Crypto Knows It Has a Gender Gap Problem. But What’s the Fix?
More funding for female founders, improved hiring procedures…and time…could start to close gender gap, industry participants told Blockworks
Vikky Mir/Shutterstock.com modified by Blockworks
Though the crypto space is aware of its wide gender gap, industry participants say there likely isn’t a quick fix.
A study published last month by Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and People of Crypto Lab found that just 13% of Web3 founding teams include a woman. It defines Web3 companies as those developing applications involving the metaverse, blockchain and crypto.
The share of women at Web3 startups overall is roughly 27%, with women staffers often clustered in non-technical roles, such as human resources and marketing, according to the report. This level is lower than in the combined fields related to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), where women make up 33% of the workforce.
Some of the crypto-related gender gap can be attributed to the space’s origins from the male-dominated open-source developer community, according to Sandy Kaul, a senior vice president at Franklin Templeton responsible for advisory consulting and thought leadership.
“That’s where a lot of the partnerships and a lot of the collaborations have emerged, so there’s fewer women I think in that originating pool,” Kaul told Blockworks. “As these protocols and as these initiatives start to become more mature, that’s when you are starting to see more women coming into these organizations and ventures.”
Crypto companies know they face a gender diversity problem, and many consciously prioritize interviewing women into leadership positions, said Julia Draheim, a senior recruiter at staffing firm Proof of Talent.
Draheim too sees a shortage of women in the talent pool — a trend she says bleeds into other areas of tech as well.
“One thing I never see is a shortage of women being selected,” Draheim told Blockworks. “From my experience, the majority of companies in the Web3 space are actually more excited when they are able to interview and hire a woman.”
A matter of experience?
Emily Landon, CEO of The Crypto Recruiters, said a need for built-in experience from young companies in the crypto and Web3 sectors also accounts for some of the lack of diversity.
The strong women leaders within the talent pool that are looking to transition into Web3 may be getting “skipped over” for someone with prior experience in the space, she added.
“Most companies want to hire the right talent, especially when they’re not in a position to groom someone for the role, like most startups,” Landon said.
Franklin Templeton’s Kaul said many big traditional finance firms have sought to bolster gender diversity across their companies’ leadership teams via training programs and educational opportunities.
“But when you get into a smaller firm like a fintech, oftentimes that’s not a resource they can offer,” she said. “Then when you get to the subset of crypto, that whole problem becomes even more profound.”
An outlier in the space may be Binance, co-founded by He Yi. The crypto exchange’s workforce currently comprises 34.7% women employees, a spokesperson told Blockworks. Of the leaders reporting directly to Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao, 30.6% are women.
Binance offers women mentorship programs, talent workshops, educational courses and lectures to share industry experience and insights on how to break into a career in Web3.
The company did not comment on whether it has any specific women hiring targets it hopes to hit going forward.
Building the pipeline
Boosting the number of women working in the space is a two-way street, industry participants said, as companies wanting to bolster gender diversity must create an appealing environment in which women want to work.
Bob Lehto, vice president of people at Web3 privacy systems builder Discreet Labs, said he was tasked with hiring more women during his time as a human relations executive at digital wallets company BRD.
While in the role between April 2018 and November 2019, BRD hired roughly 20 additional people — resulting in an increase in the percentage of women at the company from below 10% to roughly 25%, according to Lehto.
“All the success was really because of the other female executives and engineers we had that were able to be candid and supportive to me so that they could call out my blind spots,” he noted.
Messaging, for example, on company websites and job descriptions, is one area in which many crypto firms can improve.
Replacing more “aggressive” words with “collaborative” language, for example, has been a priority at the companies Lehto has worked at, he said.
More firms in the space have also been adding lines to job descriptions encouraging people to apply even if they don’t think they satisfy all the role requirements.
“Once we had female candidates in the pipeline, they excelled in the interviews and were excited about joining the company,” Lehto said. “The bottom line…was helping paint the picture and having them see themselves at a crypto company.”
In addition to messaging improvements in job descriptions, having women executives be part of the hiring process is another key part of attracting women, the Discreet Labs executive said.
“As female candidates saw that gender parity of our executive team, it was a lot easier of a sell to entice females into the teams,” he added.
The funding problem remains
Beyond women as a percentage of the crypto workforce, funding remains a major hurdle for women in the space, said Serra Wei, CEO of digital asset custodian Aegis Custody.
All-male founding teams raise nearly four times as much, on average, as all-women teams — about $30 million compared to $8 million. And among Web3 companies that have raised more than $100 million, the percentage with all-women founding teams is zero.
“Obviously if less female founders get funded, you’re going to see less companies run by female founders,” Wei said. “Even if the companies get funded, the amount of resources is less.”
There is clear data showing that unconscious bias can sway funding decisions, according to the February report by the BCG and People of Crypto Lab.
“Put simply, all-male investment teams are more likely to back all-male founding teams,” the study says. “Given the rise of institutional focus on gender disparities in technology, some VC firms now require that investment teams include at least one woman.”
Where do we go from here?
Wei said a meaningful closure of the gender gap in the crypto and Web3 spaces is likely not going to come soon, adding it could be “a next-generation thing.”
That said, Wei, who founded Aegis Custody in 2018, said more of her executives now are women compared to when she started the company.
“It’s the women who see my commitment as well as my vision, and who become partners and then executives to take the risk with me and build this journey.
“We have to build the network and continue to support a lot of the other female CEOs and founders,” Wei continued. “That will accelerate what we see to be more of an equal [space] in terms of gender.”
Women who work in financial services — an industry that has put resources toward improving gender diversity in recent years — are beginning to rotate into fintech and crypto, Kaul said.
These leaders will begin bringing their networks with them.
“I think that you’re already starting to see part of the solution occur,” she said. “Now it’s just a matter of letting the time catch up with that.”
Don’t miss the next big story – join our free daily newsletter.