Women leaders split on state of gender equality in Web3

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Web3’s core promise has always been to create opportunities for everyone to freely participate in a more equal, transparent internet. But, naturally, reality has yet to catch up with this utopic vision. Women in particular continue to face tough challenges within the industry, including lack of representation, policies, and unfavorable settings. During the recently held Philippine Blockchain Week conference, women leaders in Web3 weighed in on the state of the space.

Held on September 20, 2023, Bitskwela‘s session “Bull or Bear: On-Chain Inclusivity: A Debate on Women Empowerment in Web3” featured six female representatives in the Web3 space who shared contradicting views on significant obstacles that can make it harder for women to thrive in the decentralized web.

This event was co-presented by GCrypto, Tekkon, ICP Hub Philippines, and Blockceler8 by Uniquecorn Strategies PR, and supported by the Philippine Blockchain Week, OctaFX, CoinVault, and TikTok.

Panelists and Audiences Were Split

Dr. Nataliya Ilyushina, economist and research fellow at the Blockchain Innovation Hub at RMIT University, believes the lack of regulations in Web3 exposes women to higher risks in the space. These gaps leave them vulnerable to scams and workplace injustices without clear protective measures such as social welfare benefits. Belinda Lim, co-founder of Embolden Ventures, contended that while regulations offer protection in traditional industries, it’s precisely the open nature of Web3 that allows women to operate outside of existing gendered structures. Women in Web3, she argued, can experience less discrimination compared to mainstream sectors.

Audiences were divided on the issue, a poll revealed. 50% agreed that regulations provide essential protection and structure, while the other 50% appreciates the potential for reduced discrimination in the more open and decentralized Web3.

Women leaders in Web3 split on the state of gender equality on the decentralized web.

Meanwhile, Ida Mok, president of Women in Blockchain Asia, argued that women-led initiatives are harder to foster in Web3 because they inherit the male-dominated nature of Web2 industries like finance and agriculture. She cited recent studies that show women only make up 7% of the blockchain workforce and that only 13% of Web3 projects had a female position at the founding table. 

This is, in fact, worse than the numbers found across traditional sectors in most parts of the world. Research from Deloitte and McKinsey have highlighted that in North America, women working in finance start off holding half of entry-level positions, but hold just 19 percent of C-suite roles, and only 5 percent of CEO positions.

“Web 3 doesn’t exist in isolation,” she said. “The social barriers still exist, that is why all these initiatives are extremely difficult to foster. The statistics are there, and the numbers don’t lie.”

However, for Ivy Gutierrez of the Lady Traders of Global Miranda Miner Group, Web3 is a newfound niche for women to achieve financial independence, and on a later round, explained why the industry is already conducive to women’s involvement, “Web3 is young but a lot of women already made waves in the industry… and this drives more women to get involved and feel included.”

With a narrow margin, 56% of the audience perceives the male-dominated legacy from Web2 as a hindrance to women-led initiatives in Web3, while the remaining 44% believe Web3 presents a promising avenue for women to attain financial independence.

Entrepreneur and Web3 advocate Juliane Indiongco, better known online as Modern Mulan, highlighted the importance of prioritizing women’s empowerment in Web3. In contrast, Irene Umar, the CEO of We Guild Games (W3GG), the official guild partner of Yield Guild Games in Southeast Asia, stressed the broader concept of human empowerment within the realm of Web3.

Empowering Women in the Web3 Industry

Hosted by Bitskwela, this panel was part of the edutech platform’s broader mission of advancing Web3 education in the Philippines by localizing content and fostering a collaborative environment that promotes understanding and awareness in the space.

“We’re really trying to drive towards getting the numbers up in terms of the women engaged in the space,” said Camille Puentespina, Chief Product and Tech Officer of Bitskwela. “Women are very much in business development, marketing, and executive jobs. We really want to push forward and try to recognize as well those in the backstage, those who are really developing and building.”

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