I’d like to start this article with the punchline. I feel it’s much more important to tell you the why of the title without you having to wait for the end of the joke. And it goes like this: If the Lehman Brothers had been the Lehman Sisters then we might not have had the 2008 Financial Crash. Ba-Boom!
For the record, I’m not anti-men at all, some of my best friends etc, but right now the percentage of women working in blockchain is still in single digits. It’s a sausage-fest ladies and gentlemen, and frankly blockchain is too important to be left to men alone.
There are some theories scattered around as to why women are not invested and investing in this technology and opportunities. The main one is risk. Blockchain is seen as high risk and women are believed to be more risk intolerant than men. Funnily enough this information is based on data collected from the 50s and based on erroneous conclusions taken from leading questions, or rather questions that suited the stay at home women of that era. It doesn’t hold fast today so there has to be other reasons stopping women from flocking to this exciting and transformative sector.
For me the main reason for the lack of women in blockchain is the lack of women in blockchain. It’s a self-perpetuating situation. The ‘what I can see I can be’ in reverse. People find it hard to approach careers if they cannot recognise themselves in the role. Feed into that situation unconscious bias and it begins to make sense – and it begs, it behoves you to do something about it, if you love blockchain as I do.
Let me explain a little about unconscious bias and why it is important in continuing toxic situations - even the outcomes should scream there is something amiss. Unconscious biases are social stereotypes about certain groups of people that individuals form outside their own conscious awareness. Everyone holds unconscious beliefs about various social and identity groups, and these biases stem from one's tendency to organize social worlds by categorizing.
My favourite example is toilets in public buildings. You might wonder at the constant queue for women in crowded buildings. Why is that? Perhaps women spend longer in front of the mirror, wash their hands properly or merely chit-chat at lot. You could argue that typically equal space is allotted to each bathroom facility so what is the big deal.
Well, here’s the thing. Men have urinals which allow considerably more people attend the men’s bathroom. Then men have penises which speeds up the physical process of urinating. Women take on average 2.4 times longer than men to urinate. For starters they typically must undress and redress to facilitate urination and often they have dependents with them; children or elderly dependents. The solution – allocate 2.4 times as much space to female toilets. Changing all toilets to all gender access might work too, but those urinals are a very invention for speedy usage so maybe keep one or two handy.
Another issue in this unconscious bias is reference man. Reference man is defined as being between 20-30 years of age, weighing 70 kg, and is 170 cm in height. He is a Caucasian and is a Western European or North American in habitat and custom. He is used as a reference to calculate all sorts of averages. Don’t worry if he doesn’t represent you, he surely doesn’t represent women of any shape, hue or form.
So many inventions – medicine, phones, office temperatures - take their lead from reference man. As a result, drugs are not as effective on women, phones are too big for our hands and offices are too cold. These are all designed with reference man in the picture.
Consider crash car dummies, until very recently they relied on reference car crash man dummy with the result that while women were involved in less road accidents, they were statistically more likely to suffer more severe injuries (47%) or to die (17%). And don’t get me started on the seat belt. The seat belt was not designed for women, for their breasts, for their weight and height.
What we don’t see can be more dangerous than what we do. 100 years ago women got the vote and in most parts of the world it would be seen as normal and right; but 100 years ago the female franchise had to be fought for, tooth and nail.
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Ways around unconscious bias are to de-gender part of the process. A great example is to be found in the music world with orchestras. Here the general number of musicians in each orchestra is 100 and while some instruments are preferred by women (harps) and others by men (trombones) there is no reason why the gender balance should not be roughly equal. Yet, back in the ‘70s the makeup of the top five orchestras in US was 95% men. To address this issue blind auditions were introduced where applicants had to perform behind a curtain. This, while initially successful, needed one more modification. Applicants were asked to walk in their bare or stocking feet onto the stage as the sound of women’s shoes were more distinctive.
As a result, female members of American orchestras are today in excess of 30% and moving in the right direction.
Another profession that makes demands of women is politics. Traditional democracies pander for men or childless people. There is the old boys’ club, late night voting and generally unfriendly family work practices. In many countries gender quotas have been introduced with some degree of success, but as we live in world where 51% of the population are women we need their direct input into the legislation.
Gender quotas are regarded by some as a blunt instrument but they are proving capable of redressing a gender inequality by several generations as opposed to the estimated 400 years if left to non-interference. As it happens, the COVID19 lockdown has had an inordinately negative impact on women which is upsetting many positive trajectories but that is the subject of another article.
Going back to what we can see – sometimes more is not good. In this case the issue of naked women’s bodies in Hollywood. In 2016 female actors were three times more likely to be naked than their male counterparts. Consider the much hyped 50 Shades films. Billed as a women’s film there was much more naked Dakota Johnson than Jamie Doran. One of the directors, James Foley, explained that “It was not on purpose, but it was just where the camera was…”
In direct comparison the runway hit TV series of the 2020 lockdown Normal People featured almost equal nudity between the two protagonists. I suspect that was on purpose.
So, while I argue the unconscious bias makes us blind to inequality and we really need to have a conversation which will help remove the blinkers and progress better opportunities for women in blockchain, I will now rely on big data.
Over the past ten years there have been major studies undertaken by giants such as Nordia, Credit Suisse and McKinsey that examined the impact of having women in decision making roles in companies. To a man (sorry another pun) these studies pointed to increased profitability of between 20 and 30% in each case. Money talks.
And finally, there is one more reason why women need blockchain. If we look around the world and see which countries are best protecting their citizens in this pandemic the countries that stand out are New Zealand, Germany, Iceland, Finland, Norway and Denmark. And what do they all have in common? Their leaders are women.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, with the most powerful, transformative technology at our finger tips, is the reason blockchain needs women.