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Breaking the bank or the myth of blockchain brotopia – or both?

By Nisa Amoils From Forbes

If ever there was a question as to whether NY is the capital of fintech or blockchain, it was answered this week. Through a series of events from May 11 – 17, “Blockchain Week New York City,” anchored by headline event Consensus, included a first-ever Blockchain Job Fair.  Attendance was estimated at over 8,000 for the 7-day event. By having mainstream financial institutions attend and speak, and having now heavily invested in the first half of the year, one would think there would have been more stability in the crypto valuations (but the market tumbled).  There were jokes about the influx of suits in midtown vs. jeans in Brooklyn but most noticeably there seemed to be a growing up in adolescent culture through the diversity in the crowds.

Conference organizers had been particularly careful to put women on panels and get female attendance up.  And up it was! “Satoshi is female” they declared and wore Tshirts to match, referring to the unknown identity of the still unknown identity of Satoshi Nakamoto who is credited with founding crypto and blockchain. “We think cryptocurrencies should be built with a different values than Silicon Valley” said Nyla Rodgers, the creator of Satoshi is Female group.

Enter the Women on the Block Diversity event on Mother’s Day, which had over 400 registrants from all over the world, including 50 speakers from US, Canada, Japan, China, Canada, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, Turkey, Australia, Lithuania, South Korea, Norway and the Cayman Islands.  Topics included smart contracts, raising capital, creating startups, legal and regulatory issues and use cases. The day of learning and thought leaders had as its core goal to educate and empower women to become involved in the emerging and disruptive industry. The concept of having all women speakers was designed to highlight and recognize the contributions and innovations of woman across the blockchain industry globally.

The conference was put together by CKR Charitable Foundation, a non-profit organization whose mission is dedicated to supporting general charitable causes, including benefitting women in technology. The net proceeds from the event went directly to support girls and women in technology. It was put together by Alexandra Levin Kramer, ESQ., a partner at CKR Law and  Cindy Chin, CEO of CLC Advisor, a NASA Datanaut and fellow blockchain expert.

Tech giant Microsoft recognized the contributions by women in this field by bestowing several prestigious awards. The Corporate Innovation award which went to Amber Baldet, Clovyr Co-Founder and CEO, whose company brings the flexibility and ease of use of modern application development to the blockchain domain. Previously, Amber led the team at J.P. Morgan Chase that developed the blockchain project, Quorum.

Another of the conference’s award recipients was 22X Fund Founding Partner, Ashwini Anburajan, who won the Innovation in Venture Fundraising award. Ashwini’s company is democratizing access to capital by allowing investors to buy tokens representing equity across a diverse portfolio of startups. 22X is one of the firms which represent the future of the cryptocurrency market, tokenizing real world assets to spread investor returns and give entrepreneurs greater access to capital.

Other award winners included ConsenSys’ Thessy Mehrain, who won the Leadership For Good award and BlockApps’ Kelly LeValley Hunt, who took home the Hypergrowth Leadership Innovation award.   The award grantor was Microsoft’s Entrepreneur In Residence, Tereza Nemessanyi, who said “People often tell me they don’t know any women in Blockchain, which is surprising because I know so many and more getting involved every day.  This week was pivotal in cementing key communities of diverse movers and shakers. It is still early enough in Blockchain to enter and shape what it will be.”

The conference was filled with global blockchain leaders offering their sights and leadership to the attendees. Sheila Warren represented the World Economic Forum as Head of Blockchain and Distributed Ledger Technology. Perianne Boring, the Founder and President of the Chamber of Digital Commerce in Washington, DC represented the world’s largest trade association representing the blockchain industry. Working with policymakers, regulatory agencies and industry, the Chamber educates and advocates for a pro-growth policy environment that fosters innovation and investment.

On the investment side, I was so excited to see so many fellow female investors. Suna Said, founder and CEO at Nima Capital and of the Suna Said Foundation is committed to supporting girls worldwide through Blockchain technology application. Manana Samuseva, Managing Partner at BuroHQ, provided a look at blockchain tech with Cryptocurrency for office leasing and co-working space using Ethereum/Bitcoin digital tokens and  Pelli Wang, Head of Partnerships at ConsenSys.

The room was a sea of diversity.  It’s a far cry from Silk Road (the 2011 dark market for drugs which was the origin of the creation crypto because regular money was banned) and the Red Pill (a blockchain based crypto doing an ICO that was kicked off social media for extreme misogynistic   views so built its own social media infrastructure that depends on the Red Pill Coin) The origins of blockchain and cryptocurrency are part of the reason why the industry lacks diversity. The early days of blockchain and crypto consisted mainly of hacktivists and cypherpunks.  Fast forward 10 or so years, and look at the contemporary origins of blockchain and cryptocurrency: tech and finance—areas which are still struggling to become more representative of the population as a whole.

It is still relatively new so we have the chance to make the blockchain industry better than the rest of tech for women and people of color. With Blockchain we’re building an ‘automated trust society.’ Automated trust means equality and fairness so blockchain really should be the perfect space for inclusiveness

and diversity to thrive. The underlying spirit of the technology lies in opposition to rigid or standard systems put in place by conventional finance companies or the internet’s data monopolies by requiring people of any kind to collaboratively use a shared ledger. What this week could represent is the redemptive moment for tech and diversity outlined at the end of Emily Chang’s book ‘Breaking Up Brotopia.’

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