We announced on March 1 that this Women’s History Month, Trust Machines was going to feature some of the women who are building Web3 every day. I’m proud that our team is part of such an important initiative, as conversations about diversity will be paramount to building the Web3 ecosystem, whether in digital assets, the NFT space, blockchain, metaverse development, the creator economy, and more.
Ahead of International Women’s Day on March 8, I wanted to take this opportunity to share some of my own experiences in Web3 and blockchain.
What’s more, I also want to take this opportunity to lay out what I believe needs to be done for women of Web3 to thrive in the very ecosystems that they have built and treasure. While women are staking their claim in Web3, I'm not the first (nor the last) to tell you that we have a long way to go for women to flourish in the space.
I hope that readers of this op-ed won ’t just find similarities between our stories but that they also aspire to take action within their own communities.
My Web3 story
Before I became Head of Operations and Strategy at Trust Machines, I was the Head of Exchange at Binance.US. This was a position I held after years in the crypto space.
But I didn’t get my start in crypto. I was actually a drilling engineer.
I grew up thinking I wanted to be in petroleum engineering for the long run. That’s until I discovered Bitcoin and the power of blockchain technology.
I was drawn to the idea of digital commodities because, in the world I came from, commodities are physical assets that have real-world value and cannot be arbitrarily created. Oil, gas, metals – tangible materials that you could physically touch and see with your own eyes.
And on top of that, this digital commodity (digital gold, rather) was a totally new asset class that was decentralized and created to challenge the traditional institutions that we had come to know.
Bitcoin wasn’t tied to a physical asset, but a conceptual store of value created by code.
Its fungibility defied traditional markets.
Eventually, that excitement about crypto and its possibilities put me in the industry full-time. I did, however, find that I went from one male-dominated industry to another. Not only that, I was still one of the only women of color at any given time.
In some ways, this gave me a leg up as I was already used to really advocating for myself in conference rooms and calls primarily dominated by men. But as you can imagine, I also felt a lot of the same loneliness as there was rarely someone in the room who I could relate to and also a lack of credible mentors in the space.
These feelings have especially been pervasive for me given that I also come from an operations and institutional sales background in digital assets. In crypto, it’s still rare to see a woman – let alone a woman of color – in these types of positions, so there also isn’t a lot of the representation necessary to encourage more women to expand their roles.
That’s why you often see women in the industry siloed into particular tracks, many of which don’t allow them to pick up on the intimate nuances needed for investments, trading, and capital markets.
Which is a letdown because, well, operations and institutional sales roles usually offer a pretty solid path to executive leadership in a company. Unfortunately, the less women we have working in tracks that provide paths to leadership, the less women we’ll have at the top to really build the support networks and communities necessary for women to thrive.
That being said, I do really believe that Web3 can be a welcome place to learn and foster curiosity.
It’s just that if we want Web3 to be that welcoming place for everyone, we really need to address a lot of the limitations that many groups experience when they even enter Web3.
What needs to be done for women in Web3?
As you can imagine, I can go on and on about all the barriers we need to overcome, walls that we need to break down to make Web3 a more inclusive space for women.
I want to just start with two of my top priorities that I’m advocating for.
First, let’s talk about funding for women-led companies and projects. If you’re reading this, chances are you’re already familiar with the study that BCG X and People of Crypto Lab conducted.
The stats aren't great. To summarize, they found that only 13% of Web3 startup founding teams included at least one woman.
Not only that, they also found that women make up only 7% of Web3 founders, and they received four times less funding than their male counterparts for their own ventures.
That gender disparity is just one of many that shows how the lack of access to funding and grants not only discourages women from starting their own Web3 businesses and projects, it also leaves women who have started their own ventures strapped for resources.
In short: it’s rough out there for women founders in Web3.
But we don’t just need more grants and funds directed at women-founded Web3 projects. We also need cohorts and communities that are designed and led by women (like Chief for Web 2.0) where female entrepreneurs can be introduced to the right people who can support their projects.
Here, we’re talking about introducing women to networks where they can find super supporters and advocates who won’t just cheer them on, but will help them find and seize opportunities that will bring awareness for their projects.
The point I make about providing more resources and funding for women founders ultimately leads to something I brought up earlier: how many women aren’t in career tracks that roadmap to leadership positions.
That’s not to say there hasn’t been progress. In fact, many Web3 companies are making strides when it comes to recruiting more women for, say, policy, marketing, and media roles. A lot of their efforts have paid off and we have seen more women entering Web3 over the years as a result.
That being said, women are still underrepresented in engineering, finance, and operational roles in Web3. Those roles are also key for eventual leadership positions within companies, and the lack of women occupying them has, as I previously mentioned, also contributed to why there is a gender gap at the top.
We need to make sure that we provide women with the resources – educational and skills-based – that they need to enter those fields. We also need to ensure that those resources position them to thrive in their fields beyond entry level roles.
And of course, women need equitable access to those at the top.
Many women-led projects are definitely poised to be Web3’s next biggest disruptors. But they’ll never achieve that potential if they’re always left in the dark.
Building a more inclusive world of Web3
Building a more diverse Web3 is essential for the industry’s development.
At Trust Machines, more than a third of our core team is made up of women, which is already an improvement from many crypto companies. We do, however, aim to keep playing our part in drawing more women to Web3.
We want to build a Bitcoin economy that every person in the world can tap into. That means that when it comes to developing the blockchain’s infrastructure and subsequent products, we want our team to be just as representative as the people who will be using the products and platforms we build.
That’s why diversity is one of the most important topics for the development of Web3. If you’re building the next iteration of the Web, you need to remember that what you’re developing needs to be accessible by everyone.
In this case specifically, we’re talking about making sure that women are included in building the next stage of the World Wide Web. But of course, diversity in Web3 goes beyond simply including women.
A lot of what we’re doing at Trust Machines isn’t just about unlocking BTC's true potential (one that can rival newer blockchains like Ethereum). We’re also challenging builders from all around to think beyond the immediate circles that they’re building for. We’re challenging them to consider the true impact of their creations.
Most of all, we’re challenging them to recognize that building for Web3 involves building for everyone, not just the crypto bros.