Though the blockchain and cryptocurrency industry is at an early stage of development, it is a fast growing field that offers tremendous career opportunities for women, women leaders in blockchain say.
“We have such an opportunity in a place like blockchain, where it’s new for everyone. It’s harder in industries where there’s a real incumbent to feel intimidated or lost by,” said Anne Fauvre, chief operating officer at Oasis Labs, at the “Global Women in Blockchain” panel discussion hosted by the Blockchain-based Service Network this week.
“We’re all learning on the job and everything is being defined now, and so it’s a great time to come in,” Fauvre said. “It’s a great time to ask questions, and to join the community.”
Fauvre was joined on the online panel by Medha Parlikar, co-founder and chief technology officer of CasperLabs, Harriet Cao, co-founder of IRIS Network, and Flora Li, deputy secretary of BSN Development Association. The event, organized in conjunction with International Women’s Day, was moderated by Angie Lau, founder and editor-in-chief of Forkast.News.
Crypto and blockchain technology-related fields are male-dominated. But the women leaders point out that its early stage of development and rapid growth present a unique opportunity for women to enter the space.
In terms of the inequality, China’s situation might be a little bit better than many of the other developing countries in Asia, but it’s still an issue, said Cao of IRIS Network, an interchain service hub for decentralized applications.
“It is caused mainly by stereotypes,” she said. “With perseverance and dedication and professionalism, we can win respect. We have to fight those stereotypes.”
But other characteristics commonly associated with female leadership can also work in women’s favor.
Women leaders possess nurturing qualities that cultivate talent and create an environment for teams, irrespective of gender, to grow — professionally, personally and technologically, said Parlikar, who has worked in software engineering and product development for over two decades.
“Attracting great talent and nurturing them and developing them and giving them a path for growth is a fantastic way to retain employees,” Parlikar said. “It becomes even more critical when you’re talking about technical talent.”
Soft skills such as communication and self-awareness also play a very important role in building strong and diverse teams, said Li of BSN Development Association, who is also a deputy director at Huobi Research.
The panelists themselves hail from a diversity of backgrounds.
Oasis Lab is a San Francisco-based company that launched the Oasis Network. According to Fauvre, Oasis Network is a layer 1, proof-of-stake, decentralized platform. Its low gas fees and confidential compute feature allow the network to be particularly scalable for complex and sensitive data transactions.
Oasis Network has been focused on enterprise, and is working with a number of companies — big and small such as BMW and Nebula Genomics — to help them with data privacy and data use, Fauvre said. “What’s been really exciting for us is bringing in people that really are new to blockchain and frankly, many of our developers of these B2B, don’t even know they’re using a blockchain — it’s really about the value that we’re able to provide and the guarantees we can provide by combining [confidential compute and data privacy] technologies.”
IRIS Network — whose IRIS Foundation is based in Hong Kong — is one of the hubs in the Cosmos Network ecosystem that aims to be the “internet of blockchains.” It enables cross-chain interoperability while providing modules to support decentralized finance (DeFi).
“We have the vision for IRISHub to be the foundation for next generation distributed applications. That’s why we are building the building blocks to enable like DeFi applications, so people can develop IrisHub with ease with this type of service interface,” Cao said. Last month, IRIS Network established an inter-blockchain communication (IBC) connection with Cosmos, a decentralized network of independent, scalable and interoperable blockchains.
CasperLabs, which is headquartered in Zug, Switzerland, is building out a new layer 1 protocol, with mainnet on the horizon and a token sale on CoinList. CasperLabs’ Casper Network is being integrated with Blockchain Service Network.
China’s national blockchain infrastructure initiative, BSN, which started in 2018, is a system with permissioned and permissionless blockchains. The system contains two largely separate networks — BSN China for mainland companies, and BSN International for the rest of the world. BSN’s hope, says Li, is to become the foundational blockchain infrastructure not only in China but also around the world.
On nurturing more inclusion as they grow their teams, Parlikar said that “having a mission, a culture, and a vision that everybody’s aligned on, and you’re marching towards, that’s extremely important.” “These can be very unifying things that help lay the foundation for your culture in the organization that you’re building.”
Fauvre said that having leadership at the top that reflects a diverse culture is important, as is recruiting to build diverse teams. Ensuring a “culture of radical candor” is also important, Fauvre says. “We want people to be questioning, challenging, pushing the envelope forward just as we all are technologically.”
And as the industry pushes the boundaries of technological innovation, these leaders are also thinking about building the next generation of leaders.
“This is the future, for our children, a stronger form of money. The digital currency is going to be what the future is built on,” Parlikar said. “And so if you know somebody young, and particularly if she’s a girl, put a computer in front of her, and make her sit down and learn a little something about how technology works because it’s going to give her a fabulous career when she grows up.”