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Blockchain and Gender Equality

Blockchain and Gender Equality

On April 25, Andreas Antonopoulos and others organize an event called 'The Internet of Money: Five Years Later' at the Music Box Theater in Chicago. They define the event as a live recording of the 5-year anniversary episode of the Let’s Talk Bitcoin Podcast.

I noticed about this event following Andreas Antonopoulos on Twitter. Once I visited their website (https://aantonop.events), I got positively surprised by a set of peculiarities that they had prepared. The event anticipates the same number of female and male speakers. Paying in cryptocurrencies is possible. There are free seats for people economically struggling. And there is a compulsory code of conduct that offers a "harassment-free event experience for everyone, regardless of gender, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, ethnicity, immigration status, nationality, age, religion, political affiliation, or socio-economic status." So I decided to tweet my remarks.

mytweet

Things that happened after are a lesson of life. Antonopoulos quoted my tweet and wrote: "Glad you noticed! The entire team worked hard and put a lot of thought into how to do things differently". At the time of writing this, Andreas Antonopoulos (@aantonop) has 400k followers. I immediately began receiving a big number of "likes," some insults and jibes, and a lot of comments.

Although I draw attention to four aspects of the event, most of the received comments referred to the fact that the meeting had the same number of female and male speakers. There were two different groups of comments, all of them coming from men.

The first group argued that as the Blockchain community is a male-dominated field (from 80% to 95%, but with no severe studies nor official numbers), an appropriate panel should represent the same percentage of women (it should imply no women or one woman in a group of six speakers).

Twitter user: "You should aim for about 3,4% female speakers if you want a fair representation of the community... ".

Some people in this group suggested that if women are not in the Blockchain community is because they don't want to belong to it, or the community is not attractive enough to them.

Twitter user: "Want to make 50%? Make it 50% attractive. It's about incentives, not enforcement."

Yesterday, I visited a startup that helps companies to develop technological solutions based on the Blockchain technology. Fifteen people working in a small space, all men. When I asked one of the partners why they don't have women, he answered: "It is difficult to find women that code, but we are going to recruit one woman in a Marketing position." I replied: "As a customer, I would not give you my development just because you are biased from scratch."

The second group argued that gender quotas are an example of reverse discrimination against men, as women would replace more valuable contributions from excluded men.

Twitter user: "Artificial equality is artificial. Sex quotas are inherently discriminatory."

The use of gender quotas as a method for fighting against the underrepresentation of women in some areas has been controversial. As the use of quotas means that there is positive discrimination, it is necessary to avoid its use during long periods of time. But quotas are an effective short-term method for increasing the presence of women in some areas. If you want to know more about quotas, I recommend you read the work of Drude Dahlerup (https://drudedahlerup.com/).

Why do we need women in Blockchain?

It is not only because it is fair. There is one simple and compelling reason. If we want that Blockchain becomes a mainstream worldwide technology, it is necessary to design it for the benefit of the whole society, and not only for men. This general purpose is not possible to achieve without women, as they provide different points of view and make different decisions. A second result has to do with the quality of the outcome. Diverse teams obtain better results than non-diverse ones. So, it is the interest of all to include more women in Blockchain. Michael Kimmel perfectly explains why gender equality is in the interest of all, men added, in this TedTalk:

An increased number of women in Blockchain makes easier that girls find role models and enhances vicarious learning. It also has a direct impact on higher levels of self-efficacy, i.e., a person's belief in his or her ability to complete a future task or solve the next problem.

But there is a final consideration to do. What makes to these men to believe that those seats booked for women are their seats? What makes them think that their knowledge is better than the one coming from a woman? Would they also complain, in the case an only-male panel, that those experts are not the six better ones in the world?

As a conclusion, a final remark: Gender equality in Blockchain is about diversity. It is also about justice, and it is about designing and developing a non-gender-biased technology for everybody.

Image from www.musicboxtheatre.com


Marc Rocas

I'm a researcher and consultant on the field of Blockchain.

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