How Women Overcome Sexism in the Crypto World

Businesswoman touching cryptocurrency Bitcoin circuit on virtual screen.
guvendemir / Getty Images/iStockphoto

The lack of gender diversity in the crypto space is no secret and has recently been attracting the attention of lawmakers. In August, for example, the House Financial Services Committee sent a letter to the nation’s 20 largest crypto, Web3 and digital assets companies, urging them to provide data around their diversity and inclusion practices.

But against that backdrop, several companies and organizations have been taking the matter in their own hands, making targeted efforts for quite some time to combat sexism in the space and bolster the participation and representation of women.

Gender Equality Is a Priority for Some Already

Blockdaemon is one of them, saying that inclusivity of women at all levels of the company has been a priority from the very beginning.

“When I first started working at Blockdaemon, almost two years ago,” said the company’s COO Cecily Mak, “just under half of the total headcount was women — all of whom are still here, with promotions in each case, 250-plus hires later.  That same ratio now applies to the C-Suite and broader leadership team across the organization.”

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To achieve this, Mak said, the company made diversity a priority from the very beginning, with efforts that include ensuring its talent pipeline is diverse and building a culture that supports a broad spectrum of talent with various schedule needs, communication styles and strengths to play up.

Read: 6 Alternative Investments To Consider for Diversification in 2022

“We have also consistently made it clear from the start with our actions, less our words, that we are certain a more diverse company equals a stronger and more valuable company,” Mak said. “Not to mention a better place to work, which supports both hiring and retention of our most valuable resource: our team.”

As the blockchain industry stands at the intersection of technology and finance, two fields that have seen longstanding high levels of female underrepresentation, it’s no surprise that women, particularly women of color, continue to be underrepresented in financial services roles above entry level, she said.

Mak explained that this can change by increasing blockchain education and awareness early on in a career arc, ensuring that the companies building in the Web3/crypto/blockchain industry are themselves diverse and inclusive, and staying committed to diversification goals throughout the life cycle of being an impactful player in this space.

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She added, however, that unfortunately, the changes are not happening fast enough.

“While we are happy with progress in certain areas,” Mak said, “we’d like to see more women engineers building in Web3.”

Bringing More Women to the Metaverse

Education indeed is key to leveling the gender playing field, and some organizations are making efforts in that domain.

The Female Quotient (FQ), for example, provides education and upskilling training to make women fluent “in all things Web3 and the metaverse,” FQ CEO Shelley Zalis said. The sessions include a metaverse tour and programming on how to set up a wallet, how to add wearables to an avatar and how to purchase NFTs.

FQ also has built a headquarters in Decentraland, where it hosts its Equality Lounge, aiming to make its metaverse space available to showcase female founders, entrepreneurs, activists and organizations.

“For years, we’ve been working with women and conscious leaders across all industries to advance equality,” Zalis said, “and, with Web3 on the horizon, we’re committed to bringing our movement to this next frontier of innovation. The Female Quotient believes in a future where gender is no longer a limiting factor to career growth. In order for the metaverse to be inclusive and equitable for all, we need women of various intersecting identities to be at the helm of its creation.”

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Experts: Do Your Homework

In terms of some steps that could be helpful for women entering the space, some experts recommend to “do your homework” by engaging with products, people and companies committed to representation, inclusion and creating cultures of belonging.

“Stay away from those that don’t represent these values,” said Diana Brown, head of people at Eco.

Brown adds that despite the crypto world’s reputation for being sexist — “sadly, often appropriately earned”– crypto is not a monolith.

In that vein, she said, “Remember that sexists don’t represent the entirety of this space. Don’t let these people scare you away from an exciting and growing industry that’s extremely well-positioned to actually increase the percent of women working in the field.”

Another tip is to find and hire-like minded people and work with them.

“Network! Crypto is incredibly welcoming,” Brown said. “A number of organizations are focused on women and allies. Engage with these organizations to discover the best and most inclusive companies. Then focus your online engagement and learning with these people.”

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Brown added that, while every large American corporation has increased their focus on representation and inclusion over the past several years, their timeline and milestones have yet to have a meaningful impact, as they’re just too far out and daunting to move the needle.

“More opportunity exists in burgeoning crypto and Web3 spaces,” Brown said. “It’s the perfect time and space to jump in, build the culture and experiences we want, ensure we have people practices that support those endeavors, and bring every other talented woman we know along with us.”

There Is Room for Everyone

The sentiment is echoed by many women in the industry, who believe that the nascent and novelty aspects of the space might drive to more inclusivity. 

Indeed, women are underrepresented in many industries. That has always been the case with art, for example, and now, with the advent of crypto and NFT technology, the same challenges persist, Invisible Lotus CEO Mel Shapcott said.

Shapcott added, however, that the difference is there is a sense of opportunity surrounding crypto and there is room for everyone, “as we are pioneers building on a new frontier.”

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“Women arriving in the space are taking the initiative to educate themselves on these new technologies,” Shapcott added, “and then we see these women help onboard others or create projects that bring attention to empower women’s voices within the space. Efforts that are being made now to invite women to the table will have long-lasting effects as crypto achieves mass adoption.”

Specifically, Shapcott said it is important to invite women to participate in crypto conferences around the world, “events where industry thought leaders come together to shape the future, and women attendees are notoriously absent.”

“In addition to inviting women,” Shapcott added, “I think it is important to sponsor their attendance. I believe that taking these steps will lead us toward greater representation of women in crypto.”

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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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