The crypto winter has been hard on everyone. With plenty of speculation swirling, alongside crashing valuations, scandals and floods of debt, people might feel dismissive about the future of our sector and Web3. But, during this difficult period, it is important to remind ourselves that it’s in these downturns that the best innovations are being built.
In times like these, reflecting on and celebrating the aspects that provide hope is essential. One of the things giving me hope for the sector is some of the trailblazing women leading it – and their vision for where the industry could go in the future.
Diversity is welcome in an industry where women currently make up less than five percent of crypto entrepreneurs and founders and less than ten percent of crypto fund partners. Women also hold significantly fewer crypto jobs than men, as early 2022 figures show the share of women working in crypto and blockchain was 26.5 per cent, which fell from 30 per cent a year ago.
Despite these figures, the builders who happen to be women have kept building, and as a result of their persistence and ingenuity, incredible Web3 ideas and innovations have emerged. International Women’s Day is a chance to celebrate some of the remarkable women pioneering the future of Web3 and their significant contributions. While there are many examples, I wanted to share three exceptional leaders from around the world who are transforming our sector in a purposeful way.
As the CEO of NEAR Foundation, Marieke Flament is a French-born computer engineer who has worked for companies such as Boston Consulting Group and Expedia’s Hotels.com. She was also Managing Director of Europe and Global CMO for Circle, one of the world’s largest crypto companies. On the occasion of International women’s day 2023, she shares her three favourite women leading the way in the world of Web3 and are unstoppable.
Iustina Faraon – Co-Founder and CEO, Coreto
Iustina is an entrepreneur with a successful track record and background in the digital industry. In 2017, after the negative experience of losing money due to the hype and fear of missing out in the crypto space, she was inspired to switch her focus and work on building a solution that offers greater transparency and clarity for retailers and new users joining the web3 initiatives. As her interest in the blockchain technology grew, this led to the creation of Coreto, a reputation-based crypto ecosystem.
Coreto is committed to improving the crypto industry for investors through its reputation management solution. The company offers two main products: a social platform where users can establish their web3 reputation based on trust and past performance within the community, and a decentralized reputation system (DRS) designed for easy integration into other web2 or web3 platforms. With the DRS, users can carry their achievements from platform to platform, building their decentralized reputation profile through their various activities, be them content creation, gaming or DeFi interactions.
“Despite the historical underrepresentation of women in tech and crypto, there is no lack of capable and driven female entrepreneurs in this space,” she says. “However, the industry has faced challenges in attracting and retaining these women due to gender bias and a lack of supportive environments. To change this, we must challenge the notion that women are not as technically skilled as men, and instead focus on their unique strengths and perspectives. This can be achieved by creating a culture that values diversity and inclusivity, providing mentorship opportunities, and highlighting the successes of women in the industry.”
Gnana Lakshmi – Co-Founder, The Phoenix Guild
On the theme of engaging a broader range of people with the wonders of Web3, there is also Gnana, who is a Developer Advocate at StarkWare and one of the co-founders of The Phoenix Guild(TPG), a community with the mission to onboard the next million female and non-binary builders into web3. She has over 7 years of experience as a developer, educator and technical content creator in web3 and over 10 years as a software engineer.
“One of the biggest challenges is lack of funding, to projects that started in developing countries like India and projects that are focused on education and diversity,” she says. “The other big challenge is identifying the gaps and building targeted programs for various personas. Women working as web2 engineers need a different kind of program than women who are just graduating from college and such. Whereas women who have taken a break from work and want to come back and start in web3 need a different program altogether. Building and sustaining more programs with minimal funding is a huge challenge.”
While crypto may remain largely male-dominated at the moment, men should not be the only ones who get to experience this new technology and the full scale of its potential upside. Gnana speaks about how solutions could include more mentorship opportunities; funding educational programs in developing countries; supporting inclusive events that aim to provide value; and increased funding for female and non-binary entrepreneurs.
Riley Tran – Country Director, NEAR Vietnam & Chief Investment Officer, GFS Ventures
Over in Vietnam, Riley Tran has been leading the local NEAR hub while acting as the Chief Investment Officer (CIO) at GFS Ventures. Through her work with NEAR, she has been helping some of the country’s brightest minds become world-class blockchain developers in an exciting emerging market with some of the best growth potential in Southeast Asia.
As the director of the NEAR Vietnam Hub, her role is to lead the efforts to establish and grow the community and ecosystem in Vietnam. This includes building partnerships, organizing events and initiatives, and working with developers and entrepreneurs to support their work and bring their ideas to life. The NEAR Vietnam Hub has trained the NEAR Developer community throughout the country, forming Blockchain Labs at universities and researching and developing Blockchain technology applications in digital transformation.
“To attract more women entrepreneurs into the Web3 space in Vietnam, it will be important to create a welcoming and supportive community that encourages and empowers women to pursue their interests in technology and entrepreneurship,” she says. “This can be achieved through initiatives like networking events, mentorship programs, and educational workshops and resources. Additionally, it will be important to raise awareness of the potential of decentralized technology and Web3 solutions, and to showcase the success stories and role models of women who are already active in this field.”
While there is plenty of room for more women to enter the world of crypto, it is fantastic to see how there are already exemplary women doing incredible things in this exciting new ecosystem. We must take today to cast a light on women’s contributions in the sector because, as the saying goes – you cannot be what you cannot see. It is crucial for the next generation of technologists and developers to see the potential avenues available to them as women in Web3.
Despite using International Women’s Day to highlight these contributions, I have faith that in the decades to come, we will not have to do this kind of specific recognition. As time goes on, there will hopefully be much more gender equality throughout the sector. Until then, let us continue to cheer, support, and mentor the tremendous female talent out there while encouraging more women to be part of this exciting digital journey. After all, this revolution needs more women not only to join but to lead the way.
Marieke Flament is the CEO of the NEAR Foundation, a non-profit that supports ecosystem development on the NEAR protocol, a high-performance carbon-neutral blockchain that is designed to be super-fast, incredibly secure, and infinitely scalable. NEAR is built by an award-winning team of engineers and entrepreneurs to be simple to use, inclusive and good for the environment.
The foundation aims to help raise awareness, support and grow this ecosystem and allocate grants on behalf of the ecosystem.