As the world celebrates Women’s Month this March, it is of great importance to recognize and amplify the voices of women making significant contributions to male-dominated industries.
We can’t overemphasize the underrepresentation of women in the world of technology and with the advent of blockchain and its most common use case, cryptocurrency, there is no doubt that this trend of male domination persists.
In all this, there are trailblazers and barrier breakers paving the way for an inclusive and diverse future. The rise of female founders and leaders is an indication that technology can empower women globally.
In a chat with Ruth Iselema, Founder and CEO of Bitmama – a leading crypto exchange platform in Africa -, we delved into her experiences as a female entrepreneur in the crypto space, and how blockchain can empower women globally while promoting diversity and inclusion.
How did you first venture into the blockchain/crypto industry?
I got involved in the Blockchain industry because of my interest in the technology and the potential it holds to disrupt traditional financial systems.
I especially loved its potential for social impact and financial inclusion for the average person.
In my quest to contribute to its development, my passion for creating meaningful solutions using blockchain technology led me to start Bitmama in 2016.
At the time, it was a P2P exchange that quickly grew into one of the first platforms in Africa that allows people to buy and sell cryptocurrency safely and securely.
In no time, I quickly realized that there were many other use cases for blockchain technology beyond just buying and selling cryptocurrencies.
We saw the pain points that users in African markets faced, such as FX shortages and a lack of alternative payment methods for cloud services and digital infrastructure.
With our keen insight, we decided to develop and test crypto cards as a solution, which would allow users to store and spend their cryptocurrency just like a traditional debit card.
After several months of hard work, we launched the crypto cards, and the response from the market was incredible. Within a few months, hundreds of thousands of users had signed up, and volumes skyrocketed month-on-month.
Our product has truly democratized the use cases of cryptocurrency beyond trading. Now, users can make regular day-to-day purchases online without limits, and this has created a significant mindset shift among users in Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, and even the diaspora audience.
As a female CEO in a male-dominated industry, what challenges have you faced, how have you overcome them, and what have been the most significant milestones in your career?
It’s not a strange notion that women have historically been underrepresented in the technology industry, including the blockchain and cryptocurrency space. As a result, I have had my share of unique challenges due to gender bias.
For most female leaders around the world, stereotypes and lack of representation are some of the most prominent issues we experience.
But I’ve learnt that great leaders don’t see challenges, we see opportunities to do more. I have intentionally connected with other female leaders in the industry to build a strong network of allies and advocates.
It’s my absolute pleasure to say that despite these obvious challenges, we have thrived as a company. This is largely due to the solid and quality talents we have in Bitmama.
As a team, we love to be pioneers of Crypto beyond Trading in Africa. It’s in our DNA to implement various use cases for crypto, and it’s a good thing, too, because we have that pioneering spirit to succeed.
We’re proud of the differentiation we’ve brought to the Fintech space in Africa through constant innovation and relentless focus on customer experience, and we believe our vision and mission reflect it.
It would be impossible to produce results in an environment as dynamic as the financial sector without extraordinary people.
How do you think blockchain/crypto can be used to promote gender equality and empower women globally?
I love this question! To begin with, I’ll say charity begins at home. The blockchain ecosystem can take a stand to continuously advocate for gender diversity and equality in the industry.
Beyond this, we equally have the potential to promote gender equality and empower women globally in various ways.
Take financial Inclusion for example, women often face financial exclusion, particularly in developing countries.
Blockchain and cryptocurrency can help provide access to financial services and empower women to take control of their finances.
With blockchain-based platforms, women can access microfinance loans and make secure and transparent transactions, which can enable them to start and run their businesses.
I especially love that blockchain and cryptocurrency can provide women with greater control over their finances and investments, without the need for intermediaries such as banks or governments.
Decentralized governance structures can also provide women with a voice in decision-making processes that affect their lives.
In your experience, what are some of the key skills and qualities needed to succeed in this field, and what advice do you have for women who are interested in pursuing careers in blockchain/crypto?
As a rapidly evolving industry, there are many opportunities for women who are interested in pursuing a career in this field.
However, some key skills and qualities are a must-have to succeed in the blockchain/crypto industry as a female leader.
It’s not limited to technical skills although it’s also important to know about blockchain technology, having business acumen is also a top priority.
The blockchain/crypto industry is a blend of technology and business. Having the ability to develop and execute business strategies is fundamental.
The cream of the crop is to have great networking skills. The blockchain/crypto industry is highly connected and relies on a strong network of professionals.
Building relationships and networking with industry leaders is important to stay up-to-date with the latest trends and opportunities.
For women interested in pursuing a career in the blockchain/crypto industry, I’d say: gain practical experience.
Seek opportunities to work on blockchain/crypto projects and gain hands-on experience. Be confident! Refuse to be intimidated by the industry’s male-dominated history. Believe in yourself and your abilities, and seek out opportunities to prove yourself.
What role do you see women playing in the future of blockchain/crypto and what steps do you think we need to take to ensure that more women are represented in leadership positions in this industry?
As women, we have a critical role to play in the future of blockchain and crypto. We bring unique perspectives and experiences that can help drive innovation and ensure that these technologies are inclusive and accessible to all.
To ensure that more women are represented in leadership positions, however, there are some criteria to meet to encourage more women to enter and thrive in the industry such as; providing educational and networking opportunities.
If more organizations offer workshops, mentorship programs, and networking events that are specifically designed for women in the industry, it will tremendously help women develop the skills and connections needed to succeed in the industry.
How does your company support diversity and inclusion, and what impact do you think this has had on the success of Bitmama?
At Bitmama Inc, we take a proactive and intentional approach to promoting gender diversity and inclusion in the blockchain/crypto industry.
We make it a call of duty to hire exceptional female talents. This is one of the many ways we promote diversity and inclusion.
We’ve created a work culture that is welcoming and inclusive of women, and actively seeking out and hiring women for leadership positions.
What initiatives do you think are needed to promote greater gender diversity in the blockchain/crypto industry
Hmm…, there are several ways to highlight the importance of diversity and inclusivity in the industry. It’ll help a lot if the blockchain ecosystem would encourage and support women-led projects and initiatives in the industry.
We can do this while also taking giant steps to challenge gender biases and stereotypes that exist in the industry by actively promoting and recognizing the contributions of women in the industry.
Needless to say, it would help women gain visibility and recognition for their contributions to the industry.
How do you think blockchain/crypto can be used to address some of the key challenges facing women today, such as access to finance, healthcare, education, and employment opportunities?
Access is the very essence of the blockchain and crypto ecosystem. Its beauty is the ability to empower the disenfranchised.
That’s why it can provide women with access to financial services and opportunities that were previously unavailable or limited.
For example, blockchain-based platforms can allow for low-cost and secure transactions, enabling women
to send and receive money without intermediaries regardless of their location or socioeconomic status.
If our health sector would be so keen on leveraging the decentralized nature of blockchain, health records can be accessed by patients and healthcare providers, enabling women to take control of their health data and improve healthcare outcomes.
Additionally, blockchain can be used to create health insurance programs that are transparent, affordable, and accessible.
At Bitmama, we take pride in the reality that our innovations are developed inclusively and equitably, taking into account the specific needs and challenges facing women.
We’ve deliberately educated women on the intricacies of blockchain technology even going as far as storming reputable institutions and campuses in Nigeria with our messages and solutions.
We plan to do much more in the coming months. We have a very diverse team as we provide employment opportunities for women.
What is your vision for the future of blockchain/crypto and how do you see it changing the world for the better?
Oh, I can assure you that our vision is progressive. And we’ve barely scratched the surface. We aim to utilize blockchain/crypto to continue to empower individuals and businesses in Africa by providing them with a reliable and secure means of payment that can be used globally.
To a reasonable extent, we’ve made astounding strides in accomplishing this with our products Bitmama and Changera.
We have helped individuals and businesses grow, improve financial inclusion, and reduce the barriers to cross-border trade and commerce.
Additionally, by leveraging the key features of blockchain technology, such as security and transparency, we offer our users a more efficient and cost-effective way to conduct cross-border transactions.
Overall, Bitmama’s vision for the future of blockchain/crypto is focused on promoting financial empowerment and unlocking new economic opportunities for individuals and businesses in Africa and beyond.
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