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Women push back against 'blockchain bros'

Blockchain, one of the most potentially disruptive technologies, mirrors the larger sector with low female representation. But these three women are among those who are disrupting the disruptors

Women are traditionally underrepresented in the technology sector, where only 5 per cent of companies have a woman as sole chief executive officer, and it is affecting company culture, potential investors and the balance sheet, according to the 2017 Where's the Dial Now? report.

The study, co-authored by PwC Canada, MaRS Discovery District and non-profit MoveTheDial , goes on to say that 53 per cent of tech companies have no female executives at all, and that "companies with greater gender diversity, particularly those that have women on their executive teams, C-suites and boards, perform better financially because of the variety of skills and approaches their people offer."

The authors note that "while # movethedial is primarily focused on advancing gender diversity, every single form of diversity and inclusion in this industry matters: accessibility, gender, LGBTQ, racial equality, etc. … By moving the dial for women, we aspire to move the dial for all people who are currently a minority in tech."

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One of the most potentially disruptive technologies set to likely have an impact on almost every area, from government to business contracts, to currency, is blockchain – an online, distributed ledger and the tool behind cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin.

But, like other parts of the tech sector, women have low representation in developing this potentially game-changing technology. Nevertheless, there is a slow pushback against the "blockchain bros" and the industry's lopsided gender gap to ensure this technology represents a more diverse population of both its developers and its users.

These women in blockchain say the time has come to disrupt the disruptors and not only put more women at the helm of blockchain companies, but empower female leaders around the world through the technology.

Melissa Quinn

Melissa Quinn is the corporate development manager at Right Mesh, incubated by Vancouver-based parent company Left. ALAN BAILWARD

Melissa Quinn is the corporate development manager at Right Mesh. Incubated by Vancouver-based parent company Left, it is a platform that combines mesh networking, blockchain and cryptocurrency to create a new way for people to connect and share data, without needing access to the internet.

"As with any tech, blockchain is inherently male-dominated, but there are some amazing women doing incredible things in the space, but I don't think they get enough credit," says Ms . Quinn.

Formerly in corporate development and human resources, Ms . Quinn has been in the blockchain space for just over a year and says that the applications of this technology are "boundless." It's this immense potential for the impact of the technology that drives Ms . Quinn to get more women involved in these early stages to influence its development.

"As women continue to stand up for themselves, it's putting more pressure on events or leaders in the space to recognize those accomplishments and to empower more women in the space," she notes.

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Ms . Quinn is also the director of the Canadian arm of the Blockchain Users Group, an organization dedicated to growing and connecting professionals in blockchain .

Elena Sinelnikova

Elena Sinelnikova is the co-founder and chief executive officer of CryptoChicks. CryptoChicks

Elena Sinelnikova is the co-founder and chief executive officer of CryptoChicks , a non-profit organization with a vision to address the "gender diversity problem in blockchain " that Ms . Sinelnikova has already experienced as an early adopter.

Ms . Sinelnikova , along with nine other volunteers, organizes workshops and conferences specifically for women that provide free blockchain education and encourage participation in the space.

With more than 20 years in the tech sector as a computer software developer, Ms . Sinelnikova says she was "going to conferences and there were almost no women there." She wanted to change that and began to design events specifically for women, "to get them interested is blockchain through education and having the opportunity to listen to women [speakers] who are leaders in the industry."

As a blockchain educator, Ms . Sinelnikova believes that women need to be involved with the development of blockchain technology, as they are a powerful force both as consumers and entrepreneurs.

"What I believe is that together we can propel this technology with more diverse teams and it will be adopted by everyone," she explains.

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The interest in these events has been "incredible," she says. CryptoChicks's largest event to date is the organization's upcoming hackathon and blockchain conference at the MaRs Centre in Toronto next month, which will have workshops and events geared toward connecting computer developers with women in blockchain .

Othalia Doe-Bruce

Othalia Doe-Bruce is the community engagement lead and external relationships manager at BlockchainHub, a research and development incubator out of York University in Toronto. BlockchainHub

Othalia Doe-Bruce is the community engagement lead and external relationships manager at BlockchainHub , a research and development incubator out of York University in Toronto.

Ms . Doe-Bruce was in the finance world for more than a decade, but in recent years she started to educate herself on the subject. Last year she decided to take a blockchain development course as part of her research and was immediately impressed by its limitless applications and potential for social change, particularly for women in the developing world.

Blockchain-based systems are already helping people in the developing world. For instance, according to the World Bank, more than 2 billion people lack the security of a bank account or any financial services, but last year the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation launched a blockchain-powered mobile payment system to help the unbanked .

"It was then that I decided to get more involved in the blockchain community," Ms . Doe-Bruce explains.

Through her work with BlockchainHub , Ms . Doe-Bruce has further expanded her own knowledge "and I've even been involved with a couple of startups, so it's been an exciting space for me so far."

But she says there is still much work to be done in blockchain to acknowledge the accomplishments of women so far, which, in turn, could attract more women into the space.

" Blockchain is really open for women to come in and achieve anything they want," says Ms . Doe-Bruce. "It's only the beginning, and we need women to help the industry move forward."


How does blockchain work?

Blockchain technology allows people to transfer information and assets over the Internet without any intermediaries such as banks or brokerage firms. The following graphic illustrates how a blockchain transaction works.

A transaction is requested (for example, a digital currency transfer)

Transaction

The request is sent to a peer-to-peer network made up of computers, which are called nodes

Nodes

The network of nodes validates the transaction

Verification

The transaction is then combined with other transactions to create a new block of data that is stored in a digital ledger using cryptography

New

data

block

Digital

ledger

The new block is added to the existing blockchain. Each block references the block before it, creating a permanent and unalterable record

Secure

ledger

OK

The transaction is complete

Alexandra Posadzki and

john sopinski / THE GLOBE AND MAIL

SOURCE: pricewaterhousecoopers

How does blockchain work?

Blockchain technology allows people to transfer information and assets over the Internet without any intermediaries such as banks or brokerage firms. The following graphic illustrates how a blockchain transaction works.

A transaction is requested (for example, a digital currency transfer)

Transaction

The request is sent to a peer-to-peer network made up of computers, which are called nodes

Nodes

The network of nodes validates the transaction

Verification

The transaction is then combined with other transactions to create a new block of data that is stored in a digital ledger using cryptography

New

data

block

Digital

ledger

The new block is added to the existing blockchain. Each block references the block before it, creating a permanent and unalterable record

Secure

ledger

OK

The transaction is complete

Alexandra Posadzki and

john sopinski / THE GLOBE AND MAIL

SOURCE: pricewaterhousecoopers

How does blockchain work?

Blockchain technology allows people to transfer information and assets over the Internet without any intermediaries such as banks or brokerage firms. The following graphic illustrates how a blockchain transaction works.

Transaction

A transaction is requested (for example, a digital currency transfer)

Nodes

Verification

The request is sent to a peer-to-peer network made up of computers, which are called nodes

The network of nodes validates the transaction

Digital

ledger

New

data

block

The transaction is then combined with other transactions to create a new block of data that is stored in a digital ledger using cryptography

Secure ledger

The new block is added to the existing blockchain. Each block references the block before it, creating a permanent and unalterable record

Alexandra Posadzki and

john sopinski / THE GLOBE AND MAIL

SOURCE: pricewaterhousecoopers

The transaction is complete


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