Although the finance and technology industry are largely dominated by men, some activists and industry insiders are working to mold the young blockchain industry in an effort to make it more inclusive for women and underrepresented minorities.
Yael Rozencwajg, the founder and CEO of Blockchain Israel, has seen first-hand that women are unrepresented in the blockchain and cryptocurrency industry and details her journey to bring gender equality and inclusion into the blockchain industry in a recent interview with Fast Company.
Blockchain Industry Dominated by Men, But Showing More Promise for a Diverse Future Than Other Industries
While presenting at a recent conference for blockchain and cryptocurrency executives, Rozencwajg explained that the audience, although respectful and deferential, was mainly made up of white, male, CEOs, highlighting that despite the industry being less than ten years old, it is moving in the same direction as the technology and finance sectors, which are overwhelmingly dominated by males.
The newness of the blockchain industry is what gives Rozencwajg confidence that it can be different and more inclusive than other, similar, industries. She notes that prior to working in the cryptocurrency industry, she had received a significant amount of pushback on ideas and concepts from her male collogues, but that the blockchain industry is different in that “There’s an acceptance that women know their stuff.”
Rozencwajg also notes that the newness of the industry “puts all of us on the same level,” referencing a situation where she found, and helped correct, a flaw in a male speaker’s presentation, who was grateful for her help.
Although it looks promising that the blockchain and cryptocurrency industry could become a signal of inclusion in the technology sector, it is undeniable that gender disparity exists in the industry. The industry is rife with examples of the “crypto bro club,” where conferences are held at strip clubs, or when men account for nearly 95% of the speakers at cryptocurrency conferences.
Despite this fact, one woman familiar with the space claims that the barriers in the industry are more due to perception rather than reality. Emilie Choi, the former vice president and head of corporate development at LinkedIn, joined cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase this past March.
Choi said that “It is intimidating for outsiders to think about the crypto world.” Choi also notes that at Coinbase there is significantly more inclusion than at traditional finance companies, with 1/3 of their executive team being female.
While speaking about her move to Coinbase, Choi said “I wanted another once-in-a-lifetime experience at a tech company. The whole goal is to serve a diverse base. If I’d known [how inclusive Coinbase was inside and out], I would have jumped in faster.”
Susan Joseph, an attorney by trade and the co-founder and executive director of Diversity in Blockchain, also spoke to Fast Company about the great potential for diversity in blockchain:
“The difference is when you are at the very beginning of the innovation period. Nothing is embedded and there are no clear winners. You can set the industry up in a different way,” Joseph said.