WEF report suggests women underrepresented in blockchain, points to solutions

WEF report suggests women underrepresented in blockchain, points to solutions

A new report from the World Economic Forum shows that the gender gap will take 135.6 years to close due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

[ihc-hide-content ihc_mb_type=“show“ ihc_mb_who=“reg“ ihc_mb_template=“1″ ]

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted people across the world, yet a new report from the World Economic Forum suggests that women have been one of the hardest hit gender groups. 

WEF’s “Global Gender Gap Report 2021 found that the pandemic has pushed back gender parity by an entire generation. Specifically, the report notes that as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, the gender gap between men and women across various professional sectors will now take 135.6 years to close, rather than the previously expected 99.5 years.

Gender parity within fast growth professions

Vesselina Ratcheva, new economy and society lead for the World Economic Forum, told Cointelegraph that the “Global Gender Gap Report” is now in its 15th year of benchmarking the evolution of gender-based gaps in four areas: economic participation and opportunity; educational attainment; health and survival; and political empowerment.

Ratcheva further noted that the report focuses on gender parity within fast-growth professions — such as cloud computing, engineering, artificial intelligence, content production, people and culture, etc. — along with the types of skills needed for each. “Among the eight distinctive job clusters the report focuses on, only people and culture and content production are currently at gender parity,” said Ratcheva. 

While blockchain and crypto are not specifically mentioned in the report, Ratcheva explained that sectors such as cloud computing, data, artificial intelligence, engineering and product development are likely to strongly represent both blockchain and digital asset professions. As such, Ratcheva noted that while it’s apparent women remain a minority within the blockchain sector, there does appear to be a higher level of female participation compared to other fields:

“Between these sectors, female representation is on average 29%, which can serve as an optimistic estimate of the level of female representation in blockchain and crypto, but coordinated efforts are still needed to reach gender equality.”

Achieving gender equality after COVID-19

It’s important to point out that the “Global Gender Gap Report 2021” was published a year after COVID-19 was declared a pandemic. The report notes that the health emergency and the related economic downturn have impacted women more severely than men, further reopening gaps that could have been closed sooner.

For instance, the report found that women are now losing jobs at higher rates than men, citing findings from the International Labour Organization that show 5% of women have lost jobs compared with 3.9% of males since the pandemic began. The report states:

“This is partly due to their disproportionate representation in sectors directly disrupted by lockdowns, such as the consumer sector. Data from the United States also indicates that women from historically disadvantaged racial and ethnic groups are worst affected.”

Saadia Zahidi, managing director for the World Economic Forum, added that the pandemic has impacted gender equality in both the workplace and the home, hindering years of progress. “If we want a dynamic future economy, it is vital for women to be represented in the jobs of tomorrow,” she said.

Sue Duke, head of global public policy at LinkedIn, pointed out that women still aren’t well represented in the majority of fast-growing roles, which is leading to greater gender parity challenges moving forward.

In order to combat these issues, Zahidi suggests that both companies and governments need to focus on building diversity, equity and inclusion into their plans for recovery. “Assessing candidates on their skills and potential, and not just their direct work experience and formal qualifications, is central to that. Skills-based hiring is key if we’re going to make our economies and societies more inclusive,” she noted.

In terms of closing the gender parity gap in fast-growth professions, such as those related to blockchain and crypto, Ratcheva explained that a two-pronged approach is needed. She mentioned that it’s critical to keep building out the pipeline of women in science, technology and engineering fields. At the same time, she noted this growth should be supported by broader diversity, equity and inclusion across workplaces, particularly within fields where women are under-represented, adding further:

“It’s important to send a substantial signal to women looking to move into professions where they will be under-represented, that there are mechanisms in place for them to thrive and progress. Without such assurances we are asking women to make an irrational investment in STEM skills.”

Despite current challenges, it’s encouraging to see that a number of blockchain and crypto companies are taking steps to ensure female participation. For example, Denelle Dixon, CEO and executive director of the Stellar Development Foundation, told Cointelegraph that one of the main factors to increasing the impact of women in blockchain, and specifically in leadership roles, is through education and representation.

Dixon explained that the Stellar Development Foundation strives to educate women on the benefits of blockchain technology through frequent webinars and events. “By having a strong female leadership team, SDF is showcasing the importance of representation in emerging technologies for young women around the world.”

Ratcheva also remarked that it’s positive to see that governments and businesses have found effective ways to ensure equity and meritocracy in employment, noting that the majority of economic data shows women are gaining educational qualifications at the same rate as men.

With this in mind, Ratcheva believes that the tech sector is poised to start making gains in hiring a larger share of women for senior management roles, noting that there has been particular progress in female representation in product development positions. However, Ratcheva is aware that as businesses and governments attempt to revive economies, more gender-equal recovery strategies need to be implemented to ensure women can move into fast-growing, high-paying fields.

According to the report, the countries that have made the most progress on this front are the United Arab Emirates, New Zealand and Lithuania. “The UAE made gains in the number of women elected into parliament, as well as the share of women in leadership roles in business and public policy. New Zealand made progress in gender-equal remuneration and political empowerment for women,” said Ratcheva.

Zur Quelle

A new report from the World Economic Forum shows that the gender gap will take 135.6 years to close due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

How women are changing the face of enterprise blockchain, literally!

How women are changing the face of enterprise blockchain, literally!

These women’s perspectives have been a game changer for the enterprise blockchain sector.

[ihc-hide-content ihc_mb_type=“show“ ihc_mb_who=“reg“ ihc_mb_template=“1″ ]

Women working in the blockchain sector are still few and far between. While exact statistics are unclear, technology has, in general, remained a male-dominated field. For instance, a recent report from Deloitte found that only 7% of fintech startup founders are women. The report also noted that startups founded and co-founded by women have struggled to raise funds during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Findings show that during the first six months of 2020, 20 women-led startups raised a total of $875 million. On the other hand, 243 startups founded by men raised around $12 billion during the first half of 2020. It’s also highly discouraging that pay data from Coinbase, one of the most popular crypto exchanges in the world, showed that female and Black employees had been underpaid in previous years.

Yet hope springs eternal for the future of women in blockchain. While it is still very much male-dominated, there are a number of remarkable women innovating at a high level in the enterprise blockchain space.

Bringing neurodiversity to enterprise-grade systems

For instance, Lisa Butters, general manager of Honeywell’s GoDirect Trade Greenhouse — a blockchain-based marketplace for used aerospace parts — told Cointelegraph that while it may not be obvious, a female perspective can bring a different, yet much-needed, outlook to business situations. Specifically, Butters mentioned that women are notorious for making sure enterprise systems are efficient and user-friendly:

“Women are known for organization. Our playroom at home looks like a bomb dropped on it. My minivan looks like four pounds of goldfish inside a container was sprinkled in every crack and opening. But when I look at those ‘messes,’ as a woman, I naturally want to jump into preventing things like this. When it comes to an enterprise systems’ efficiency and user friendliness, I bring the same thought processes.”

For example, Butters shared that when GoDirect Trade first designed a blockchain ledger to collect data events connected to aerospace parts, each event had various fields associated with it. Butters explained that a part’s “birth event” may have had seven related fields to capture, while a “repair event” may have had nine related fields. 

However, Butters noted that sometimes the only field obviously associated with a part was its serial number. As such, Butters explained that she needed to develop a scalable approach to data collection:

“My mind immediately turned to normalizing the data and capturing standardized data across all part events. As far as user friendliness goes, my team is used to me designing for parents. If my mom and dad can’t figure this out, then we need to go back to the drawing board.”

User-friendliness and efficiency are some of the most important elements for enterprise systems. In a GoDirect Trade blog post, Butters mentioned that the company website reflects this, pointing out that the site is a blend of Amazon, Etsy, Mercari and Target. Butters wrote in her post, “If a 43-year old male was the sole voice to design our aerospace marketplace, do you think it would have looked like this?”

Chaitanya Konda, global blockchain lead for research and development at Ernst & Young UK, told Cointelegraph that her work revolves around making the token economy vision a practical reality. “This necessitates providing privacy and scalability for token transactions and complex business logic surrounding tokens at a reasonable transaction fee,” she remarked.

Like Butters, Konda understands that women are typically good at multitasking and therefore forge an innate ability to come up with efficient approaches to tackle simultaneous challenges. “Having women bring this mindset in designing and developing these enterprise systems can be extremely valuable,” said Konda.

This also applies to another important element of the blockchain sector: open-source projects. Anais Ofranc, a member of the Baseline Protocol Technical Steering Committee and CEO of Consianimis Consulting, mentioned that she is helping ensure that different stakeholders, personas and interests are represented in open-source systems. “The female perspective is important during the decision-making process for open-source projects,” she said.

Echoing Ofranc, Kaliya Young, ecosystems director for the COVID-19 Credentials Initiative at the Linux Foundation, told Cointelegraph that the majority of her work focuses on building open standards for verifiable credentials. Young noted that community collaboration is a major requirement for building open-source standards, pointing out that a female perspective is critical. “Sometimes this is undervalued, but a female’s perspective is critical if we want to develop a new layer of the internet where all people are empowered,” she remarked.

Moreover, incorporating women’s perspectives is extremely important, especially when it comes to creating a new financial system, which is a promise of blockchain technology. Denelle Dixon, CEO and executive director of the Stellar Development Foundation, told Cointelegraph that historically, financial systems have been created by men. As such, Dixon noted that these systems have missed the mark in catering the experience to the whole population.

Fortunately, Dixon believes that more opportunities at growing blockchain companies are opening for women, noting that there is already a strong leadership team at Stellar Development Foundation.

Gender diversity can lead to better enterprise-grade products

While women’s perspectives can help ensure efficiency and user-friendliness for enterprise platforms and open-source initiatives, gender diversity may also help build better products.

A Harvard Business Review article reiterates this, mentioning that numerous studies have shown that employees in pro-diversity regions, like the United States and Western Europe, prefer gender-friendly work environments. As such, studies show that the most talented individuals typically tend to work in places that are gender diverse, ultimately leading to better performance.

Daniela Barbosa, vice president of worldwide alliances at The Linux Foundation, told Cointelegraph that just like any other tech industry, diversity in the enterprise blockchain space is important for building solutions that address the needs of society rather than the needs of a few:

“We already know that gender diversity in product development or AI teams leads to better and more usable products. Gender diversity is equally critical in building out blockchain networks that address everyday use cases.”

For example, Barbosa explained that creating a supply chain network to ensure sustainable food production must address financial inclusion for multiple parties, including the unbanked, the fully banked or even a finance system that gets bankers and suppliers paid faster with less risk. “Developing and deploying such networks will benefit from diverse approaches and experiences at both the technical and business level and be better set to meet user-friendly design and efficiency goals,” she remarked.

Ryan Rugg, blockchain industry service leader at IBM Global Business Services, told Cointelegraph that she is spearheading the United States’ blockchain team at IBM — for example, launching New York’s COVID-19 vaccination management solution, powered by IBM Blockchain’s Digital Health Pass.

According to Rugg, gender diversity has helped lead to many successful engagements. “Diverse teams lead to different perspectives, ideas and out of the box thinking to drive true innovation. We want people to challenge each other and have constructive dialogues,” she noted.

Fortunately, the open nature and inclusivity of the blockchain space may drive more women into the sector moving forward. Progress is already being made, with a report from CoinMarketCap showing that the number of women in the cryptocurrency industry increased 43.24% in the first quarter of 2020.

Sheila Warren — head of data, blockchain and digital assets at the World Economic Forum — told Cointelegraph that overall, the hiring and retaining of teams representative of diverse perspectives leads to better outcomes. Warren noted that the promise of blockchain technology provides the opportunity to build from the ground up:

“If done intentionally, this will correct for some of the inequities that we see in technology today. Without diverse perspectives represented in the room, it’s very possible that we’re at risk of replicating or even exacerbating these.”

It’s also important to point out that women do not need prior blockchain experience when entering the sector. Leanne Kemp, CEO of Everledger — an enterprise blockchain company for supply chain management — told Cointelegraph that women can bring valuable community-building skills and help provide long-term strategic vision, even if they don’t have a background in blockchain technology specifically. “Skills like determination and attention to detail come easily to women, making them a valuable asset in this growing technology,” she remarked.

Ways to get more women involved in blockchain

Given the importance of gender diversity in tech, many believe that education, mentorship and job opportunities will ultimately attract more women to the blockchain space moving forward.

For instance, while there are many open-source projects in the enterprise blockchain space, Ofranc mentioned that there is an obvious lack of diversity. She explained that moving forward, she would like to see greater outreach from open-source organizations targeting universities and young women in particular to raise awareness of the benefits of contributing to open-source or open-standard projects.

Job opportunities geared toward women may also help drive adoption. Ofranc noted that while there are many technical and business jobs in the enterprise blockchain space published on companies‘ websites, many of these sites cater to an audience of a certain demographic. Adding to this, Konda remarked that hackathons and conferences are another great way to introduce women to the blockchain field.

That being said, Warren remarked that companies must make it a priority to get women involved. “Look at your employment processes — where are you recruiting from? Is your pipeline diverse? If not, are there steps you can take to include more women.”

Warren further mentioned that companies must think long term about investing in the next generation of female leaders in blockchain. In order to ensure this, Anna Frankowska, chief commercial officer at Aventus Network — a firm developing a layer-two blockchain protocol — noted that role models in the industry will encourage more women to enter the space long term:

“As more women enter and succeed, more women will enter and succeed in a self-sustaining virtuous cycle. Opportunities exist, and I know first-hand that we’re crying out for excellent people, and there is no gender monopoly on excellence.”

Zur Quelle

These women’s perspectives have been a game changer for the enterprise blockchain sector.

Mentorship, inclusivity and education will encourage more women to enter crypto

Mentorship, inclusivity and education will encourage more women to enter crypto

Leading women in blockchain and crypto speak out on important issues on International Women’s Day.

[ihc-hide-content ihc_mb_type=“show“ ihc_mb_who=“reg“ ihc_mb_template=“1″ ]

To celebrate International Women’s Day this year, Cointelegraph hosted a roundtable with eight leading women in the blockchain and cryptocurrency sector to discuss ways to bring more women into the fintech space. While many thoughts were shared, common themes focused on education, mentorship and inclusivity. 

Kristina Lucrezia-Cornèr, Cointelegraph’s managing editor, kicked off the discussion by asking the panelists about ways to get more women involved with cryptocurrency trading and investing. Although new data from market research firm Cardify shows that more women are making cryptocurrencies a larger part of their portfolio, men are still the majority when it comes to crypto investments.

Olivia Capozzalo, head of content at crypto exchange OKEx, confirmed this, stating that the male customer base continues to dominate most exchanges. She said that the crypto sector is an emerging industry and that trader profiles are still very traditional. However, Capozzalo noted that women play a large role in household financial decisions:

“Meltem Demirors often talks about the huge percentage of women who control wealth in their families, which is around 80% in the U.S. We are making products because there is a huge potential customer base, regardless of age or gender. The thing about crypto is that it allows direct access to wealth creation, without middlemen or particular qualifications.”

Echoing Capozzalo, blockchain and fintech adviser Efi Pylarinou stated that traditional markets face similar issues in terms of male dominance. As such, Pylarinou believes that the problem women currently struggle with has to do with participation.

Pylarinou said that she isn’t surprised by the lack of women using crypto exchanges but hopes to see more women involved with designing blockchain platforms and protocols. “If blockchain designs and infrastructure get done at the enterprise level and there aren’t enough women, there won’t be anything created by female thinking patterns. This is the biggest issue we face today,” she said.

How to get more women involved in blockchain and crypto?

In order to ensure more women have a seat at the table, Lucrezia-Cornèr asked the panelists to share their thoughts on educational ways to encourage female participation within crypto and blockchain.

Anino Emuwa, founder and CEO of Avandis Consulting and co-founder of 100Women@Davos, said that blockchain and cryptocurrency education must be emphasized from a young age. “Toys that have coins, and storybooks that talk about the topic should be pushed early on. We need to start opening the world up to our children now,” she said.

Educational content around crypto and blockchain is becoming increasingly important, especially as more newcomers enter the space. Findings from Cardify show that despite increasing interest in cryptocurrency among women, men feel more confident about their understanding of crypto.

However, educational content geared toward women has been helpful at addressing this gap. Molly Jane Zuckerman, content manager at CoinMarketCap, explained that the site’s platform Alexandria, which contains how-to-guides, along with gamification content such as quizzes and polls, has a relatively equal number of male and female readers. 

Aside from education, Lucrezia-Cornèr said that getting women interested in blockchain, in general, is crucial. Elissa Shevinsky, chief technology officer of Cointelegraph, explained that rather than focusing on ways to get women interested in technology, the bigger issue is understanding how to get women to stay within the industry.

This is an important point to consider, as a recent CoinMarketCap report showed that the number of women in the cryptocurrency industry increased by 43.24% in the first quarter of 2020. According to Shevinsky, women have been interested in technology for quite a while, yet getting women to stay within these emerging fields is challenging. Fortunately, job opportunities in the blockchain and crypto industry have been on the rise, despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

Capozzalo commented that this is very encouraging for women in particular, noting that the crypto industry is an “unusually welcoming space.” Adding to this, I noted that the blockchain space is incredibly appealing for women, remarking that after writing about technology for over 10 years, this was the field that captured my attention the most.

The importance of mentorship and inclusivity

I stated that being a part of an inclusive company is extremely important in terms of career growth and success. Many of the women panelists further agreed that mentorship and inclusivity are both important factors when it comes to getting women involved long-term in blockchain and cryptocurrency.

Teodora Atanasova, VIP relations manager and founding team member at crypto-friendly bank Nexo, said that most of the team leaders at her firm are women, noting that it’s important for women to flourish in a women-friendly environment. Atanasova further stated that, while she doesn’t typically differentiate between men and women, men should make it a point to mentor women in the space.

Sanja Kon, CEO at cryptocurrency payments provider Utrust, said that, overall, she hopes to see more women believe in themselves as a way to move forward. “It’s important to find mentors you admire who will support and guide you through this space,” she said.