesa Send and collect business payments, between Africa and the rest of the world
  2. Alex Vranova – CEO of Trezor. heads the leading Bitcoin wallet hardware team. TREZOR represents one of the most storied Bitcoin hardware wallets in the industry and recent updates make it also one of the most user friendly.
  3. Pamela Morgan – CEO of Third Key Solutions. Morgan, an attorney, created Empowered Law, a "crypto-friendly law practice," and also runs Third Key, which works with bitcoin startups on multi-signature security measures.
  4. Skye Elijah – Co-Founder and CEO of CoinBeyond. CoinBeyond strives to make Bitcoin easy to use through ecommerce and point of sale products, a Bitcoin debit card and a Bitcoin wallet
  5. Toni Lane Casserly – CEO of CoinTelegraph. CoinTelegraph is an online website that covers all things Bitcoin and cryptocurrency
  6. Melanie Shapiro – CEO of ChooseCase. ChooseCase has developed Case, a simple and secure Bitcoin wallet that’s biometrically secure, GSM-enabled and multi-sig HD architecture, that works in 60+ countries, has buy/sell and send/receive functionality, and fits in a wallet
  7. Tiffany Hayden – Co-Founder of Casheer, a free mobile payment processing platform for merchants and consumers.
  8. Perianne Boring – Founder and President of the Chamber of Digital Commerce, the first D.C.-based trade association that promotes digital currency and digital assets to public policy makers.
  9. **Melissa Volkmann **– Lead Designer – Hashrabbit. HashRabbit wants to make it easy for anyone to participate in the hashing network
  10. Maria Sparagis – President – DirectPayNet. DirectPayNet is a private payment services firm that specializes in international and domestic merchant accounts for ecommerce merchants mainly in the medium to high risk arenas
  11. Lisa Cheng - Founder of VANBEX. VANBEX is a firm that consults for digital currencies, Blockchain protocols and decentralized technologies. She’s also the founder of Etherparty which is about simple tools for the next generation of Blockchain connected economies, powered by Smart Contract automation.
  12. Paige Freeman - Co-founder of Women in Bitcoin, and a vice-president for sales at BITNET. BitNet offers a payments management platform to enable merchants to accept digital currencies.
  13. Fereshteh Forough has worked to popularize bitcoin in Afghanistan. She co-founded the Women’s Annex. She also founded and leads Code to Inspire, which helps young women from Afghanistan to learn how to code.
  14. Catheryne Nicholson - A former U.S, Naval officer, Nicholson is co-founder and CEO of BlockCypher, one of a handful of platforms for building applications on bitcoin's block chain.
  15. Crystal Rose is CEO and Co-founder at Sensay. Sensay is a powerful bot connecting humans together through any messenger.
  16. Connie Gallippi - Gallippi is the Founder and Executive Director of BitGive, the first government recognized 501(c)(3) Bitcoin nonprofit, bridging the gap between an innovative technology and its practical applications for nonprofits and humanitarian work in the developing world. Connie is a well-known industry spokesperson for the social impact of Bitcoin and advocating for more diversity and equal opportunity in the digital currency community.
  17. Elizabeth Stark - Stark is an entrepreneur and an expert on future technologies. She founded StartBitcoin.org by gathering several entrepreneurs interested in promoting digital currencies and Blockchain technology.
  18. Rian Lewis is the lead developers of CountMyCrypto, which offers a cryptocurrency calculator and altcoin monitoring services. Additionally, she is co-founder of London Bitcoin Women.
  19. Elizabeth Ploshay McCauley is a bitcoin and Blockchain business development professional. She works in business development at bridge21 and is also the Global Business Development Head at CoinSecure. Board member at Code to Inspire and is a board member at the Bitcoin Foundation

Sources

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2013-03-10/demographics-bitcoin

https://coin.dance/stats/gender

https://cointelegraph.com/news/bitcoin-users-who-they-are-and-what-they-do

https://cointelegraph.com/news/its-a-mans-world-only-176-of-bitcoin-community-are-women

http://fortune.com/2015/04/24/women-in-bitcoin/

https://experts.illinois.edu/en/publications/who-uses-bitcoin-an-exploration-of-the-bitcoin-community

http://www.academia.edu/8286284/WhoUsesBitcoinAnExplorationoftheBitcoinCommunity (U of I Text Survey)

https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/4x3y4j/bitcoin-needs-women

https://www.cryptocoinsnews.com/female-ceos-founders-leads-in-blockchain/

https://blog.cex.io/cryptonews/top-50-blockchain-startups-2017-16158

https://themerkle.com/bitcoin-survey-2016-female-presence-lost-funds-and-why-people-dont-like-bitcoin/

https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/ecommerce-trends/#cmtocanchorid_3

https://cointelegraph.com/news/bitcoin-owes-success-to-three-different-waves-of-innovators

https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/economy/reports/2017/04/27/431228/womens-economic-risk-exposure-savings/

https://ngcproject.org/statistics

https://edsource.org/2017/girls-now-outnumber-boys-in-high-school-stem-but-still-lag-in-college-and-career/578444

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