In a space notorious for its “tech bros,” there is an uprising of decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs) looking to tackle the diversity problem of Web3 and beyond.
Female-led DAOs such as Her DAO and Frothy DAO are working to target areas of the Web3 space to improve inclusivity, which could apply to the rest of the fintech industry.
“There are a lot more women projects; there are a lot more inclusion and diversity projects. But I’m not sure how much that’s translating into women being in more leadership roles. It’s still pretty much male-heavy. Especially when you go to conferences,” said Tracey Bowen, H.E.R DAO founder, at the ETH Barcelona conference.
According to a recent study by Forex Suggest, of the 32 major crypto companies surveyed, 100% of the CEOs were male. Eight had governing boards without a single female board member. In fintech, only 2% of investment went to female-led firms last year.
“It’s like, whatever we do is still like a drop in the ocean,” continued Bowen. “I think there should be more resources and money put towards supporting more access for women. It’s better than it was, there has been some progress, but you can’t just get women in, women have to be in leadership roles in decision-making roles, and they have to be, you know, the ones maybe giving the money or making the money.”
H.E.R DAO supports initiatives to make Web3 more accessible.
H.E.R DAO uses the connectivity of Web3 to span a network over all seven continents. Despite only being active for seven months, the organization has multiple towers and funds education and development projects, pushing the inclusivity of self-identifying women (including trans and non-binary) in the crypto space.
“I think education is quite a wide term,” said Cassie Lawrence, WomenRiseNFT contributor. “It doesn’t have to be formal lessons. H.E.R DAO does a mentorship scheme that brings women into the space. That’s a form of education, anything that kind of opens it up.”
As well as the mentorship program, the DAO funds scholarships to improve the accessibility of women worldwide to the networking and developing opportunities of the crypto space. As well as this, they have industry collaborations with several diversity initiatives and have set up hacker houses and hackathons to improve female representation in the Web3 developers’ space.
Launching first in Latin America and simultaneously running projects in Korea, Nigeria, and the Caribbean, H.E.R DAO uses hacker houses and hackathons to bring women in the communities together, supporting the evolution of Web3.
“That’s the general theme,” said Bowen. “We want women to be builders because if we want the future to look like us, then we have to build it. Success for us means that H.E.R DAO doesn’t exist, and we have 50/50 gender balance hackathons without obstacles. There should be all the support and resources needed to fulfill creative technical goals.”
Lack of female developers restricts inclusivity
The lack of female developers is an aspect restricting the diversity of Web3 companies. In 2021, males made up 91.7% of the programming workforce, just over 5% were females, and 2% were non-binary. This poses a significant barrier to creating diverse teams.
“I wanted to build more diverse teams,” said Bowen. “And it was more difficult than it should have been to find non-male participants. I knew then that I needed to concentrate on building a diverse developer pipeline.”
The diversity of teams can affect the performance of a business. Many fintech experts point to the diversity of the workforce as a significant factor in creating innovative and successful companies.
Boston Consulting Group (BCG) reported that for every dollar invested in a female-founded business, the return is more than double that of male-founded companies, with returns of 78 cents to the dollar compared to 31 cents.
A survey conducted by INvolve also showed a significant positive correlation between diversity and financial performance. The most diverse workplaces, in terms of gender, ethnicity, and sexual orientation, are 12% more likely to outperform industry averages than the least diverse businesses.
“A lot of people just think diversity is a really nice thing to do, but it is actually essential for development,” she continued. H.E.R DAO has been heavily involved in supporting projects which encourage the increase of female developers. Their work in Nigeria includes the support of MumsWhoCode, an initiative that provides opportunities to mothers who want to pursue a career in coding.
A flexible working style may be critical for continued development
One of the primary reasons behind the lack of diversity may be the inflexibility of the ecosystem. Points of engagement within the Web3 sector require travel, such as conferences and hackathons, which many consider critical to a Web3 career.
“We must change this expectation that you always have to be on the road,” said Bowen. She explained there was an expectation in the industry for founders and developers to travel extensively to engage in the community. “A lot of women can’t do that. Women with children can’t do that. There needs to be some balance and sustainability in terms of health for women.”
Multiple sources pointed to the inflexible working environment causing barriers to entry into leadership positions for females. Networking and career enhancement opportunities, in many cases, require in-person engagement. Females have exhibited higher levels of burnout in attempting to keep up with their male counterparts while continuing with other responsibilities such as childcare that, on large, continue to hold the traditional expectation of being the responsibility of women.
Lawrence agreed, explaining that the expectation to attend in-person events all over the world carries an accessibility issue for many actors within the space, and there was a need for more interactive and immersive experiences.
Web3 poses an opportunity.
The connectivity and decentralized nature of the Web3 space — despite facing many of the same issues of diversity as the traditional finance sector — has ingrained in its infrastructure the potential to overcome these issues effectively.
“Even five years ago, if you would have said that you were doing a diversity project for women, it wouldn’t have gone down very well,” said Bowen. “The Web3 space is championing this egalitarian inclusive democratization of tech.”
Technological evolution and the upsurge of DAOs like H.E.R could take steps quickly. As an industry driven by anonymity and avatars, a level of inclusivity and lower barrier to entry in the Web3 ecosystem is poised for exploitation to create more diversity. Adjustments to the physical makeup, such as improving support of female-led projects and businesses and improving accessibility for networking opportunities, could be the push Web3 needs to create a fully inclusive space.
With over five years in the art and design sector, Isabelle has worked on various projects, writing for real estate development magazines and design websites, and project managing art industry initiatives. She has directed independent documentaries on artists and the esports sector and assisted in producing BBC Two's Venice Biennale: Britain's New Voices.
Isabelle's interest in fintech comes from a yearning to understand the rapid digitalization of society and the potential it holds, a topic she has addressed many times during her academic pursuits and journalistic career.