Technology is creating and shaping the opportunities of the future. However, currently, the technology sector is characterized by a strong monoculture. While the lack of diversity is a general issue, this article addresses the low number of women specifically. Facts indicate that the deficit of women in technology and leadership positions is greatly impacted by culture and a vicious cycle of issues resulting from the existing monoculture. With DLT Talents (www.dlt-talents.com) we want to address this issue while the technology is still in its infancy. Blockchain technology has the potential to further inclusion like no other technology before. In order to exploit this opportunity, we need to embrace diversity now.
Authors: Denise Duve, Philipp Sandner
What is the status?
Technology is advancing at an exponential rate, and this will be increasingly reflected in the workforce. The opportunities of the future are within STEM, as the world is increasingly automated and technology-driven, i.e., designed by technology. Currently, women are still highly underrepresented in STEM education and occupations and even more in leadership positions. However, to create a sustainable and equitably future, engaging women and girls in science is vital. The 2030 Agenda especially stresses this for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
According to the CS Gender 3000 Report (2019), only 17,9% of board directors have been female in the information technology industry in 2019. Within the C-Suite, the gender gap rises to only 3% of CEOs being female, the lowest rate across industries.
The situation is even worse in the Blockchain space, where 95% are male. With Blockchains’ origin in the financial and tech industry, this is hardly surprising, as both struggled with the issue for years in many western countries, where a large bulk of the industry is currently located.
An assessment of the origins
Female enrolment in STEM subjects and occupation vary greatly by region, while overall numbers are very low, especially in ICT. The UNESCO reported a share of less than 30% of female researchers worldwide (data 2014–2016) and an extremely low ICT enrolment of 3%.
However, there are substantial variations regionally. UNESCO discovered a gender-equality paradox in ICT in 2018. Setting the World Economic Forum Gender equality data score in relation to the ICT education reveals that regions with higher equality rates, like Europe, skew towards lower pursuing for advanced ICT education. They were comparing Belgium with 6% ICT graduates and UAE having 58%.
As Rajani, author of “Girl decoded” explains it: “That is where the West has something to learn. In the US and UK, the problem is getting girls to go into STEM. In our part of the world, it’s cool to be a mathematician…” This explanation is in line with the UN campaign that claims “long-standing biases and gender stereotypes are responsible for the lack of girls and women in science-related fields.
Reshma Saujani, the founder of the very successful girls who code initiative and author of “Brave, not Perfect,” explains the deficit of girls pursuing a leadership career can be found in the upbringing and behavioral patterns that are passed on from one generation to the next. As she puts it, “most girls are taught to avoid failure and risk, to smile pretty, play it safe, get all A’s. “ Whereas boys keep being encouraged throughout their childhood, youth, and young adulthood too, failure is part of the game, and the rewards of embracing risks are well internalized. Those behavioral differences result in men getting into the board rooms, while females often look for opportunities where they know they can excel.
Staying in the game is hard work
However, it is not just important how many people are entering the space and are up for accepting the challenge, but the grown structures can make it hard to sustain a successful career path. Looking at Silicon Valley’s toxic masculinity problem, coming with discrimination, unfair compensation, lack of promotion, or harassment complaints, let many women leave the tech career (however, the lack of diversity is not limited to gender here). The issue’s size is also reflected in Google’s settlement that devoted USD310 million to diversity, equality, and inclusion measures after shareholders accuse of mishandling sexual misconduct and discrimination claims.
Why is diversity so important?
The lack of diversity is complex in its impacts. How adverse those impacts can be seen when looking into the rapidly growing AI field. AI is a categorization technology; it differentiates and ranks. Therefore, the initial input data and learning algorithm are crucial for unbiased results. However, the examples of scrutiny due to the wrong categorization of facial recognition technologies and politically incorrect language adopted by chatbots are all too familiar. Or virtual reality glasses that do not have the default fit for women’s eye distance. Those are just some prominent examples of what can happen when a small homogenous group develops the tools of the future for a diverse population. The chances are enormous that the efficiency gains will stay with the group that occupies and leads the field.
A shortage of labor and better performance
Besides the adverse impacts of the products, there is another considerable business case for rapidly addressing the diversity issue. According to business leaders, the skill shortage is slowing down the digital transformation and is also one of the most significant business risks of the future. According to the WEF, by 2030, there will be a shortage of 4.3million in the workforce and an unrealized output of around USD450 billion in the technology, media, and telecommunications sector. Hence hiring and retaining a workforce from a wider pool of demographics is essential for competitiveness. While in many businesses, the idea of social justice is the driving campaign behind closing the diversity gap, this might be the wrong angle. The McKinseys report, “Delivering through diversity,” not only highlights that companies are still not sure how to tackle the diversity issue, but it also concludes that there is a positive correlation between diverse leadership teams and financial performance.
Hence, with a more diverse workforce, the business performance should increase because the skilled workforce is on board to push the digital transformation, while diversity has a positive impact on the financial performance in its own rights.
Why it is the right time to start the blockchain journey
Blockchain has the potential to facilitate participation in the economy that opens unknown levels of inclusions. The technology stems from an underlying idea in which technology is used to replace a monopolistic economy without central control with the idea of a fairer, more inclusive world. While these ideas have weakened, it still holds a new view of the economy in a more democratic variant. It has the potential to solve issues which load is mainly carried by specific demographics, e.g., low-income workers with no access to the financial system, which happen to be mainly female.
So, we should ensure that products are built, and the technology is developed that holds true to its initial idea, and the key characteristics are exhausted through considering a diverse user base and embrace the whole potential of the technology. And we should start while the technology is still in its infancy.
The DLT Talents success story proves how many highly qualified and motivated talents are out there. All ready to pursue a successful career in Blockchain when they are provided with the right platform to get started.
To sum it up: While we cannot address all structural and cultural topics at once, we should address and enable where we have an influence. It is now time to overcome the typical female obstacles that Reshma Saujani pinned down so correctly, and also repeated by many of our impressive and achieved DLT Talents mentors that have accompanied us at the start of our DLT Talents journey:
- Start now, speak up, ask questions, look for people who challenge you.
- Find a supportive network and support each other.
- Embrace risk and do not mind the failure, as failure means development.
- Look for allies and mentors.
- Do not wait until you tick all boxes, just do it.
As Allen Blue, LinkedIn co-founder, points out, networks and supportive structures are essential in business, and those are naturally far more developed by men in the blockchain tech and crypto asset space. So it is time to catch up as the opportunities are there.
While there should be a cultural change at some point, where more women are in the boardroom, currently, you need to adapt to the people who are making the decisions to be the change and become the role model and supporter yourself. Break the vicious cycle, and co-design the opportunities of the future, as there is so much to gain.
About DLT Talents: DLT Talents (www.dlt-talents.com) is an 18-week free-of-charge coaching program with the goal to onboard female leaders into the currently male-dominated blockchain space. The program sustainably supports women in their pursuit through structured learning guidance, mentoring, and networking.
Prof. Dr. Philipp Sandner has founded the Frankfurt School Blockchain Center (FSBC). In 2018 and in 2019, he was ranked as one of the “top 30” economists by the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ), a major newspaper in Germany. Further, he belonged to the “Top 40 under 40” — a ranking by the German business magazine Capital. Since 2017, he is member of the FinTech Council of the Federal Ministry of Finance in Germany. The expertise of Prof. Sandner includes blockchain technology in general, crypto assets such as Bitcoin and Ethereum, the digital programmable Euro, tokenization of assets and rights and digital identity. You can contact him via mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) via LinkedIn or follow him on Twitter (@philippsandner).
Denise Duve is a Project Manager at the Frankfurt School Blockchain Center. She holds an environmental engineering MSc and a business degree. As a Blockchain enthusiast, she has a special interest in the technology’s potential for positive societal impact. As a project lead, she was in charge of the Horizon 2020 project BLOCKCHERS, particularly for the policy recommendation aimed to bridge the information gap between SME’s and start-ups, and policymakers. You can contact her via LinkedIn.
Credit Suisse Research Institute. (2019). CS Gender 3000 Report 2019. https://www.credit-suisse.com/about-us-news/de/articles/news-and-expertise/cs-gender-3000-report-2019-201910.html
Kaliouby, R. (2020). Girl Decoded. Random House LCC US
McKinsey & Company (2018). Delivering through Diversity, Retrieved March 17, 2021, from https://www.mckinsey.com/~/media/mckinsey/business%20functions/organization/our%20insights/delivering%20through%20diversity/delivering-through-diversity_full-report.ashx
Saujana, R. (2017). Girls Who Code. Viking Books for Young Readers
UNESCO (n.d.), Women in Science, Retrieved March 17, 2021, from http://uis.unesco.org/en/topic/women-science
UNESCO (n.d.). The ICT Gender Equality Paradox, Retrieved March 17, 2021, from https://en.unesco.org/EQUALS/ICT-GE-paradox
WEF (2020, January 16). Diversity is the bridge on which we can cross the skills gap, Retrieved March 17, 2021, from https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/01/diversity-tech-skills-gap-4ir-digital-revolution/