Blockchain has come as a game-changer in the tech industry, having the potential to impact sectors including finance, health, and supply chain management.
As great as this technological revolution comes, it is essential that the leadership in this sector shows a reflection of society’s diversity.
Women are highly underrepresented in global blockchain leadership. A 2020 Deloitte report, shows that women make up only 26% of blockchain professionals globally while 7% hold executive-level positions.
This apparent lack of diversity limits the range of perspectives in the blockchain industry while also indicating what appears to be a culture of exclusion.
Despite this, women have not only broken through barriers to top positions in the blockchain industry but also demonstrated diverse leadership.
In this article, we bring you the thoughts of top women in blockchain in Africa, who will share their experiences of being leaders in the industry and the challenges they face in achieving parity with their male counterparts.
“Historically, females have been underrepresented in the tech industry. Blockchain space has attracted and been more open to women entering than other areas of tech, however, this underrepresentation trend has continued.
“Despite the growing recognition of the importance of diversity and inclusion in the sector. Blockchain is transforming how we think about digital engagements, decentralized infrastructure allowing for transparency, security, seamless interactions, or providing businesses with a new revenue stream.
“Male-dominated, with women significantly underrepresented in leadership roles. According to a report, women represent only 27% of the top blockchain startups’ workforce and only 12% in blockchain technical roles.’
“As an investor in space, these further stats are scary, with 4% of investors in blockchain space are females globally.
“A double whammy exists for females. Despite the gender gap, there is an economic one too. Given the increasing importance of this technology in our daily lives we either need to create seats for women or admit we cannot embrace change. Mentorship, networking, learning or simply being a student are easy. We require the next level of room to be created for women.
“Many working in blockchain are pushing for a bigger and brighter change in this space.
“A wise man once said, “It is belief and not an ability that makes girls think that blockchain is not for them” and I couldn’t agree more!
“As nurturers, women have the innate ability to make things grow, and this is the first reason why I think we can succeed in anything we put our minds to.
“Many things I have done, I have done “afraid” building up on my knowledge and understanding of the different concepts and use cases and even expanding my network as I move along.
“The barriers to entry have been greatly reduced because you can participate without any background education, but I also think the availability of structured education locally, maybe even in our schools will increase adoption, especially among women.
“It’s the future of skill and the skill of the future and I am glad I got involved when I did, as I now have the opportunity to hold the hands of younger women and girls and pull them up.
“Yes, women have been subtly discriminated against in the industry, I have witnessed some directed at me personally.
“But I don’t consider it of any importance to my goals, I think it’s inconsequential to the level of excellence I want to achieve and I just do the work and put in the work, whether or not I’m supported or encouraged.
“I think the primary external challenge faced by women in the industry is the challenge of “Trust”.
“Trusting that a Female Founder has the ability to succeed where a male founder has failed or succeeded in leading their company to success.
“I also think that another challenge internally is “Fear of mistakes”. Some women are afraid to just take the bull by the horn and do what needs to be done and “make mistakes”, some women are afraid of being laughed at for making a mistake or for facing opposition in the industry.
“The best way to overcome these challenges is courage, that’s it, do what needs to be done, irrespective of fears or doubts, and never compromise your integrity or principles just because you want to conform, and be bold enough to be innovative.
“It has been 112 years since the first March when women refused to “stay restricted to the kitchen and raising children, only” but insisted on being included in the marketplace.
That was on 19 March 1911, when the protest took place. Here we are today, a century later. Much closer to home on the 9th of August back in 1956, women of all races across South Africa: marched to the Union Buildings, in Pretoria, our ruling capital to make a bold statement to the government.
They will not submit themselves to an identity system that was biased toward them. A lot has changed since then, when those two marches took place, locally and across the globe, at different seasons.
Today: most of us owe our success and the opportunities we enjoy today to those bold women who refused to comply with unfair systems.
However, when you fast forward to today the outcomes are not where they should be, from a return on investment perspective.
Today: women make up only 1% of Founder & Decision maker representation in Blockchain and web3 sub-segments.
A century later: it is now up to us to change the narrative within our web3 domain, and hand over the baton to the next generation, where real change has taken place, not cosmetic change.
Here are the three TRUTHS we must be mindful of if we are to power that tangible change:
We have to be the best at what we do. Nobody is going to do us a favour, simply because we are women. Blockchain is a new technology, and that ought to be leveraged in an advantageous way, by us as women in this space. This emerging tech dynamic gifts us an opportunity to be among emerging experts within this space. Let us earn our stripes, and seize the moment. We cannot make any excuses, such as: male-dominated industries had age-old gatekeepers who kept us out, with insurmountable barriers to entry in legacy sectors.
Truth be told: certain doors open from the inside. Let us be those women that open doors from the inside for other women to access these spaces. As women who are early adopters within this landscape: making key decisions, we possess the power to open those strategic doors for women seeking entry into this space. Let us never be insecure or comfortable being a part of the 1%. Some of the ways we can open doors from the inside is through educating other women about what they must do to get into the industry. Secondly: we can turn the doorknob: by adding female developers and leaders to our growing teams.
Linked to that insecurity which must be done away with: we must stop being apologetic as women, as though we do not deserve to operate within this space. From our lived experience within our start-up: there have been scenarios where I would advocate for female developers to be added to our projects, only to be disappointed by the conduct of some female developers when my team approaches them with such opportunities.
For example, during one hiring drive: 86% of candidates that were reached by the post were women. However, from that percentage of women, less than 2% radiated the confidence we needed on our scoring matrix, to evolve them into the technical interview.
Men had no issue painting that picture of: I will find a way to win, I believe in myself, I am a solution creator, which is our entry point interview, before we segway to the hard skills assessment, through a more technical format of an assessment. Female candidates, despite appearing to be qualified on paper, came across as being apologetic and insecure, is what our overall assessment revealed.
No one will permit you to be great: if you need to be nudged along and motivated to sound courageous during a job application, then chances are you will need nudging and pushing along, during delivery on the project, instead of working both independently and inter-dependently within the team.
“We, unfortunately, do not have nannies: to look after men or women, we encourage self-starters that always find a way to win, and deliver results. In conclusion: the writing is clearly on the wall. The blockchain sector in its current format is increasingly shaping into becoming a male-dominated space.
“That will remain so until women step up to the plate to edit this narrative and trajectory, so that the baton we pass on to those incoming female leaders into this space, is different from how we found it.
“When assessing an activity list – a day in the life of type of thing – of a woman life, who is a blockchain leader like myself, in terms of where they spend chunks of time throughout the day: the kitchen will feature.
“Because I do spend time in the kitchen preparing meals for my family. However, no longer is the kitchen the proverbial prison it used to be, where I am expected to be restricted there, and not engage in activities elsewhere, particularly in the marketplace, leading from the front lines.
“Let us not wait for permission to be great and do great things. Let us not wait: like a sheep tied to a tree, for someone to come and “unleash us”, we can unleash ourselves and permit ourselves to be part of solutions in our day. How else would we impact our generation?
“How else would we inform the trajectory of our sector? How else would we send a voice note: through our intentional actions, to the next generations that says “we were here” and we made a measurable difference.
Featured Image(L-R): Lavina Ramkissoon, Modupe Ativie, Karla Obakpolor, Pretty Kubyane