3 women leaders share their experiences in the male-dominated cryptocurrency industry and what its future looks like for women

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3 women leaders share their experiences in the male-dominated cryptocurrency industry and what its future looks like for women
Klaus Vedfelt/Getty Images
  • 2020 saw a 43% increase in women working in crypto, an industry heavily dominated by men.
  • Three women leaders discuss their crypto careers and how to bring more women into the field.
  • They also discuss where crypto is headed and what it means for women.

Just like the startup boom in Silicon Valley during the early 2000's, jumping into a career in crypto is not for everyone. It requires a lot of commitment and time. The best reason to pivot your career to crypto full-time is because you are passionate about what can be achieved.

The three of us come from various finance and tech backgrounds, from big institutions to startups, but we all found our way into crypto.

And while it was hard nudging our way into a boy's club, crypto doesn't have to stay a boy's club. It's a thriving industry with over $2 trillion in market capitalization (and growing).

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Having women at the forefront of the early stages of development of the industry is a positive indicator for a future where priority goes to the right education and access for everyone to join this new crypto club. Last year we saw an increase in women working in the industry by 43%, according to a study by CoinMarketCap.

Here are some of our experiences and perspectives on the future of crypto for women leaders.

Leah Jonas, head of partnerships, Celsius Network

3 women leaders share their experiences in the male-dominated cryptocurrency industry and what its future looks like for women
Leah Jonas.Celsius Network

When I caught the crypto bug four years ago, the most effective way to learn about and start a crypto career was by attending niche networking events. While this is true in any industry, unfortunately, the gender imbalance at crypto events in particular has created and perpetuated a barrier to entry that often prevents women from becoming involved in the digital asset space.

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I went to my first Meetup in a bar in New York City, and I was the only female in a room of forty.

Unsurprisingly, the experience was not only intimidating but also off-putting as my fellow attendees were much less interested in conversations about growing in this industry, but were more focused on the trending news of the day.

While I did continue to attend events despite that first bad impression (and ultimately started my career on Celsius Network's founding team), it's easy to understand why many women give up on breaking into the industry.

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What's the right direction forward? Mentorship programs can be a path to inviting women and building more inclusion. Learning how to navigate a predominantly male industry is difficult, but it's made much easier with advocates on your side who have faced similar challenges.

Having a female-focused crypto mentorship program for women looking to get into the space or just beginning their careers in the industry would create a more welcoming gateway to entry and foster upward mobility and growth of the women who are passionate about building the next wave of fintech products.

While industry entry points have widened since that first event I attended, we still have a long way to go.

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Where is crypto going? While many are looking to traditional financial institutions for the next evolution in finance, I believe big tech will be the catalyst for growth over the next 2-5 years. While traditional institutions like MicroStrategy and BlackRock have started dipping their toes into crypto, their ability to stay agile and innovative in a quick-moving, ever-changing market is minimal.

On the other hand, big tech like Apple, Square, Twitch, and Facebook have adaptability and innovation in their blood.

The recent trend for big tech has been bringing their financial stack in house, like Uber building financial products for payments and driver payroll internally. I believe that big tech companies have the means to inject crypto and blockchain payments in a multitude of different ways into their already existing, foundational structure and growing financial products of their own. Most importantly, they can move as fast as the crypto industry.

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Catherine Coley, CEO, Binance.US

3 women leaders share their experiences in the male-dominated cryptocurrency industry and what its future looks like for women
Catherine Coley.Binance.US

Headlines have roiled hedge funds, and the bros of Reddit have seized capital markets, sending crypto bros into a chant of "I told you so."

The act of conquering has historically been a masculine activity, but let's really unpack this revolution, which included the Internet, a fervent community, and a justice-seeking thesis to protect the people as voiced through visual art, better known as memes. It's time to wake up and plug into our generation's greatest opportunity for women.

The muscle required was no more than clicking a mouse and the ability to connect the dots, take risks, and go. If these are the requirements to play a very active role in our economy's future, then ladies, it has never been a fairer playing field. We have a unique opportunity to define a new era of financial markets and make these changes faster than our predecessors.

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I share this not as an observer but as an active builder in this industry who has grown a team over the last 18 months, building an app, website, and API for Americans to access and trade over 50 different digital assets, growing the assets under custody more than 25 times in 12 months.

Women have a real opportunity to lead, create, and define how the world will operate and how the money will move. This freedom contrasts the start of my career on Wall Street, which took about 200+ years since the first American bank opened to place a woman at the highest leadership level. There is so much potential for growth and diversity of leadership and thought.

I've made it my mission to hire some of the best and brightest from diverse backgrounds at my company. Our head of business development, Rena Shah, started as a petroleum engineer on oil rigs and found her way into the crypto industry as a crypto miner (crypto mining is the process in which transactions between users are verified and added to the blockchain public ledger) with her knowledge of commodities and obsession with mining using clean energy.

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In crypto, we recognize that we all had a life before Bitcoin, and the creativity to apply what we know from prior industries helps us build for a more resilient and inclusive future. We are all so much more than our jobs. Still, I feel confident that digital asset management roles will help more people underrepresented in past industries have the chance to define the digital future on their way to financial independence and freedom.

What would you say to those who say this is bitcoin's peak and are selling now? The recent parable played out over Game Stop illuminates some of our current markets' ugly underpinnings today, reiterating the importance of building towards decentralization. But even before that, we've seen macro investors all summer of 2020 coming out and validating Bitcoin, with Ray Dalio most recently in January 2021 recognizing the invention's brilliance.

Beyond the market cycles, I would urge every woman to stay current and learn about this unfolding technology in our generation. Doing our digital homework and research before diving into crypto is critical to owning your future. If it consumes your thoughts every day, then you should apply that passion to the industry itself. Crypto and blockchain companies don't just need analysts and engineers. Companies like ours are continually looking for the sharpest minds in all professions.

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Georgia Quinn, general counsel, Anchorage

3 women leaders share their experiences in the male-dominated cryptocurrency industry and what its future looks like for women
Georgia Quinn.Anchorage

I have worked in finance my entire career and have frequently been the only woman in the room, meeting, or panel. One of the things I love about the blockchain space is the diversity I have found.

Anchorage has worked hard to create a diverse environment with an all-female legal team, three female department heads, and a growing number of women on our engineering team. Our former general counsel, Katie Biber, is now on the advisory board, utilizing women at all organizational levels.

What would you say to those who say this is bitcoin's peak and are selling now? Crypto is about so much more than the price of bitcoin. Do you want to be a part of the next generation of global finance? Do you like shaping the future instead of catching up? Do you want to make things better for everyone by providing financial inclusion and lower transaction costs? Then yes, now is the perfect time to jump in.

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I would urge everyone to do his or her research before diving into crypto. Learn about the up-and-coming projects in DeFi or the markets, and then decide where your skills can be used. Crypto and blockchain companies don't just need analysts and engineers. Companies like mine are continually looking for the sharpest minds in all professions.

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