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Blockchain: Including and Empowering Women

By Jane Thomason

I say to young women, “Embrace technology, it is your future.” I want to empower women, young and old to take their place in the world and be the change they want to see for themselves.

Women everywhere can be change-makers. Women nurture their children, look after households, and influence decisions in their communities. We are 50% of humanity – the planet is full of women who can change the world.

I know I can influence the creation of an environment for women to work in Blockchain and technology in the position I now find myself. I know that my other activities in the Blockchain and tech industry will have an outcome for the women outside of the industry and that is gratifying. I will continue to encourage women to embrace this ideal area that allows flexible working hours and lends itself to allowing them to lead fulfilled family lives and rear children.

The rapid emergence of new use cases using Blockchain technology provides ample opportunity for new players in the market every day. Collectively I want to encourage women and girls across the world to create their own future by educating them and giving them access to technology. It is not a question of if we can do it, we must do it. The future for the next generation of women can be written by them and not dictated as it has been for so many years.

Governments need to embrace the fourth industrial revolution with new thinking to accelerate the education process in these rapidly developing technologies. Coding must become a ubiquitous language that all children learn when they start their formal schooling. School curricula have to change from the archaic model it follows in most countries. The techniques of analytical thinking, problem-solving and global awareness, including digital technologies and coding, have to be introduced from day one at all schools for boys and girls. If it is gender-neutral it will end gender bias and be fully inclusive for the girls who have been excluded in the past.

So what can we do today to create inclusion?

The challenges that women face in the tech industry today can be eliminated by creating some new stereotypes for women in tech who are smart and managing both tech and motherhood. There are some awesome ‘Women in Blockchain’ role models already. ‘People of Blockchain’ is profiling the Blockchain community; we need to do that for women around the world. We must find female tech entrepreneurs across the globe and profile them. Women need more positive role models; schools need to encourage girls into STEM and entrepreneurship. Women need to be more resilient and less concerned about what others think. Successful women need to give time to mentor younger women and help them succeed. Women need flexible working conditions and access to child care.

The tech industry needs to be made aware of the available pool of women in the Blockchain community across the world and even more so, those who want to enter this industry. They need access to funding and a support structure that encourages women with great ideas to initiate a project and raise money. Crypto and other venture funds targeted at female founders are needed.

Women will design and develop tech products and services which will benefit women; creating new markets, boosting innovation and economic growth. The move is on to create this new collective environment as the ‘Global Women in Blockchain’ and other groups are doing. Women in Blockchain events have been successful in engaging women. I have been part of several of them and found them to be a great platform to craft this connected, supportive community where there is a genuine and warm desire to share and learn. They create the opportunity to showcase the depth of talent involved already across the spectrum of regulation, real estate, media, government, social good and more.

Keeping with the common thread theme, I was so encouraged by every meet up to find compassion woven into the fabric of the Women in Blockchain movement compared with the general Blockchain events with their cocktail of excitement, hype, greed and expectation without any common thread throughout.

Although I must admit that generally, the tone of Blockchain conferences is positive, world-changing technology for common good does pervade the topics. The women have cultivated a Blockchain culture to shepherd compassion through the application in their projects. I am pleased to say that the movement is cloaked in diversity, inclusion, connection, supporting, encouraging and enabling women to work in the industry to empower a new generation of girls in tech. The message is being carried out into the world on social media through Miss Blockchain, Girls Who Code, Women in Blockchain, Telegram and Slack channels, providing connectivity and a voice to the movement. I am trusting that this will snowball.

I am continually inspired by the benefits that Blockchain can bring to the Bottom Billion ‘invisible’ people on this planet. Getting back to the Bottom Billion; take the scenario of a poor woman who does not have electricity, a bank account, or an ID and lives in a remote location.

I gave an example of the cost (both financial and time) for people who are not financially included to receive money. In my example a relative sent a woman $200 through a bank. She had to walk or take public transport, which cost money, to the nearest town. The bank took 15% ($30), and then she had to walk home or take public transport. If she took public transport this could cost her $40 each way. Besides the time taken to get to the bank and back she ends up with a meagre $90.

Taking this same scenario and applying Fintech and Blockchain technology with a 2G mobile phone, this woman could access her money in seconds at a cost of a few cents. Besides the possibility of providing her with a host of advantages she never could have imagined. Like a digital identity, micro-grid solar power, direct access to sell products and handicrafts globally, crowdfunding money for projects, medical care and government subsidy payments.

The message to governments is that empowering women will empower the nation. She will invest in her family and her community. Educated women are more likely to contribute to economic growth.

Studies as early as 2010 showed that a simple mobile phone in the hands of a woman in the developing world can transform their lives forever and bring about financial gain for that country. The results showed that 77% of women surveyed used the internet to further their education. The report found that with US$150 million, girls and women could create a market opportunity of between US$50 Billion and US$70 Billion using the internet which translated to an estimated annual contribution of US$13 to US$18 Billion to a developing countries’ GDP.

The potential for technology to improve the lives of women and girls is immense. As women, we can all add our weight to collaborate and realise the potential of technology to advance the job of inclusion for poor women and girls globally.

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