MissBlockchain talks with Patricia Parkinson, an Innovation Strategist working with digital entrepreneurs, driver of the Blockchain Babes, a movement for women leadership in Blockchain, and a recent presenter at Tulip Conf in San Fransisco.
Q: Why was it important to you to start a women in blockchain group?
It was one of those synchronistic moments of clarity – you don’t know what you don’t know, until you know it. I had just spent two months diving head first into all things Blockchain and benefited from a Blockchain expert at my disposal as a pseudo mentor – as well as a thriving community in Chiang Mai, Thailand during the market spike in Dec-Jan 2018. I felt empowered, informed and engaged.
I took it for granted that the industry and subject matter was accessible and digestible for anyone with enough curiosity. When in actuality, my background in technology and finance gave me an advantage.
When I started talking to my female friends about what I had learned, I recognised that their curiosity was impeded by a deep-seeded overwhelm and intimidation around the topic. Blockchain falls at the intersection of tech and finance, where we know women struggle to hold leadership roles and lack anywhere near equal representation in the industry.
It also didn’t help that the predominant mass-market perspective is that Blockchain = Bitcoin and is only relevant to developers and traders.
Then I met Anette (my co-founder at Blockchain Babes). We bonded over our mutual bafflement in the number of women interested in the topic and our experiences in the male dominated social communities. We started to ask a lot of questions: where are all the women in Blockchain? Why do the women we know feel so hesitant?
If Blockchain is going to be actualised into a revolution that transforms the way we interact and collaborate as a society, I think it is our collective obligation to make sure there is room for anyone/everyone to be involved. It’s about understanding and opting into this the new paradigm.
We started Blockchain Babes because we couldn’t find the community we wanted to be part of – so we created it ourselves. We refer to ourselves as movement multipliers, as our goal is to build a movement that can grow organically through collective leadership.
Q: What things have you learnt through being a women in blockchain leader?
I’ve learned that to offer real value in the industry you need to lead from experience. I don’t want to be someone who exclusively talks about women in Blockchain, I want to actually have legitimate knowledge and experience to share. I want to be building on the blockchain, actively learning from others and contributing that perspective as a thought leader.
I’ve also learned that opportunity is abundant. Women have an advantage in the industry right now – there are few of us and demand for female perspective seems to be growing. Statistics from the website Coin.dance shows that women involved in Bitcoin were 3% in December 2017, 5% in April 2018 and now almost 9% in May 2018. That’s still just a fraction. When we put up our hand for opportunity – and have the competence to back it up – we will see that reciprocated, if we choose to seize it.
Q: What challenges have you faced that you weren’t expecting? (And how did you overcome them?)
One challenge I wasn’t expecting was the backlash from the community on creating a community oriented specifically for women. We believe that we’re creating an environment where women are more likely to gain the capability and confidence they need to determine their best pathway forwards. At times, we’ve been called out for being discriminatory or adding to the gender divide. We’re not trying to be divisive, but instead hone our approach to cater to the unique perspective of women entering the industry.
We’re trying to overcome this pushback by both educating others on the need for environments tailored for women and identifying that if someone’s personal values aren’t in alignment with our own, our community likely isn’t for them.
Q: How has being a leader of women in blockchain been personally rewarding for you?
What’s been rewarding is contributing to someone’s foundational understanding of Blockchain and expanding their perspective of the “bigger picture”. In my experience, when women understand the broader applications of blockchain beyond cryptocurrency, they feel motivated and confident to dive deeper and continue down the rabbit hole. Playing a role in this “catalyzation” moment feels incredibly rewarding.
I’ve also been rewarded with a variety of professional opportunities that have come my way since proclaiming my affiliation and interest in blockchain. While there is newfound opportunity in the industry in general, I believe there is an abundance of opportunity for women that understand blockchain and the the startup mentality.
Q: What opportunities would you like to see happening in the future for women in the blockchain industry? (And what are you doing to create them)
This is a great question. One of our primary focuses within Blockchain Babes right now is defining our core objectives: where do we feel we can make the largest impact? What impact do we want to have?
What Blockchain Babes is doing right now to create opportunity is educating women through our meetup events and growing a community for like-minded women to connect. In the future we can see ourselves developing educational resources, profiling women in the industry and being a conduit for opportunities with partners.
On a personal level, I want to see more opportunities for organisations to build their team with diversity in mind; integrating the female perspective as a priority. If we’re working towards society adopting Blockchain at large, we need to acknowledge women compose a large portion of society and their perspective is needed.
These organisations may need to proactively plan to train and upskill women that express curiosity and demonstrate initiative. We can’t assume that the talent pool in an industry so new will be developed already. This is an opportunity to establish a new decentralised approach to learning and leadership – fresh talent who don’t need to unlearn bad habits and outdated conventions to collaboration. A new workforce that can find the intersections between traditional industries and the possible applications of blockchain technology.
Q: What wisdom from your personal experience can you offer other women in blockchain?
The wisdom I’d love to share actually comes from my co-founder Anette around the question “How do you eat an elephant?”. The answer is “bite by bite”. The same approach applies to gaining understanding in Blockchain, prioritize time everyday – be it 5 minutes or 50 minutes – to read, learn, experiment and engage in the community.
Q: How can women join The movement?
Women can join through our online community on Facebook or attend one of our meetups in person.