If you are someone who participates, or even pays attention to the financial technology industry, odds are you have come across the terms “blockchain” and “bitcoin” at some point. Often at times, these words are used in association with other terms like “revolution,” “transparency,” and “crypto-currency.” One word which is typically not used in association with blockchain and bitcoin, however, is “women.”
According to an article by Fusion, “if you are a woman involved with Bitcoin, you are invariably going to get treated like an outsider.” Many women are reacting to the lack of inclusion within the Bitcoin sector by forming female-only bitcoin communities. The fact remains that many women, despite their efforts feel as if “the developers are solving technical problems, and ignoring the much bigger and much more important human problems.” They feel the gender gap is not addressed, and should be.
Even though women make up half of the senders, and two-thirds of the recipients of Bitcoin, they are still experiencing exclusion within the Bitcoin workforce. This blog post will explore the uses of blockchain and bitcoin, and will shed some light on the women who are shaping these technologies despite the obstacles they face in an industry with a gender gap.
Blockchain and Bitcoin: What are they?
Blockchain, for those who are unaware, is a type of digital protocol. Who is Hosting This? defines the blockchain as “a decentralized record-keeping system in which the users of the technology actually participate in managing those records.”
What makes the blockchain so unique is that it “relies on anonymity.” Instead of allowing banks access to the information contained within a bitcoin, “the transaction will be verified … by several computers participating in the protocol. Every computer participating in the blockchain has a complete history of transactions, so it’s easy to spot any inconsistencies.” The elimination of a third party, such as a bank “means the currency’s network itself checks for tampering and fraud instead of relying on an institution.”
Bitcoin is closely related to the blockchain. Bitcoin is the crypto-currency which is documented on a blockchain. According to the Bitcoin Magazine, bitcoin has a vast range of possibilities for use.
“Cross-border payments, machine-to-machine transactions, smart contracts, micro-transactions and stock settlements all have been discussed and developed. Nothing is off limits; no question goes unasked.” Bitcoin is perceived as a safer way to exchange money, and can be applied to a range of uses. “Bitcoin as a tool of transaction is growing.”
As is the case with many up-and-coming technologies, blockchain and bitcoin appear to be pioneered by mostly men within the financial industry. However, there is actually a growing community of females in the bitcoin and blockchain industries who shape, experiment with, and appropriate the technology in a variety of ways. Let’s take a look at some of the women who are helping blockchain and bitcoin to become to financial industry’s “next big thing.”
London Women in Bitcoin
This London-based community organization schedules regular meetups in which women in the bitcoin and blockchain communities meet and network with one another.
“Whether you’re a bitcoin novice who wants to find out more about acquiring and spending bitcoin or a woman already working in the cryptocurrency space who wants to meet and network with others, our new meetup group is aimed at you.”
The Founder of the London Women in Bitcoin group is Rhian Lewis, who wrote an article for Medium explaining why she felt the need to create a women’s bitcoin group. The group, which has grown to more than 100 members since its inception in 2014, frequently have meetups at pubs to discuss their passion.
“We provide a welcoming, friendly environment for women who may want to find out more about Bitcoin, other cryptocurrencies or blockchain technology in general.”
Given that London is a city which is a financial hub, and the home of some of the most innovative financial technology companies in the world, there are obviously a lot of men who live and work there, and participate in bitcoin events. Like Lewis says, “The problem is the public perception of Bitcoin as a “plaything for white, tech-savvy men.”
According to a study conducted by CoinDesk, out of 3,514 self-identified Bitcoin users, only 289 respondents identified as women. The vast majority identified as white, educated men.
- 4% of respondents identified as male
- 8% as white
- 4% had at least some college or university experience
- 4% were between the ages of 25 and 34.
Lewis saw the lack of female-focused groups for bitcoin enthusiasts, and decided to do something about it. “Some women who have turned up at the group simply to learn more have confessed that they would never have had the courage or even the desire to turn up at to an almost exclusively male group, whom they perceived as being intimidatingly knowledgeable, and ask beginner questions.”
Lewis also does not see the lack of gender diversity as specific to bitcoin. Instead, the issue lies within “technology in general.” In an interview, Lewis was quoted as saying:
“In terms of sheer numbers, I think it’s a crying shame that there are fewer women working in technology, and fewer women working in computer science than back in the 1980s.”
Bitcoin Women Magazine
This online magazine is especially for women who work with or are simply passionate about blockchain and bitcoin. The magazine features a blog which discusses the relationship between women and bitcoin. The site also features articles focused on bitcoin which highlight the latest industry trends, and a platform for asking all bitcoin-related questions.
One blog post I found to be particularly interesting on this site explores why men are more drawn to bitcoin than women, and was authored by the CEO and Editor of Bitcoin Women Magazine. In her post, Barbara Messer says that both biology and culture play into why there is a barrier for women interested in entering the bitcoin industry.
“This is a barrier for women, as there is no good source of information about these issues written/presented in a way that could be attractive for them. Majority of IT related publications are made by men and adjusted to their mode of perception. From my own experience it is possible to switch to this mode, however it required forcing myself and wasn’t something that I did with pleasure.”
The Bitcoin Women Magazine offers expert advice around the technology, supports a charitable foundation, BitGive, and features a blog for female professionals in Bitcoin.
Women in Bitcoin: San Francisco
Just like London Women in Bitcoin, this community organization provides an opportunity for like-minded women in San Francisco to meet up and share their common interest.
“Women in Bitcoin is a space for women and supporters to learn more about bitcoin, and build partnerships and meaningful relationships to promote women in bitcoin. This organization was founded by Paige Freeman of Bitnet and Helen Hua.”
This group is on Facebook, and assists women to find jobs in the bitcoin industry. By meeting with other women in the field, bitcoin enthusiasts can share knowledge, tips, networking opportunities, and cocktails. The San Francisco chapter of Women in Bitcoin boasts nearly 300 members, and meet up every couple of months.
Code to Inspire (CTI)
Code to Inspire is a non-profit organization based in Afghanistan which aims to bridge the gender gap in the Afghan computer science industry by opening a coding school for girls. This organization, founded by Fereshteh Forough, “aims to empower half of the Afghanistan population through education to improve the economy, while putting underserved women on a path to financial independence.”
CTI faced a challenge, however, when trying to figure out how to pay women who graduate from the school and find coding work. This is where bitcoin came into play.
“In Afghanistan payment processing can be quite difficult. Forough said that to deal with the issue of payment CTI turned its attention to Bitcoin… To make the payment process faster and more reliable, with lower fees per transaction, we switched to paying our users in Bitcoin. The use of Bitcoin is an important initiative for Code to Inspire, as it provides women in developing countries with a powerful tool that enables them to connect quickly and affordably with the global economy.”
Code to Inspire is important as it provides young women with opportunities for financial independence, financial inclusion, access to remote work opportunities, and of course, education. In the future, Code to Inspire hopes to see the infrastructure and platforms within Afghanistan improve so that more women will have access to payment via Bitcoin.
“What social media did for communication, cryptocurrency promises to do for women’s autonomy. In a society that lacks banks, blockchain technology like Bitcoin offers a secure, transparent way to add value.”
Women in Bitcoin on Social Media
It is no secret that platforms like Twitter and Facebook are perfect for like-minded individuals to discuss their interests. Twitter is a great resource for women who are looking to follow and engage with women in the bitcoin industry. Check out the accounts of some of the leading ladies of bitcoin, and give them a follow!
Freya Stevens @BitcoinUKmedia
Skye Elijah @SkyeElijah
These articles provide comprehensive lists of all the women making strides in the Bitcoin sector:
Top 40 Women of Bitcoin
24 Women in Bitcoin
Despite the influx communities which are being created by women, for women in the bitcoin industry, the gender gap persists. “As long as the Bitcoin community is dominated by men geeking out about the blockchain, it’s never going to be able to make the human connections that are required for widespread adoption.”
We here at Kurtosys are excited to see more opportunities for women in the bitcoin industry in the future. Did we miss any female bitcoin communities that you think deserve a shout-out? Tweet us at @Kurtosys or comment below and let us know!