I have the pleasure to lead a cryptocurrency company. I love this industry. But my industry has a problem. We definitely have a “bro culture.” If you go to a cryptocurrency conference, most of the attendees are men. Most of the speakers are men. Most of the leaders of crypto companies are men. Recently, The New York Times ran an article about the cryptocurrency bro phenomenon.
I want to be a male ally. I want my daughters to grow up in a world where they truly have the same opportunities in technology that I had. As a result, I started a series of articles in Arianna Huffington’s Thrive Global recognizing the contributions that female founders have made in the cryptocurrency and blockchain spaces.
I would like to offer the following seven suggestions that can help to engage more women in the cryptocurrency and blockchain spaces:
Young girls need to know that this career path is an option. Gatekeepers, such as event organizers or journalists, can help by providing a platform for ideas worth sharing. In my experience in the field, women often seem less likely to put themselves forward as speakers, but if you invite them, they will come.
Many times, I’ve seen women hesitate to raise their hand and show interest in things that they may feel are a little outside their comfort zones. I know someone who worked personnel at the White House. Once, two candidates for Department of Defense positions interviewed with her. Both had basically equal, identical resumes. The man said he wanted to be Deputy Secretary, while the woman said she wanted to be Special Assistant to the Deputy.
And of course, we shouldn’t tolerate trolls. If somebody is discriminated against because of their gender, speak up. It’s common decency. Creating more awareness and education will engage women not only in the U.S. but all over the world.
2. Be aware of unconscious bias.
Another important factor is education about issues like unconscious bias. Often, we have an unconscious pattern recognition when it comes to who qualifies as a tech leader. We need to inform men, women and businesses about the steps that can be taken to eradicate the unconscious biases that lead to gender imbalance.
3. Jump in.
There is plenty of room — and need — in this industry for diverse perspectives and skills. Blockchain impacts a wide range of industries, from banking to health care to real estate. Innovative industries like blockchain often reward talent more effectively than traditional industries with institutionalized power structures. We have to remind everyone in our industry to tell women the following: Don’t be intimidated if you are the only woman “in the room.” Have confidence in yourself and what you have to contribute. Odds are, most people in the room will be happy to hear from you. My biggest piece of advice for women is to raise your hand and say you want to be involved. Every time there has been a big opportunity, I’ve raised my hand for it. It’s been hard to do — at times even scary to do — but it has always been worth the effort.
4. Create role models.
Female role models are missing. University courses related to blockchain are often exclusively taught by male professors. One female founder told me how inspired she was when she saw two super tough female professors in action at UC Berkley. I think universities can play a great part in this by recognizing the influence a female professor can have. Perhaps they can keep this in mind when they make hiring decisions.
In addition, we need to talk about the amazing work women are already doing in the blockchain ecosystem. They may be few, but there are scores of incredible female founders that are doing incredible things in this space. The more we recognize women’s achievements, the easier it’ll be to empower more women to get involved in the industry.
5. Close the gender equity gap.
How can we solve the dearth of role models? Currently, only 2% of venture capital money goes to female founders. We need to see more VC money made accessible to women, ensuring that more female-driven startups succeed. This “gender equity gap” can be addressed by having more women on the VC boards and not relying on the unconscious bias of the image of a successful founder. This will draw more female leaders into the blockchain and wider tech industry.
6. Build more support networks.
Support networks are so important. As a founder, I used to think that my problems were unique to my company. But, when I would get together with other founders in my industry, I realized that not only did other people have similar issues to mine, they had the most astute advice regarding how to correct these problems. In a similar vein, I think we have to create more support networks for women in the blockchain world. I also have a female colleague who was a part of a mentoring group and found the mentors very inspiring and empathetic, which helped her feel confident within the industry.
In addition to support groups, individual mentorships within the blockchain industry are important. They can help in two ways: They give women peers to learn from and also provide mentees with more opportunities to learn leadership skills.
7. Go beyond diversity to inclusivity.
We need a culture change. We have to increase cultural understanding and unbiased education. We also have to flesh out what diversity truly means. Diversity means having a variety of people in the house, but inclusivity is inviting that variety of people to eat at your dinner table. Just having women in the company is not enough. We have to invite them to the table to lead and participate in the conversation.
We can all work together to tackle this problem. This way, my daughters and your daughters may have even more opportunities than we had.