UBRI Panel: Women in Blockchain
Although having a diverse workforce makes a company more profitable, the number of women in the tech industry is still increasing at a slow pace. Girls tend to opt out of the STEM career track at an early age, and women often leave the field early for any number of reasons including a lack of role models, unconscious bias in teaching, unfriendly work environments and long entrenched gender norms.
Panelists at the recent Women in Blockchain event hosted by Ripple’s University Blockchain Research Initiative (UBRI) reinforced the need to address these challenges, but also highlighted the unusually high level of gender diversity already in the blockchain industry. The discussion, held on International Women’s Day, provided a view into some of the leading women contributing to the field today and outlined ways to engage even more women in technology and blockchain tomorrow.
Jocelyn Weber, Director of the Blockchain Xcelerator & X-Labs at Berkeley Engineering, sees a next generation of women coming to the fore. One of the reasons that blockchain might present a more powerful opening for women is because it involves more than coding. Blockchain touches a number of disciplines beyond traditional STEM fields and can be used in a wide range of applications.
Dr. Floran Syler-Wood of the Blockchain Learner Podcast and Associate Professor of Accounting and Data Analytics at Stillman College said this diverse range of in-demand skills and the fact that STEM is not a prerequisite means female entrepreneurs, supply chain experts, finance professionals and other occupational backgrounds can all be vital contributors to the industry. And the fact that it’s so new means there are chances to get in on the ground floor with novel ideas that have a chance to make a profound difference.
For those interested in blockchain careers, the panelists suggested women seek out educational opportunities, look into university groups and network as much as possible. Tal Rabin, a UPenn Professor of Cryptography & Head of Research at the Algorand Foundation, said networking groups are powerful because they provide a sense of community and a place to discuss ideas and resources.
In particular, LinkedIn was highlighted for its many blockchain groups. UC Berkeley’s she256 (which plays on the SHA-256 hash function used in blockchain) also offers a global community of women interested in learning more about blockchain. And learning about blockchain through edX, Coursera or even Dr. Syler-Woods’ podcast can all be effective ways to build expertise.
Rabin says it’s also critical that women already in the field serve as role models. By being a visible participant, blockchain becomes more welcoming to other women and helps to shift attitudes and perceptions.
Fortunately, Weber says the overall barriers to entry in technology and blockchain are much lower now than they were decades ago. That’s good news for the entire industry as more women with more varied backgrounds can begin to launch careers into the sector.