Crypto Hiring Boom: Numbers Jump 73% but Lack Diversity — What Hurdles Need to Be Overcome?

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Hiring growth in the crypto industry — which has exploded in the last year — continues its incredible rise, and some cities are attracting the most talent, according to a new study. But along with this incredible growth comes growing pains, especially in terms of diversity.

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A new LinkedIn study found that in the U.S. last year, crypto hires rocketed 73% from two years earlier, according to new research. In comparison, the net number of hires in traditional finance industries declined by 1% over the same period.

Stuart Popejoy, CEO of Kadena, told GOBankingRates that traditional finance has been suffering for years in the tech hiring department, not just recently.

“The days when finance saw tech as a strategic asset ended with the “algo boom” of the late 2000s, and since then, finance has seen tech mainly as a cost center, however huge, that must be cut down whenever possible,” Popejoy said. “Crypto, on the other hand, is just starting to have the kind of flow to show up on finance’s radar, and the tech is still new enough that it is both strategic to the company to hire top talent, and attractive to developers as a challenge and learning opportunity.”

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In terms of the cities that are becoming crypto hotspots for hires, San Francisco, Austin and New York — align with existing hubs for technology and finance, according to LinkedIn data. Other cities rounding up the top 10 in 2021 include Miami, Denver, Los Angeles, Greater Chicago, Greater Boston, Greater Seattle and Atlanta, according to the data.

Colin Zarzour, Head of Operations at Koii, told GOBankingRates that the big surprise over the last year has been the rise of Miami as well as Austin.

“Both cities have been sucking in a tremendous amount of talent — with much of this talent leaving cities like San Francisco and, to a lesser extent, New York City and Los Angeles,” Zarzour said. “I do believe digital hubs are of shocking relevance, sometimes as much as cities — I manage a team split between the east coast of Canada, Chicago, Pakistan, Poland and China, to list a few. It’s fascinating that, specifically in crypto, sometimes what Discord you’ve joined or which Twitter Space you’ve been speaking in can shape your network as much as geographical hubs. That’s why I think even ‘non-hub’ cities should consider investing in quality public support for innovation and entrepreneurship, as you can’t be sure where the next unicorn will be developed in crypto.”

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But while crypto’s hiring growth has been exploding, it has not spread evenly. While women have always been a minority in the industry, the gap is getting worse, according to LinkedIn. From 2018 to 2021, 70% of new crypto hires were men and 30% were women, according to the data. Last year, women’s share dipped to 26.5%. It’s a marked difference from finance industries like banking and investment management, where women have held steady at roughly 43% of net new hires over the same time period, according to LinkedIn.

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Diana Chaplin, Director of Marketing at Pledge.to, said that these statistics are likely to shift “as crypto adoption expands for the same reasons why women have developed a successful presence in any other industry — including finance and tech — across leadership levels: innovation, competence, and equity-based perspective.”

“Through collectives like BFF that focus on women in Web3 to PledgeCrypto which aims to democratize crypto fundraising for nonprofits, incorporating diversity only helps elevate awareness and engagement with new technology,” Chapin told GOBankingRates.

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Zarzour has a less rosy view of the gender gap, saying that while there are many women who are actively and richly contributing to the crypto space right now, the trends for hiring are disappointing but not surprising. “Should we really expect to see a change?” he pondered. “We see a lot of the expenditure and marketing for audience capture being directed into other spaces where women are minority participants; Matt Damon talking during a commercial at the biggest game in men’s football, e-sports leagues with primarily male athletes signing multimillion deals like TSM-FTX or Coinbase x Team Liquid.”

He added that recruiters tasked with pulling “crypto-literate” candidates often are pulling from audiences generated through this kind of targeted marketing spend, and so of course the gap widens. “None of this has anything to do with the skills required to be a successful professional in the space, of course — watching football doesn’t help you understand how proof-of-stake works. Until we see a desire to build and market blockchain-based tools for everyone, we’ll continue getting what we pay for in terms of diversity.”

He concluded that the lack of diversity in applicant pools and hiring does hurt the industry’s ability to scale.

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“Essentially every job with a young, rapidly changing crypto-startup requires donning multiple hats, and performing across fields. In my work, I combine legal experience with my public policy and communications backgrounds constantly. Further, crypto requires the ability to communicate to audiences across cultural contexts — Koii’s community includes users from all over — America, Russia, and China, for example. So we need more diversity in our talent pool,” he said.

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About the Author

Yaël Bizouati-Kennedy is a full-time financial journalist and has written for several publications, including Dow Jones, The Financial Times Group, Bloomberg and Business Insider. She also worked as a vice president/senior content writer for major NYC-based financial companies, including New York Life and MSCI. Yaël is now freelancing and most recently, she co-authored  the book “Blockchain for Medical Research: Accelerating Trust in Healthcare,” with Dr. Sean Manion. (CRC Press, April 2020) She holds two master’s degrees, including one in Journalism from New York University and one in Russian Studies from Université Toulouse-Jean Jaurès, France.
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