Blockchain technology can be a catalyst for change. Here at Forkast.News, we see it first-hand as we cover the industry.
As we celebrate International Women’s Day today, we would like to put a special spotlight on some of the notable women who are making an outsized impact on this still largely male-dominated sector.
Here are 10 women who are movers and shakers in blockchain and cryptocurrency-related fields — from business to law to government — their accomplishments, the issues that drive them, and their insights.
Hester Peirce, U.S. SEC Commissioner
Hester Peirce is a commissioner at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, which regulates cryptocurrency companies as well as carries out enforcement action. Prior to joining the SEC, Peirce conducted research on the regulation of financial markets at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. Peirce was appointed to her SEC post in 2018 and is currently serving her second term as one of the SEC’s five commissioners. Peirce has been dubbed “Crypto Mom” by the cryptocurrency community due to her positive regulatory stance on digital assets.
Despite being at the top of one of the key U.S. agencies overseeing the crypto industry, Peirce points out places where the government has fallen short and can do more.
“The industry can expect the need for me to hear from them, the need for them to interact with regulators,” Peirce said. “At the same time, I don’t want them to spend all their time thinking about regulation. So, I’m going to leave with the note that you should continue to think about how the technology can be used in developing your projects.”
See related article: ‘Crypto Mom’ Hester Peirce calls for more regulatory coordination
Sheila Warren, World Economic Forum
Sheila Warren is part of the World Economic Forum’s executive committee as well as head of WEF’s data, blockchain and digital assets. Earlier in her career, Warren — a Harvard Law School graduate — was a Wall Street attorney. Aside from her WEF role, Warren is also part of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s Blockchain Expert Policy Advisory Board and World Bank’s World Development Report 2021 advisory board.
To Warren, one of the biggest advantages of digital currencies is their potential to increase financial inclusion among the unbanked and help lift impoverished communities around the world.
Last year, the WEF launched its Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) Policy-Maker Toolkit to help guide policy makers in their CBDC strategies.
“We moved from [those] still-early days conversation into what’s going on with China and DCEP, and then Cambodia’s [Project Bakong], and the Sand Dollar in the Bahamas,” Warren told Forkast.News in an earlier interview. “So this is now real. These experiments are really taking shape, and that’s really exciting.”
“We’re going to see tremendous activity, not just with DCEP, digital yuan, but there’s a lot of supply chain kind of work,” Warren said.
Perianne Boring, Chamber of Digital Commerce
Perianne Boring is the founder and president of the Washington D.C.-based Chamber of Digital Commerce, a trade association for digital assets and the blockchain industry. She began her career as a legislative analyst in the U.S. House of Representatives, advising on finance, economics, tax and healthcare policy.
Under Boring’s leadership, the Chamber of Digital Commerce recently collaborated with the Blockchain Research Institute on a 120-page report outlining blockchain technology strategies and recommendations for the U.S. government, and called on President Biden to take action.
“We do hope blockchain technology will be a priority. In fact, that’s something we have called for in this administration,” Boring said, in a recent interview with Forkast.News. “We need to make blockchain a priority in this country to ensure that we can compete on the global landscape.”
“Blockchain is not and it should not be a political issue. This is about technology. This is about jobs. This is about the economy and about innovation. It should not be about partisan politics on the left or the right,” Boring said. “I don’t believe we should see a huge change in the shift in administrations, and we wouldn’t want that again. We want to focus on the technology and the merits of what this brings to the economy, and not turning this into a partisan issue.”
See related article: How blockchain advocates stopped FinCEN’s ‘crypto wallet rule’—for now
Caroline Malcolm, OECD’s Global Blockchain Policy Centre
Caroline Malcolm is the head of the OECD’s Global Blockchain Policy Centre, where she leads the intergovernmental organization’s work on distributed ledger technologies as part of its Going Digital project. Prior to joining the OECD 11 years ago as a tax policy advisor, Malcolm was a lawyer in Australia.
At the OECD, Malcolm works with the Committee on Financial Markets and the Committee on Digital Economy Policy, made up of senior government officials from across OECD and other key partner countries, to explore the policy implications of developments in distributed ledger technologies, its applications and possible government responses. She also established and leads an advisory board of 100 global blockchain experts from more than 50 countries in government, private sector, academia and civil society.
In an earlier interview with Forkast.News, Malcolm said that one regulatory challenge was having to proactively balance the support of blockchain development while protecting from downsides.
“Clarity is extremely important if we want to see blockchain achieve its potential, and sort of the regulatory space at the moment, whether it be the national or international level, tends toward fragmentation,” Malcolm said. “And trying to bring those pieces together, I think is something that we will look towards achieving as quite an important way of making sure that this is a viable industry going forward and we can really hit the potential and perhaps overcome some of the challenges that we are now seeing from arising.”
Urszula McCormack, King & Wood Mallesons
Urszula McCormack is a leading blockchain and financial regulatory lawyer at King & Wood Mallesons, an international law firm headquartered in Hong Kong. McCormack is involved in several industry groups, including the Hong Kong Securities and Futures Commission Fintech Advisory Group and the Hong Kong Financial Services Development Council’s working group on DCEP/CBDC implementation.
In an interview with Forkast.News, McCormack underscored the need for innovation in legal thinking and regulation regarding digital assets.
“You’re talking about potentially regulating code and code developers; code that could be used for multiple purposes – some which could be lawful, some which could not. It means very different philosophies around the regulation of code,” McCormack said. “Some people say code is speech and is therefore constitutionally protected, which is a very interesting area, particularly because it touches upon not just blockchain virtual assets, but also automation and smart contracts more generally. I think the more enlightened regulators see how these things are linked, and recognize the need to look at them altogether.”
Isabelle Corbett, R3
Isabelle Corbett is the global head of government relations at R3, an enterprise software firm that has more than 350 institutions deploying, servicing and building on Corda, its open-source blockchain platform and Corda Enterprise, a commercial version of Corda for enterprises. In her role, the former energy and commodities attorney meets with regulators, central banks, and policy makers around the world, helping the public sector understand and shape their blockchain policies.
“The relevant regulators have to be in the conversations from the beginning. That has always been our approach,” Corbett told Forkast.News in an earlier interview. “And the conversations have really been, how are we using blockchain? How are we using its tokens as assets, and then how can they use it? And so we’re starting to see more and more interest from regulators on how they can actually use the same things, the same tools that we’re using in the private sector, in the public sector.”
Interoperability is also important because there will not be one ledger for all, says Corbett. “The fact that Corda looks different from others is a very clear reason why there will be multiple chains that ultimately are successful. But the users of those chains may actually be the same. Someone might use Corda for something, someone could use different platforms, other use cases. They’re going to want that interoperability.”
Medha Parlikar, CasperLabs
Medha Parlikar is the chief technology officer at CasperLabs, the company behind the open-source proof-of-stake layer-1 blockchain protocol Casper Network being integrated with China’s national blockchain infrastructure initiative, the Blockchain Service Network (BSN). Prior to co-founding CasparLabs, Parlikar spent over two decades in software engineering and product development.
“The way I see enterprise adopting blockchain is blockchain as part of a larger application architecture,” said Parlikar in a recent interview with Forkast.News. “Enterprises are going to take one tiny value proposition — one tiny piece of their larger system architecture — and they’re going to implement or pilot a piece of that against blockchain. And if they’re going to do that, that blockchain has got to work with all of their existing delivery mechanisms.”
“They [centralized finance] see the writing on the wall, they’re not dummies. And I believe they’re going to increment their way, starting with risk reduction. And over the next five to seven years, or three to seven years, they will start implementing more public-facing products using blockchain technology.”
See related article: Will new CasperLabs token take a bite out of high gas fees?
Emma Cui, LongHash Ventures
Emma Cui is the founding partner and CEO at global blockchain accelerator and venture capital fund, LongHash Ventures, where she drives the long term growth of the company’s blockchain accelerator and investment strategy. Prior to founding LongHash Ventures, Cui was a management consultant and banker.
LongHash Ventures is an investor in two of the hottest new blockchain protocols of 2020, Polkadot, which offers interoperability, and Filecoin, the world’s largest decentralized storage network. Last month, LongHash Ventures announced the launch of a US$15 million fund to invest in decentralized finance (DeFi) and Web 3.0 projects.
“We do a lot of dialogues with the relevant regulators to facilitate discussion,” Cui told Forkast.News in an interview. “And we also invest in technology that’s going to help them in terms of regulating, and understanding the industry.”
For example, one of the projects LongHash invested in was working on combining know-your-customer and anti-money laundering (KYC/AML) standards within the traditional banking world when it comes to dealing with cryptocurrency. “So we take this thing to regulators and say, hey, there’s these new tools that are potentially developing and maybe we can work out a way to help you guys understand how best to regulate this,” she said.
“The best way to regulate is actually to embrace and understand,” Cui said. “Things like this is what we’re trying to do to help to shape standards and help to perhaps address some of the impediments along the way.”
See related article: In Conversation with Emma Cui: Incubating Blockchain Startups Around the World
Leanne Kemp, Everledger
Leanne Kemp is the founder and CEO at Everledger, a company that uses blockchain technology to track the provenance of such luxury goods as colored gemstones and fine wine. The digital and immutable records can then assure retailers — and consumers — of a product’s origin and authenticity.
Kemp — a member of the WEF’s Global Future Council on Advanced Manufacturing and Production, and leads workstreams at the Global Blockchain Business Council — is also an advocate and a business leader who puts blockchain’s potential to real-world use to promote ethical labor practices.
“Multinationals need to establish several key elements if they want to be able to tackle the mounting issues of accountability in supply chains: a version of the truth that everyone can agree on, the ability to bring together a consensus between different stakeholders, and the security only an unalterable record can provide,” Kemp said.
Under Kemp, her company is part of an ethical labor collaboration that works with the Tanzanian Women Miners Association (TAWOMA) to use blockchain to record the footsteps of gemstones.
“By enabling gemstones sourced in TAWOMA to be tracked all the way from mine to finger, our solution provides an unalterable record of the gemstones journey, how it has been processed, and the legacy it leaves behind,” Kemp said. “It increases transparency throughout the supply chain, limiting negative environmental impact and empowering the female miners in TAWOMA to work safely, mine better and improve financial security.”
See related article: How blockchain is reforming the colored gemstone trade, from ‘mine to finger’
Christina Lomazzo, UNICEF
Christina Lomazzo is the blockchain lead at UNICEF, the United Nations agency for children, where she works on integrating blockchain technologies for social impact. The UNICEF Innovation Fund, for example, invests in open-source blockchain projects aiming to improve children’s lives through such goals as eliminating the global digital access divide.
“We’re seeing the combination of different technologies come together to make blockchain more powerful. Like IoT, devices with blockchain, tracking vaccines or things like probes that are able to track certain data to then put it on blockchain,” Lomazzo told Forkast.News.
Through its Project Connect, UNICEF has been working with countries like Kyrgyzstan on a project to test internet connectivity at schools. “Once [the countries] saw connectivity speeds or lack of connectivity speeds, they actually committed to bringing those schools online,” Lomazzo said. “It also changes the education programming that you’ll be able to deliver in those schools.”
“What becomes more powerful is when you envision Project Connect, and the possibility of clicking on a school [on a map] seeing it has no connectivity,” Lomazza saids. “The map telling you that it would require, for example, just a ballpark 10 ETH, to connect that school that you could then pay in crypto and in a few weeks’ time, go back and verify that the school that you paid to connect is actually connected and confirm the speed that that school is then received.”
See related article: Blockchain and its Potential for Social Impact with UNICEF