Crypto: Women Leading the Way

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It’s no secret that the crypto ecosystem has been — and still is — male-dominated, including on the investing side and the leadership one. While there has been progress and advancement for gender parity since the “crypto bros and their lambos” days of yore, much effort is still required.

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Indeed, one salient data point is that of the 378 venture-backed crypto and blockchain companies founded around the world between 2012 and 2018, only one had an all-female founding team, and only 8.2% had a combination of male and female founders, according to a Diversity in Blockchain report.

Similarly, the lack of diversity is also present in other crypto areas, including academia and government.

Yet against that backdrop, some women have attained leadership positions in various spaces and are paving the way, including Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Commissioner Hester Peirce and Ark Invest’s Cathie Wood.

“I find it incredibly encouraging and inspiring to see powerful women make their mark in a space currently dominated by men. This is a reinforcement that of course there’s space for us in crypto,” said Diana Brown, head of people at Eco. “Thus far, a few inspiring women have achieved leadership positions and are guiding the way for us — a reminder that there’s plenty of room for all of us. We get to create the experience we want in these early days of crypto.”

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Hester Peirce: ‘Crypto Mom’

Peirce, an SEC Commissioner since 2018, is also known as “crypto mom.” She is a strong crypto supporter and is often a dissenting voice on the SEC’s regulatory stance on the space.

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For example, replying to the SEC’s announcement in May that it would bolster the unit responsible for protecting investors in crypto markets by adding 50 dedicated positions, Peirce tweeted: “The SEC is a regulatory agency with an enforcement division, not an enforcement agency.  Why are we leading with enforcement in crypto?”

While women are underrepresented in the crypto industry, it’s even rarer to have a regulator who is a woman and also very pro-crypto, some observe.

“This is where Hester Peirce of the SEC comes in,” said Ming Duan, co-founder of Web3 bond-market platform Umee. “It’s no surprise that the SEC and the crypto world have experienced tensions of late, and yet Hester has held her ground and shown that a fresh perspective is needed toward new technologies, showing that there is a lot of room for the legacy system to adapt and progress. I think that’s why everyone refers to her as the Crypto Mom.”   

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The industry truly appreciates her diligent and good-faith work, including smart proposals such as the safe harbor idea, Duan added.

In April 2021, Peirce proposed the safe harbor, which “seeks to provide network developers with a three-year grace period within which, under certain conditions, they can facilitate participation in and the development of a functional or decentralized network, exempted from the registration provisions of the federal securities laws.”

Duan said this makes her “hopeful that more women will not only get into crypto but also the government, and Hester Peirce is truly the role model for the latter.”

Cathie Wood: A Positive Force and Visionary

Wood, the CEO and CIO of Ark Invest, is known for her bold predictions and moves, as well as for being a huge supporter of Bitcoin and for being a visionary.

“We believe Bitcoin is the most profound application of public blockchains, the foundation of ‘self-sovereign’ digital money,” Ark wrote in a January report. “The Bitcoin protocol has enabled two other revolutions: The financial (DeFi) and internet (Web3) revolutions.”

According to Ark’s estimates at the time, the price of one Bitcoin could exceed $1 million by 2030.

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While the crypto world has taken a downturn in recent months, Wood reiterated her prediction in April, telling Yahoo Finance: “I don’t think people believed me when I said it on stage last week at Bitcoin 2022. But I meant it.

“And many people think, ‘OK, so you’re assuming that institutional investors become huge holders of Bitcoin.’ No, we’re not. We’re assuming, though, that they will move in gradually.”

Kayla Kroot, co-founder at Koii Network, a decentralized publishing protocol and Web3 library, said, “While ARK has not had the greatest year, this could be said of so many forward-looking ventures in any market; and, taking a step back, we should recognize how positive a force Wood has been on important technological breakthroughs through her investing savvy.”

According to Kroot, Wood sees trends years ahead of the pack, and her early understanding of Bitcoin’s potential to transform the economy is a perfect example of her ability to predict trends.

“When all the naysayers were telling her that Bitcoin, and crypto as a whole, wasn’t worth much, she stuck to her instincts.” Kroot said. “And she’s been proven right. Even if the price of Bitcoin has gone down this year, the crypto market and the technologies supporting the industry aren’t going anywhere.”

In addition, Kroot said Wood has remarkable leadership skills and an innate ability to identify frontier technologies that will one day change the world.

“She’s an inspiration not just to women in crypto, but to all women and overlooked people who strive to be the best in their professional development,” Kroot added. “I think in five years we will look back and think about how Wood was right about so many early-stage technologies.”

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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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