Rampant Sexism in the Blockchain Industry – Diversity is at its Lowest!
It is not surprising why any discussion that touches on gender balance and diversity nowadays easily elicits heated debates. Diversity – a term, often thrown about to highlight the serious discrepancies that bedevil the modern-day workplaces, may also remain elusive in the tech industry forever.
Nowhere is this social problem commonplace more than at the tech sector and rightly so, the thriving Blockchain and cryptocurrency industry. You look at data availed by Statista and you immediately decipher why feminists are relentlessly fighting for equality.
As per the data, the entire percentage of female employees in Microsoft is an abysmal 26% with Netflix, another tech giant, boasting 43%. But nowhere is the situation even more disheartening than in the Blockchain and crypto sector.
Compared to their male counterparts, the number of females actively participating in the industry is saddening. Women investors in crypto, according to VC and entrepreneur Jackie Lam, make up a paltry 5% to 7% of the overall number, a statistic that is partially attributed to the cynical term, “Blockchain Bros.”
You walk into a 100-person meetup and almost the entire batch is full of bearded men. You could say it’s not a shocker considering that up to 85% of all startups recently launched in the Blockchain industry are run by men. But deep beneath that, there’s a big problem!
The industry is fast becoming sexist and unwelcome to women
The heartbreaking and distasteful experience that women have to endure, 10 years after the first cryptocurrency project was launched, is not great at all. Many are the number of times that eager, energized and ambitious women, perceived to be shaping the Blockchain industry, have had to endure blatant sexism.
From being overlooked by potential investors to the disparaging sexual harassment at male-dominated meetups and conferences, women in cryptocurrencies go through a lot. And it’s not the first time that this phenomenon is getting highlighted.
Bizarrely, Sexism Is against the Principles of Blockchain Technology
The original idea behind the creation of crypto and the Blockchain technology was to basically decentralize the system. It was to “diversify” and democratize society through increased equality and transparency. And it has, so far, remained on course to achieve exactly that!
Part of this revolution is the pseudo-anonymous style of participation. Stakeholders independently, remotely (and anonymously) engage in various activities, all for the betterment of the industry. There are those who mine and the others who invest in various blockchain-based projects. Others develop digital wallets and there are those who use the coins to figuratively ‘store’ their funds.
Theoretically, though, the industry has “lots of women,” many assumed to be part of the active clique of pseudo investors. This theory rides on the far-fetched idea of anonymous participation, which essentially could be untrue.
As exhibited by Statista, the path that crypto development is following is akin to the same inequalities that happened before. The overwhelmingly male-dominated tech sector started this way – the very same way now men are at the forefront in the development of various technologies.
You Can’t Ignore the Facts and the Data
On the surface, one of the main reasons to blame for this rampant sexism in the industry is the difficulties potential women investors experience when they try to understand how crypto works. However, the data on the ground suggest otherwise.
A study that looked at diversity in the industry found that males dominated the prestigious positions in organizations. Women were conspicuously fewer in advisory and executive roles, basically consisting of a meager 14.5% on all blockchain startups. As if that wasn’t sad enough, 7% of all leadership positions were reserved for them.
It’s no longer debatable – the crypto industry is still sexist and off-putting on many spheres, even if, as Morgen Peck writes, attract women and welcome them with open arms. Diversity is still lacking, whether you look at the ratio of female participants compared to their male counterparts or the vile and savage sentiments directed to this minority group.
However, the data shouldn’t be translated to mean that this minority group is anonymous in the industry. First, the 7% that women hold doesn’t mean their contribution has never been felt. A couple of amazing women stand tall, led by Lightning Labs’ co-founder and CEO, Elizabeth Stark and the “Madonna of Blockchain” herself, Amber Baldet.
Sexism isn’t in the boardrooms and cryptocurrency conferences alone
It’s not hard to notice that sexism is something originating from the mindsets of its proponents. And it’s for this painful reason that cases aren’t restricted to boardroom meetings, conferences and meetups alone.
A perfect example is an attempt by one crypto startup called DateCoin. The project had used a clever, but tasteless approach that involved a Facebook post of a woman clad in a tight-fitting swimsuit captioned “Touch my ICO” all over it.
Later, YoBit.net, another crypto project, shamelessly followed the same route, posting a Bikini-clad girl on their Twitter handle. There was another incident of a scantily clad Mexican woman at the Anarchapulco conference, promoting Monkeycoin, a popularly controversial cryptocurrency.
Worse still, events surrounding the after-party of 2018 Bitcoin Conference at a Miami-based strip club is still fresh. The event dubbed the North American Bitcoin Conference had started with dozens of men on its key agenda that also included ONLY one woman. Later in the evening, during the schmooze time, attendees were allowed to party the night away at a local strip club, an act that tellingly exhibits how women are treated in the crypto world.
What to do and effectively remedy the situation
It goes without saying that if the crypto industry embraces diversity, sexism will probably be unheard of. There’s a bigger and more pressing need for it to change, especially because of Blockchain advocates for the same thing – diversity.
However, if the situation remains this way, sexism will become a greater part of the technology of the future. It will definitely open the door for more bias towards women in the tech sector, perhaps more than the segregation bigger than the ‘algorithmic bias which arose due to AI being a development of men. And it will be a huge disservice to what Blockchain is advocating for.
Additionally, if indeed the so-called “Bitcoin Bros” would like to see the industry embrace diversity, they must first start on how it’s received internally and on the outside. Any activities that objectify women, as well, alienate them and consequently dent the image of the entire Blockchain sector.
Right now, it’s heartwarming to note the simple, touching gestures taking place in the industry. Elizabeth Stark has a scholarship program that sponsors future female blockchain developers while other initiatives, especially Global Women in Blockchain and Diversity in Blockchain are for the same.