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She thought she was attending the blockchain event as an equal, but her colleagues saw things differently.
Editor's note: This is an opinion column written by a key opinion leader in healthcare technology, who's responding to a broader discussion on gender and blockchain that has been taking place across the internet. This is not a news story.
Last October, on an invitation from a colleague, I attended an event for blockchain thought leaders. I was flattered to be included. Although I’m quite visible in the blockchain community, I don’t know if I’ve ever thought of myself as a thought leader. Don’t those people wear tweed?
Typical for me, I arrived at the meeting well ahead of everyone. The event was held at a trendy craft brewer’s restaurant-meets-incubator. It was quite the concept and quite the interesting space. I asked the host if he knew the location of the blockchain event. He body-checked me and responded, “The boys meet downstairs.” I wasn’t sure what I’d done to offend the guy, so I thanked him and proceeded to the lower level. Honestly, I might have expected the icy response if we were in New York, but this was Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love. Get brotherly, dude.
Eventually, 15 or so men arrived—and just 1 other woman. When my colleague arrived, he greeted me with, “Shereese, I didn’t think you’d have the balls to show up, but I did want to see the rest of you. Welcome to our man cave.” I remember glancing at the other woman in the room for some sign of solidarity in mutual mortification, but there was none. For the remainder of the evening, she seemed more concerned with fitting in rather than raging out. But that’s another issue.
I left that meeting angry. While I held my own on the topic, I remained silent about the atmosphere. I forgot to use my voice, and that rarely happens. But in this still emerging community, I find myself and so many other women where we were when we first entered the world of healthcare innovation—isolated. Men don’t include us because they don’t want us in the blockchain space, and women don’t embrace each other because we believe that there can only be 1 woman at the table.
The blockchain community has become quietly and deeply misogynistic. It has also gone mostly unchallenged in its embrace of bro culture and the manosphere.
Healthcare innovation has not gone unaffected. Conferences and conventions designed around emerging blockchain uses in healthcare are held as man spaces, replete with male-only panels and mostly male attendees. In an already male-dominated industry, this should be alarming. Women have gained footing in healthcare innovation and should see this trend toward the “manification” of innovation as a causal mechanism for outrage.
Again, I’m still waiting for the solidarity in mortification.
This manscaping of blockchain innovation hardly exists in the shadows. A great example is RedPill Coin, which is slated to launch on February 20. This initial coin offering (ICO), which promotes the coin as “power to the people,” has been in the works for months. With only minor setbacks, the brand is literally named after one of the most radically misogynistic communities of our time. Although some have challenged RedPill Coin as a scam, some women in tech and those who are in favor of inclusion and diversity have challenged the concept. Many faithful RedPill followers proudly display the MGTOW (Men going their own way) tag on their social media profiles, with one calling RedPill the “Top ICO of 2018.” Can’t we do better than this?
How, now, do we add blockchain to our already overburdened list of boundaries to be crossed? The Time’s Up and #MeToo movements have brought to light many issues still facing women in our society, but blockchain and the many arms surrounding it seem to embrace anti-female subcultures. Is the blockchain community too small to be concerned with the cancer that grows within? Should we assume that larger movements will eventually spill over into the blockchain space? And should women in healthcare tech shoulder this burden when we already fight so many battles each day?
I’ll simply state: If not us, who? If not now, when? If not through solidarity in mortification, how?