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Roger Aitken headshot

Women Have Always Been ‘IT Geeks,’ Yet FinTech Still Lags on Diversity

By Roger Aitken
IT Geeks

Not unlike other industries, the information technology (IT) field is stil male-dominated, and one doesn’t have look far to see the disparities when looking at the demographic makeup of IT geeks worldwide. Going by the industry statistics, things are beginning to change, but it’s happening slowly.

Women executives within the IT sphere still make up a very small percentage. At global Fortune 500 companies, their representation in recent years has hovered around the 13 percent mark (65 companies) for roles like chief information officer and chief security officer.

Women in IT leadership: much work ahead

“There’s absolutely further to go with regard to women in leadership positions,” particularly in tech, says Danielle Zimmerman, VP of the builder community at Quick Base Inc., a former Intuit division. But she feels the winds beginning to change.

“Traditionally, women have been less likely to be technologists than their male counterparts, but the future of work is challenging the status quo by breaking down hierarchical silos and decentralizing organizational structures,” she continued.

As the head of Quick Base’s builder community — which caters to no-code and low-code platform developers, who tend have less experience — Zimmerman has a unique vantage point from which to assess how things are changing. Today, 46 percent of builders within the Quick Base community are women - “indicating that women encompass nearly the same percentage of no code/low code application developers as those in the workforce,” Zimmerman said.

Further, as the future science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) pipeline diversifies — read: more young women entering these fields and yes, becoming proud IT geeks — the very nature of work itself is also changing, which can serve to open doors further, Zimmerman observed.

“In the future working environment, employees across business units — at every professional level and at companies across every imaginable vertical or sector — can identify as a technologist, which will open up more opportunities for women,” she said. “But we still have work to do regarding promoting more women to leadership positions and breaking the glass ceiling on boards.”

A snapshot of IT geeks: representation lags in the blockchain and crypto scene

“Recent statistics …. showed that women account for 14.5 percent of staff in blockchain companies,” Evelina Lavrova, founder of the marketing agency DeCrypto PR, said at a blockchain event in Zug, Switzerland, last year.

This alone sounds pretty dismal, but it actually gets worse when it comes to representation in technology roles. Actually about 80 to 90 percent of team members in tech companies are men, because the majority of employees are developers. Other functions in these companies — marketing, PR, human resources, finance specialists and lawyers — one typically finds women in these posts,” Lavrova observed.

Research from Longhash, a women-founded platform for accelerating the development and understanding of blockchain technology, bears this out. And the situation was even more unbalanced when it came to leadership roles in the blockchain industry: Just 7 percent of blockchain executives and 8 percent of advisors are women, according to their research. And 78 of 100 startups the firm examined in the space had not one single female executive.

If we look at past surveys and research on the global sphere for blockchain, which was undertaken by eToro in early 2018, this indicates that blockchain is experiencing a major gender divide, with 8.5 percent of cryptocurrency users being female,” said Elena Gutsu, a female director of the Digital and Distributed Technology Moldova Association.

According to Google Analytics, 91 percent of people involved with the Bitcoin space are men. Another survey conducted by Quartz found that of 378 crypto startups founded between 2012 and 2018, only 8.5 percent had a woman as a founder or co-founder. 

“This lack of gender diversity is also evident at blockchain-related events I’ve attended,” Gutsu noted. Indeed, The New York Times reported in 2018 that the North American Bitcoin Conference in Miami had 84 male speakers but just three women. The latter was upped by two more women to placate an outraged public, from only one originally. 

Surely, the slow progress is disappointing. But multi-stakeholder groups — many headed by women — are beginning to push for change, Lavrova said: “Many organizations, such as the Women in Blockchain Foundation, are now providing support.”

And with the blockchain and crypto space often referred to as the “Wild West,” which Gutsu describes as a place for strong and brave men,” she has a call to action for young women everywhere: “Girls, be brave, hurry up and step into this very challenging world! Otherwise, the men are going to get all the wealth!”

Image credit: Pixabay

Roger Aitken headshot

A freelance financial journalist based in London and a former Financial Times staff writer covering stock exchanges, transaction services and trading technology, Roger Aitken has written for a number of B2B and B2C titles such as City A.M., Investors Chronicle, FTfm and Financial News as well as newspapers like The Guardian, The Independent and with Forbes as a contributor.

Read more stories by Roger Aitken