The vast majority of the cryptocurrency market are men. This pattern covers the coders of Bitcoin, Ethereum and other cryptocurrencies, coin traders and even those in public relations. Nevertheless, there are some notable exceptions. Let’s look at the following examples, see what challenges women face in the blockchain field and try to understand what could influence the current gender diversity situation.
Kathleen Breitman is a co-founder of Tezos, a cryptocurrency with the capitalization of around $1.9 billion at the time of writing. She became familiar with the idea of digital currency and decided to establish a new one together with her husband, Arthur Breitman. The initial coin offering (ICO) of Tezos was successful, raising $232 million. However, the vision of Tezos as a cryptocurrency with a healthy community was hampered by a scandal which involved Johann Gevers, president of Tezos Foundation.
Today we can say that Kathleen Breitman has managed to successfully deal with this obstacle as Johann Gevers is now not a director of Tezos Foundation — he has resigned voluntarily, leaving with $400,000 or more. Another big problem for Tezos was complaints from the United States Securities and Exchange Commission — this financial regulator may shut down a digital currency business if its officials decide that the said business is acting as an unregistered securities enterprise. Although there were messages in the media about the SEC preparing to shut down Tezos in the near future, they turned out to be false as we still see Tezos active today. Kathleen Breitman is a great inspiration for other women to become top managers of cryptocurrency-related businesses and to overcome challenges related to this sphere.
Another good example is Aparna Krishnan, co-founder of Mechanism Labs and an experienced coder. Interested in cryptography since high school, she was the head of education and executive at Blockchain at Berkeley where she founded an education department. Mechanism Labs is an open-source blockchain research lab focused on consensus algorithms and scalability issues. She is especially interested in Proof-of-Stake, a relatively new consensus protocol type. One of the main research problems Aparna has faced was that with the advent of the sphere, many devs did not even bother to realistically describe their own distributed ledger technology or adequately optimize it.
Aparna Krishnan is also a mentor in She(256), a program dedicated to increase the presence of women in the blockchain sphere. In She(256), different mentors are finding new women in this space and show them what to learn depending on the person’s goals.
“I definitely think being a woman in the blockchain space is hard. There are a lot of explicit and implicit biases… for example, a group of guys might be bros and might hang out, but that’s definitely not something a girl would be part of… you have to go above and beyond to build these similar [informal] connections,” tells Aparna Krishnan. “I would not say that people explicitly discriminate, and I actually think that the blockchain space is very unique — people try to be as inclusive as possible but it just so happens that a lot of these little implicit things add up and definitely make it a lot harder for women. That’s where I think initiatives like She(256) are bridging the gap.”
The area of trading is, too, dominated by men. When you’re picturing a cryptocurrency trader, it will most likely be a male. This stereotype might change in the coming years as the media and survey agencies report a growing number of women engaged in this activity or planning to do so. For instance, London Block Exchange reported a doubled number of women thinking about investing in cryptocurrency in just half a year (2019). Another last-year survey by Grayscale shows 43% of female respondents were interested in Bitcoin investments. Kiana Shek, co-founder of DigiFinex exchange, tells that women can set higher standards of ethics for digital exchanges.
The cryptocurrency market still has a lot to learn when it comes to gender diversity. A regular crypto investor or a person who is otherwise engaged in the sphere should stop assuming that this market is a men-only territory. Just like in any other industry, human resources departments should avoid any gender-based biases when looking for a new employee. The growing number of educational programs for new programmers may bring more women into the sphere. Ultimately, it’s a matter of societal preconceptions that must be challenged on a regular basis.