Often, when we speak about achievements of women in a traditionally male-dominated field, we tend to highlight the brightest stars and the record breakers— or, to use the industry parlance, the “unicorn” ladies of the tech world.
While this focus on the most successful female leaders is natural and inspiring, it can also be daunting for women who are just now considering investing in crypto or working in the Blockchain industry. Indeed, the narrative of a woman who “proves” herself worthy of being in crypto through exceptional performance runs counter to the principles of equality and inclusion embraced by the Blockchain community.
The high level of technical expertise and entrepreneurial professionalism among female leaders in the tech industry is undeniable, but the term “women in crypto” should, and does, have a far wider base.
Being Marissa Mayer
Recently, Marissa Mayer, one of the earliest Google employees and the former CEO of Yahoo, has re-entered the tech media spotlight as the founder of her own tech business incubator Lumi Labs. Some publications are hailing her new venture as a “comeback,” but perhaps this framing is guided by the search for a catchy headline rather than a true commentary on her career path.
Clearly, Ms. Mayer dedicated most of her life to gathering extensive experience in the tech industry. While the media wasn’t focused on her work, she didn’t cease to be a woman in tech, and will remain a female leader in the tech industry even if she never holds a C-suite position again.
Uneven, limited recognition of female achievement and the perpetuation of the tech industry’s “bro culture” image in the media can obscure the way opportunities are changing for women in Blockchain. While the percentage of women in prominent leadership roles is steadily increasing, there are many other ways for women to join the community.
Will the women in crypto please stand up
It may seem that the crypto industry, emerging at the intersection of security tech and finance, is filled to capacity with two types of players– developers and venture capitalists. In truth, the crypto community is far more eclectic, and women in crypto are not always the usual suspects.
Leah Callon-Butler discovered Blockchain through her work in renewable energy and became a co-founder of a Blockchain-based platform for payments in the adult industry– which may seem an unlikely turn of events, but makes perfect sense on closer inspection. Recognizing a community in need and an opportunity, Leah applied her previous experience and talents in the crypto space:
“I've always worked in emerging technologies, across lots of industries but focused on sales and business development. As I was doing my MBA, I found that I had a real passion for the social impact. When I discovered Blockchain technology, it blew my mind. I couldn’t imagine a world where we weren’t controlled totally by centralization.”
No one working in Blockchain today was trained for it specifically or born into it– it’s a new technology that gathers forward-thinking professionals from all fields. Entrepreneurs, developers, investors small and large, financial analysts, bankers. marketing and PR managers, PhD candidates, regulation lawyers, crypto tax advisers, event organizers, enthusiasts, evangelists, real estate and travel agents, movie people, musicians, adult industry workers and the writers who tell their stories— all of these are women in crypto.
A role model near you
A brief overview of recent crypto and Blockchain conferences shows that in the past few years, the participation of women speakers grew from less than 10 percent (or, in one infamous example, three out of 88) to more than 30 percent. Educational crypto events and meetups for women are becoming more widespread, and Blockchain-based products are developed specifically with the female consumer in mind.
For instance– Adryenn Ashley is one of the most influential women entrepreneurs in the crypto community today, and she is focusing her efforts on an augmented reality dating app that uses Blockchain to provide women (and men) with a safe, secure and natural-feeling dating experience.
By creating a simple app that will be effortless and fun to use, Adryenn hopes to bring Blockchain, as well as the freedoms and responsibilities it entails, further into public awareness. She is also one of the many women leaders in Blockchain who promote initiatives that create more opportunities for women from all skill levels and walks of life to enter the crypto space as an investor or startup founder.
The great equalizer
Whether or not Blockchain can be a solution for all issues of digital security and trust; whether or not it is the “truth machine” many hope it will be, Blockchain may succeed where education and equal-opportunity initiatives have failed to give women equal access.
The decentralized nature of crypto networks means that there is no central locus of power or control, which implies equality of opportunity and a very low barrier to entry. That is where the most fervent supporters of Blockchain technologies place their hopes– on its ability to include those who are disenfranchised socially, economically and geographically.
Crystal Rose, the co-founder and CEO of an AI communications platform, began to code at the age of 11 after discovering a learning opportunity in AOL chat rooms.
Since those early days of the internet, access to online education has improved, and Blockchain can open even more doors to those who are cut off from traditional banking, education and political stability.
Toni Lane Casserly, known in the community as “The Joan of Arc of Blockchain,” has advised startups and organizations like Singularity University and the United Nations for almost 10 years.
She is especially interested in the way Blockchain can redefine governance to ensure human dignity and freedom.
Tony Lane believes that with peer to peer governance, “we are fundamentally incentivizing people to have economic liberation through real open markets that are based on stewardship, generation and interdependence…. It is a huge way for women to gain economic opportunity. We are changing the dynamics for investing in women and fundraising for women.”
Adryenn Ashley agrees– without Blockchain technology, women entrepreneurs would have to bid for traditional venture capital investment. “Women should be getting more investment, but they're not– just because of the way the system is designed. Unless you’re a 25-year-old Stanford grad, Asian male, you can't write something on a napkin and get a $5 mln seed round. Blockchain gives women the opportunity to do it and democratizes the entire investment field with ICOs, token sales.”
The crypto industry is a fascinating, growing field with room for all the brilliant ideas that women may not have been able to realize elsewhere. Having been a developer, an entrepreneur and an angel investor herself, Crystal Rose has one advice for women entering the industry: take more chances. “You've got to say, ‘Hey, I want to bet on this thing and I want to go for it.’ I think it would be great to see women stepping up with ideas earlier because you can validate them faster, you can get through that cycle faster and get to the next stage. We want to see women accelerated.”