Crypto might represent the future of finance, but the fast-growing digital-asset industry still suffers from an age-old problem: a lack of gender diversity.
One women-led group is trying to improve the situation, fielding a presence at last week's conference for the Avalanche blockchain and at the ETHDenver conference in February. H.E.R. DAO is a woman-led decentralized autonomous organization that is focusing on increasing gender diversity in blockchain ecosystems. The group has sponsored "Hacker Houses" for women developers across the world, and the goal is more "versatile, holistic innovations," according to its website.
Just as in traditional finance, where women have historically struggled to match their male counterparts’ rates in investing, men also dominate crypto investing. According to a study from CNBC and an Acorn Next Gen Investor survey in August 2021, men are twice as likely as women to invest in cryptocurrencies. Another report found that fewer than 5% of crypto entrepreneurs are female.
Attempting to tackle the lack of female participation in crypto, H.E.R. DAO creates safe spaces for women while organizing Hacker Houses, meetups, hackathons and conference participation for women in the space. The group also caters to trans women and non-binary audiences, according to the website.
Avalanche blockchain conference
Most recently, H.E.R. DAO members attended last week's Avalanche Summit in Barcelona. Avalanche’s conference tickets cost around $600 plus travel expenses, making it costly for most. Avalanche sponsored H.E.R. DAO’s Hacker House in Barcelona and also funded 25 women developers from the decentralized autonomous organization to attend the summit in-person.
Tracey Bowen, founder of H.E.R. DAO, attended the summit along with the 25 DAO members and organized a Hacker House as part of the wider Avalanche Hackathon that happened across three days after the conference.
A Hacker House consists of a group of developers building and working on a problem or creating a project within a short period of time. The goal is to come up with a solution that can either be the beginning of a startup or a prototype that participants then work on.
Bowen said the Hacker House was a huge success, with one of H.E.R. DAO’s teams (MatchMe.NFT) winning two prizes.
Gender diversity at crypto conferences
When it comes to crypto conferences, Bowen believes that more needs to be done to incorporate more women. At the Avalanche Summit, Bowen said that “although there are more women here than there would have been five years ago, most attendees are still male.” She said there needs to be more women-focused environments like H.E.R. DAO’s Hacker House.
In an interview with CoinDesk, Jay Kurahashi-Sofue, vice president of marketing at Ava Labs and who helped organize the Avalanche Summit in Barcelona, said it was extremely important to include female voices at the summit and make sure anyone who wanted to attend, could, despite their financial background.
Out of the 60 panels at the conference, 48% of the panels had female speakers, according to data from Ava Labs.
In terms of attendees, Ava Labs could not provide demographic information on attendance because it did not collect data from ticket holders.
This was not the first Hacker House that Bowen organized. In February, H.E.R. DAO hosted its first Hacker House at ETHDenver, where the open-source blockchain Harmony funded travel scholarships to bring 150 women to the event. Most recently, the DAO hosted a Hacker House in Brazil with Binance’s Trust Wallet, which Harmony also funded.
“There were no barriers to entry. We were able to get people from all corners of the globe,” said Bowen. Bowen stressed the importance of making crypto a welcoming industry for marginalized communities. “Mass adoption in crypto will not happen without inclusion,” Bowen said.
Bowen said she plans to establish permanent Hacker Houses for women in Africa and Lisbon.
The leader in news and information on cryptocurrency, digital assets and the future of money, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups. As part of their compensation, certain CoinDesk employees, including editorial employees, may receive exposure to DCG equity in the form of stock appreciation rights, which vest over a multi-year period. CoinDesk journalists are not allowed to purchase stock outright in DCG.