Venture investor Jalak Jobanputra wants to share her enthusiasm for one topic: cryptocurrency. Specifically, she wants to inspire a new generation of women to get involved with blockchain based technology.
Jalak Jobanputra recently held a summit for women and blockchain in the trendy area of Williamsburg.
Just as the neighborhood’s popularity was once written off as a passing fad (which has now become a cultural capital in its own right), Jobanputra wants to see women and cryptocurrency pass from merely buzz worthy to established.
Jobanputra’s summit included some notable women: JP Morgan blockchain lead Amber Baldet; Bitcoin lawyer, Carol Van Cleef; venture investor, Arianna Simpson; Digital Currency Group VP, Meltem Demirors; and startup entrepreneurs Leanne Kemp, Jutta Steiner, Preethi Kasireddy and Elizabeth Rossiello. The summit wasn’t based on pseudo feminist tag lines like “lean in,” but, rather, focused on the actual work.
Because the tech industry is so notoriously male-dominated, women are advancing feminism in a very real way simply by entering the blockchain field.
“I’m tired of hearing there aren’t enough women in blockchain,” said an exasperated Emma Channing, CEO of the Satis Group, an advisory firm for initial coin offerings. Another attendee explained her insight as to why women needed to get involved with blockchain and cryptocurrency right now as it’s taking off: “We need to make sure this phase of technology doesn’t go the way of the internet, with everything happening in one place, one demographic deciding how this stuff gets built out and how we use it.”
Throughout the weekend, the group tweeted about their blockchain and cryptocurrency discussions using the hashtag #FPVWomen.
The summit’s attendees discussed the pragmatic and logistical issues they had faced such as raising capital, hiring, trading cryptocurrency, developing blockchain code, and launching initial coin offerings. Given recent global and banking regulation that has hampered use of cryptocurrency, the women also debated the future of industry regulation as well as the relative benefits and drawbacks of public versus private blockchain. Of course, the adversity they faced as women was also a hot topic.
The field of cryptocurrency and blockchain currently mirrors the broader tech industry’s sexism and lack of diversity; however, as this industry is still so young, there’s time to change its course.
There’s no lack of interest in the field from women—a Meetup group in New York City called Women in Blockchain boasts more than 1,400 members and new groups focused on women and cryptocurrency are popping across the US and Europe.
The industry still leans heavily as being white and male. Female cryptocurrency reporters have described frequently being called “sweetheart” at conferences and workshops by male attendees. Worse still, January’s North American Bitcoin Conference only featured three women out of 88 speakers and an after-party at a strip club.
Signs of disparity in terms of cryptocurrency ownership are already abundant.
Cryptocurrency wealth is highly concentrated, with an estimated 40 percent of Bitcoin held by just 1,000 people. 71 percent of all digital currency is owned by men. One digital wallet company says fewer than 6 percent of its customers are women.
In order to combat this disparity and lack of diversity, the women of the cryptocurrency summit created a new body called The Collective Future. Jobanputra will lead the effort, which will include hosting quarterly office hours for underrepresented entrepreneurs interested in cryptocurrency startups and hosting all-female panels.
Furthermore, the summit’s attendees committed to a series of pledges called the Blockchain Inclusive and Diversity Pledge which includes efforts such as finding underrepresented groups for investment, hiring, and mentorship opportunities as well as funding scholarships for those groups to attend conferences.
Jobanputra believes the only way blockchain technology will democratize services like finance is if the industry encourages diverse representation and holds itself accountable.
“We recognize that these commitments are not the complete answer, but, we believe they are important, concrete steps toward building more diverse and inclusive workplaces. We hope our list of signatories will grow,” Jobanputra said.
After so much negative cryptocurrency of late, this summit offers renewed hope and faith in blockchain technology. For more information about women and blockchain, read What Blockchain has to Offer Women of the World.