The International Women's Day theme this year is #BreakTheBias, so Cointelegraph spoke to 10 leaders in the blockchain industry about their experiences as women in Web3 and gathered their advice. From discussing barriers to entry to nonfungible tokens (NFTs) and role models, the following comments are from women in the United States, Latin America, Europe and Asia.
When asked what current barriers to entry are faced by women considering careers in crypto, Dr. Cagla Gul Senkardes, co-founder of the Istanbul Blockchain Women Association and lecturer at Istanbul Bilgi University, flatly answered "bias."
Speaking from a more academic point of view, Senkardes sees gender bias and culturally constructed ideologies in the context of cryptofeminism, the concept of having to choose between adhering to customary expectations for women and carving out novel paths within crypto, doing none or both.
"The masculine construction of technical language and symbolism carries inclusiveness to a point far away from competence and skills. From this point of view, it would be correct to discuss the cryptofeminism debate against a male-dominated culture in crypto."
Jackie Rose, head of institutional business development at Blockchain.com shared a similar sentiment about confusing "lingo" or buzz words like "meme coin" or "Web3" that sound aptly cryptic and potentially detract someone from further investigation. Hailing from a traditional finance background, Rose found crypto to be a more "welcoming environment" where her female colleagues became "invaluable resources."
"In the U.S., where most people have access to traditional banking, crypto is often viewed as more akin to gambling than to investing. The space can also feel pretty intimidating from the outside looking in, things move so quickly, a lot of the lingo is new and confusing, and the way it's portrayed in the media is overwhelmingly negative."
A more common answer to possible barriers among the women interviewed was a lack of finance and tech education, specialized skills or the sometimes requisite years of experience. Daniela Henao Moreno, chief operating officer of Defy Trends, a Miami-based women-led startup, pointed out that there is even a lack of access to job postings because many jobs in crypto tend to be made known via Telegram or word of mouth, rather than posted to popular job boards and employment sites.
Aurore Galves, co-founder of Leonod, a French development agency specializing in cryptography and distributed technologies, brought up another matter: representation.
"Women, when they are present, serve more as a showcase to reassure investors and to increase the confidence index of a project. It is more complex to legitimately assert yourself as an expert in this environment."
Galves admitted that women are increasingly more present at events and participating in more projects, but that both men and women "must have a voice" for the blockchain world to "find balance." When asked if she believed if NFTs can be seen as a gateway for women to get into crypto, Galves answered that the NFT space is a "phenomenon shrouded by illusion," warning that "discovering crypto-assets through NFTs could be misleading" but nonetheless could "become a source of innovation and value creation."
Someone with a more optimistic outlook on NFTs is Wengie, musician and founder of the Nyan Heroes NFT game, who has "only had a positive experience thus far" as a woman developing a blockchain game.
"A lot of projects are founded on culture, art and creativity and it's a space for creators to be rewarded for their work. I believe more and more women are taking control of their own financial education and learning about crypto from an investment standpoint too.
Wengie added that as more women become well-versed in NFTs and other crypto native concepts, women will likely be taken more seriously and less likely to be objectified. Similarly, Bineta Ngom, a Senegal-based blockchain project manager also known as Mama Bitcoin on social media, considered NFTs to be investment vehicle. Ngom founded a Bitcoin fishing business because "she had nothing to lose."
"NFTs could be of interest to women, especially [those] in Africa, who are very active and always looking for ways to make their money grow. Often they invest in tontines, so why not NFTs? And meanwhile, they will learn about the world of crypto.
Cointelegraph also spoke with Fiorella Scantamburlo in Argentina, communications manager of POAP, the Proof of Attendance Protocol that mints digital badges representing event attendance as NFTs. Scantamburlo shared that since working at POAP, she "totally" believes in the power of NFTs, stating that they are a gateway for artists, content creators and collectors to enter the blockchain ecosystem. She also revealed that an NFT project she particularly likes is Bored Ape Yacht Club, because "they achieved a community that feels like home."
When asked what message she would like to share about her personal journey in blockchain, Scantamburlo answered that crypto gives everyone the possibility to "be the architects of our own future" and not have to wait for others "to write our story for us."
According to Jassy Jackson, vice president of operations at WAX, who is "grateful" to work in crypto, a space that she admitted "is a boy's club," is also going to "change the world on so many levels, from improving our planet to shifting financial services and elevating gameplay experiences." She also encourages others to identify the women in our lives who support and empower those around them.
"It’s important to understand the power and value of feminine energy in workplace culture and the yin-yang balance they bring to every organization, and the blockchain, itself. Women must be acknowledged, celebrated and recognized for the value they bring."
Dawn Newton, chief operating office and co-founder of digital identity provider Netki, did just that when asked what message she would like to share about her personal experience and shouted out to a woman who she admires. Newton credited Connie Galippi, founder and executive director at the first Bitcoin nonprofit called BitGive, with helping her "truly understand how Bitcoin could empower folks and create meaningful change in the world." After hearing Galippi speak about a fundraising project for a girl’s school in Africa in 2014, Newton was inspired to join BitGive's board of directors and provide advice on creating the blockchain-based donation tracking system GiveTrack.
Newton also gave some advice to women looking to get started in crypto, recommending that they get involved with the community whether on social media or at local meetups and stating that networking is "the key to breaking into this sector!"