March is Women’s History Month, an annual celebration of women’s achievements and contributions throughout history. Seeking to counteract the typically male-centred ways of framing history, WHM is a vital opportunity to correct and counteract exclusionary narratives. But it’s also an impetus to think about the present. WHM represents a significant opportunity to reflect on the progress that remains to be made.
Across virtually every industry, women remain significantly disadvantaged in comparison to men. The gender pay gap is still an intractable issue – in the UK, women were paid 7.9% less than men in full-time employment as of April 2021. This year’s International Women’s Day brought this ongoing issue into view when the Gender Pay Gap Bot followed the IWD hashtag on Twitter and shared the gender pay gap of every company that used it. This simple yet effective tool opened people’s eyes to ongoing gender inequality in multiple industries.
For understandable reasons, many have expected crypto to act as a force for equality in many areas, including when it comes to gender bias. The technological innovations underlying the crypto space are designed to ensure an open, peer-to-peer form of interaction that, in principle, does not rely on the identity of those involved. Clearly, we should expect this to act as an equalising force against identity-based discrimination.
However, the reality has been quite different. By virtually all available metrics, crypto is heavily male-dominated. So what can those in the crypto space do to even the field? This post will look at the sources of crypto’s gender gap and highlight some of the projects and people trying to make the industry a fairer and more equal place.
The entrenched gender biases of finance and tech
If we consider that both the finance and tech industries have a long history of gender disparity, it’s perhaps less of a surprise that crypto is facing significant gender equality issues.
Women continue to be underrepresented in the finance sector – and the higher the role, the wider the gap. The number of women working in leadership roles at financial firms is just 21.9% and only looks to reach 31% by 2030 at the predicted rate. So that’s a long time to wait for very little progress.
The number of women working in tech is also disproportionately low, and the gap again gets wider when discussing leadership and senior-level roles. Whilst women make up 28.8% of the tech workforce, they hold a mere 5% of leadership roles. Even at a consistent growth rate, it would take 12 years before the tech industry reached an equal ratio of men to women.
These inequities have deep-rooted sources. The powerful and long-established cultural biases that discourage women from studying STEM subjects, for instance, continue to radically limit the number of women pursuing careers in the tech industry. In the UK, women comprise only 35% of STEM students in higher education – in engineering and technology subjects, this falls to 19%. And the issue is not just fewer women obtaining the qualifications necessary to enter the industry. Women also leave the tech industry at a much higher rate than men, partly due to the gender-based discrimination they must endure in the workplace.
In recent years, there have been many significant initiatives to correct this damaging imbalance. Nevertheless, there remains much to be done – and there are certainly reasons to think that the innovations of crypto tech could be part of the solution. However, these possibilities remain, at present, just that. But, as we’ll see below, it will require a more concerted and proactive effort from those in the industry to make them a reality.
Crypto’s unfulfilled promise of equality
The development of cryptocurrencies has been inseparable from a push toward open and anonymous digital interactions – an impulse that is as much ethical as it is technological. The intention was to evade centralised control and the identity- and verification-based gatekeeping of centralised institutions, which were empowered to decide who could or could not take part. By concealing the user’s identity, blockchain-based transactions should theoretically function as a level playing field where everyone is free to get involved.
Despite such hopes, it seems that crypto has thus far inherited many of the gender biases of the tech and finance industries rather than counteracting them. This tension between the possibilities and realities of crypto is perhaps most clearly visible in the NFT space. The NFT market has allowed emerging artists to showcase their works as they never could before, promising to add diversity to the historically male-dominated art world. However, artificial intelligence firm Limna recently revealed that only 29% of NFT artists are women, mirroring the gender gap of the traditional art market.
More broadly, we can see similar patterns in relation to both employment prospects within the industry and the underlying culture. For example, a study by LongHash in 2018 showed that just 14.5% of blockchain startups had female team members, with only 7% of C-suite roles filled by women. Meanwhile, the so-called ‘crypto bro’ culture, prevalent within the industry since its inception, has long deterred women from getting involved. This problem was exemplified by the 2018 North American Blockchain Conference, which hosted its afterparty at a Miami strip club. This deeply problematic choice spoke volumes about the lack of inclusivity within the nascent industry. The conference itself was hardly more inclusive – though it covered ten hours of speeches from over 80 speakers, only three of those were women.
Although the crypto industry was, according to its founding intentions, well-positioned to avoid these discriminatory pitfalls, it has still managed to remain dishearteningly male-dominated. This is not to say that the hopes of crypto enthusiasts are illusory. Rather, it’s clear that we cannot simply expect them to happen “naturally” as an inevitable consequence of technological innovation. Instead, we need to challenge the gender bias in crypto proactively – and several exciting projects have emerged in recent years with precisely this intention.
The ongoing struggle to diversify the crypto space
While the statistics may be cause for dismay, at a cultural level, there is a reason for optimism that crypto is gradually becoming a more inclusive space. This is thanks to the activities and initiatives of several projects that focus on specific issues and strive to make a positive change.
Focusing on female employment in the crypto industry, Global Women in Blockchain is a non-profit group that aims to diversify tech by empowering women through business connections, educational events and all-around support related to blockchain technology and STEM subjects. Similarly, the women behind the Black Women Blockchain Council are dedicated to creating a safe space that inspires and educates the next generation of diverse and inclusive blockchain leaders. Meanwhile, in the NFT space, projects such as World of Women are striving to increase both the participation and representation of female artists.
Of course, these are only a small number of the broad and exciting range of projects, both established and emerging, that are helping to fulfil the promise of the blockchain revolution. But their growing number and prominence is cause for optimism amidst the often dismaying reports and statistics.
Cudos’ commitment to a diverse future for Web3
Here at Cudos, we are fully aware of the need for a diverse workforce and affording women the opportunity to break into the industry. We are actively seeking ways we can encourage women to take these steps and aim to support others in the field by partnering with female-led projects and striving to highlight women in the industry. Check out our podcast episodes with fintech founder Susan Oh and tech investor (and Cudos advisor) Maggie Fang, and look out for an upcoming interview with Stefania Barbaglio, one of Yahoo!’s top 10 female metaverse founders.
We are also proud to have a number of female staff members working at Cudos, who bring to the team significant, industry-leading talent and a direct understanding of the challenges that women face in the industry.
Our Events Manager Kaitlin Argeaux is also the lead organiser of CryptoMondays London, a monthly event designed to provide an open and welcoming space for people to connect and learn about crypto. Argeaux is well-aware of the issues of gender representation in the wider tech industry: “There still exists a dearth of women in tech, as evidenced by the fact that women account for less than 10% of those involved in the sector.” Nevertheless, she continues to see the crypto space as offering a way forward for bringing women into tech: “In many ways, crypto and Web3 offer an opportunity to start over with more female representation and build something that is more diverse and inclusive.”
Similarly, Chelsea Rostrum, who is responsible for Community Strategy and Governance at the Cudos Foundation, stresses the importance of bringing an ethical and people-focused attitude to the industry: “My role has been to uphold the values and infuse empathy and humanity into the equation in the way that people think, and act on technology and the ethics therein.” It is through this approach that we can truly embrace the democratic, egalitarian potential of not just crypto, but the digital revolution as a whole. As Rostrum puts it: “All people are stakeholders of computing and it’s important that we program the future as such.”
Anita Iyer, Content Marketing Manager at Cudo Ventures, has experienced first-hand the slow but promising evolution of the gender dynamics of crypto in the past two years: “Although I have been in the blockchain space for only two and a half years, I believe I entered the industry at the right time. When we look from the outside, the face of the crypto and blockchain industry is very male-oriented. But that is slowly changing. For example, I remember meeting fewer women in the blockchain/crypto conferences in late 2019 or early 2020, but that isn’t the case anymore.”
And for Iyer, this trend is fundamental to the promise of crypto to transform not just the web, but the increasingly vast areas of society dependent upon it: “As we are building the future of finance and technology, the narrative must be around diversity, and everybody, irrespective of their gender, should be able to participate. It is encouraging to see women joining the space, making it more inclusive for others.”
Of course, there is much that remains to be done. Gender equality will not be achieved overnight, in crypto or any other industry. It will require continued and prolonged efforts – and we at Cudos are committed to actively contributing to these efforts. We believe in a future for the web that is diverse, inclusive and radically open. So let’s work together to make it a reality.
If you’d like to join us in our mission to make Web3 a truly open and diverse space, we’d encourage you to take a look at our open positions.
Cudos is powering the metaverse bringing together DeFi, NFTs, and gaming experiences to realise the vision of a decentralised Web3, enabling all users to benefit from the growth of the network. We’re an interoperable, open platform launchpad that will provide the infrastructure required to meet the 1000x higher computing needs for the creation of fully immersive, gamified digital realities. Cudos is a Layer 1 blockchain and Layer 2 community-governed compute network, designed to ensure decentralised, permissionless access to high-performance computing at scale. Our native utility token CUDOS is the lifeblood of our network and offers an attractive annual yield and liquidity for stakers and holders.