Be the new girl on the block(chain)
My own journey started in September 2017. It all started with a lunch with colleagues. One of them would often speak about Blockchain. That very day he forgot his wallet and I offered to pay for his lunch. Once we came back to the office, he was holding his wallet in his hand and asked: “Do you want your money back in FIAT or bitcoin?” I decided for the latter and this is how it started for me...
Blockchain remains one of the hot topics in our economy and society. However, it is mainly driven and shaped by men. The question is why.
As I’m part of the DLT Talent Program, facilitated by the Frankfurt School Blockchain Center, I belong to a group of lucky women who were chosen amongst many applicants to dive deeper into the topic of Blockchain and to become active drivers of change. On behalf of all the other DLT Talents, I can claim that we totally understand why it feels hard to enter this space for women — yet here we are (I am). There are clearly reasons why we are so fascinated with this technology but also why there are so few women in this space.
Let’s take a look at some numbers.
In Blockchain only about 5% are female, which is an even worse ratio than the GAFAM (Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple and Microsoft) companies display. Even though the companies are perceived as being inclusive and progressive, females in a tech related job, only make up a fourth of the whole workforce. In best case.
Now what is keeping us away? Blockchain or any other technology are not proprietary to men.
All the reasons why it might feel hard to enter the space.
Girls play with dolls, boys with cars.
Starting at a young age, we are not encouraged to engage in technology. While boys tend to play with cars or help fix the car, girls predominantly help in the kitchen or play with dolls (the generalization is chosen to prove a point, not to offend anyone). In hindsight it is hard to say if we would have been different if the opposite would have been the case, however it is a fact that to date the majority of women do not enroll in technical education. According to catalyst.org, only 27% accounted for workers in STEM-qualified industries were women. In comparison to 2009, the ratio has only increased by 16%. Keeping this in mind, it is no surprise that this leads to little attraction or applications for technical jobs which per se gives a smaller baseline of females to get interested in Blockchain to begin with.
And there is another phenomenon that often happens in a technical job or environment. Have you heard of the word mansplaining? Well, we are very familiar with it. According to Oxford Languages, mansplaining is “the explanation of something by a man, typically to a woman, in a manner regarded as condescending or patronising“. It can be annoying, frustrating and also intimidating. For us to prosper in a male dominated world can be hard. In fact, a study from the American Economic Association showed that women do significantly better when placed in companies with more women peers. The same is probably true for Blockchain. Whereas nowadays the conversations and discussions happen in the same closed circles, mostly driven by men. On top, there is no onboarding for Newbies and we easily shy away.
In addition, to our upbringing, education and job choices, our nature also gives some clues. We observe more and we need to get our head around the concept first. We tend to be afraid to say something stupid unless we fully understand the topic. The same is true when it comes to job applications — only when the description meets 100% of our capabilities we will go for the job. And in such a new field as DLT that will hardly ever be the case.
I could go on and give you many reasons as to why it can be difficult for women to enter the space of Blockchain. The truth is, we hold the key to the space in our own hand. Even though our upbringing, compared to that of men might be different, we have something in common. Both genders are exposed to the non-existence of any official education regarding Blockchain. Lately you might see a course offered by accredited schools but when it all started years ago, there was a lot of self-education required. All men involved or leading in this space have done their share to learn. Independent if they are investors, programmers, visionaries - they are self-taught. They might have had it easier because of their background and education but they also had to put in the hard work. With the small difference that perhaps they have more practice at taking risks. Ever since they are little, they were taught to take responsibility, asking the girl out on a date, always having to take the lead. Their experience in being entrepreneurial and deal with rejection or failure might be more developed and frustration resistant to that of women. We only now are learning how it feels to be out of our comfort zone in a new technology field.
The matter is as complex as important. While it takes further education to attract a diverse group of people, not only females, it also takes guts to just start. On that note, the most important advice remains to just get started. Everything else will enfold from there.
My first interaction, beyond the theoretical concepts of Blockchain, was that I accepted the borrowed money in bitcoin. Ever since I have been able to observe the upward trend of the cryptocurrency. It was this one transaction that made all the difference and from observing I started to read up on things. I had conversations with others, bounced off ideas and gradually became more educated and knowledgable. It also paid off financially: the euro value has 20fold by now. I can only recommend for you to do the same. Open an account, invest as little as 10€ and start your own learning experience.
P.S.: If you need an extra nudge to get into the space, apply for the DLT Talents program or become a sponsor to help empower ambitious female leaders — DLT Talents. The goal is to guide the way for women to become entrepreneurs, technologists, regulators, investors or multiplicators. This program is free of charge (EUR 0), you just have to apply.