A Fresh Look at a Long-Standing Problem: Using Blockchain to Achieve Gender Equity

Just as social media connected a wave of women to raise their voices against sexual harassment and assault, blockchain can connect women together for global movement toward economic empowerment.

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By Ellevate


This story originally appeared on Ellevate

What is blockchain, exactly? Blockchain is often associated with bitcoin, the cryptocurrency it enables, but blockchain is far more than a cryptocurrency enabler (it has been used for medical records, copyright protection and voting records). At its core, blockchain is made up of blocks of transactions. Once those transactions are finished, the blocks are added to the chain. Each block is secured using cryptography. While blockchain is largely a male-dominated industry, it can be used as a tool for gender equity and inclusion.

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How to use blockchain as a means to gender equity

Just as social media connected a wave of women to raise their voices against sexual harassment and assault, blockchain can connect women together for global movement toward economic empowerment of women, by women. How? Blockchain leverages digital capabilities that can disintermediate economic intermediaries (e.g., banks, etc.) and their associated costs. It enables women across the world to connect securely. For instance, through digital identification, property records, contracts and, of course, financial transactions, women in developed countries can use their opportunities to support their sisters in developing countries. In fact, the United Nations has partnered with Norway to begin testing how to use blockchain as a means to ensure the realization of Sustainable Development Goal Number 5: Gender Equality.

Why women (and men) need blockchain

Women in developing countries are not the only beneficiary of blockchain. Approximately 25 percent of women in the U.S. survive domestic violence in their lifetime, and 99 percent of survivors experience financial abuse. These experiences make it harder for them to break free from their abusers, as financial abuse takes many forms: signing documents without consent or understanding, running up credit in the survivors name or controlling access to cash and credit. Regardless of its form, all financial abuse has the same goal: to keep the survivors stuck. But what if survivors could disintermediate their abusers and use blockchain to provide a secure ID, access to legal contracts, and secure transactions? Perhaps we could eliminate, or at least substantially reduce, financial abuse and help women break free with their credit and economic futures intact.

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Blockchain is making an impact

Blockchain as a tool for good is still in its infancy, yet its impact is projected to be felt in 2019. According to the Stanford Graduate School of Business, 34 percent [of blockchain initiatives] were started in 2017 or later, and 74 percent are still in the pilot or idea stage. But 55 percent of social-good blockchain initiatives are estimated to impact their beneficiaries by early 2019. Of the 193 solutions that Stanford studied as part of their research, 25, or 13 percent, were geared toward financial inclusion. This application is one of the most mature among all blockchain social impact solutions. Of the 25, 68 percent are targeting reaching more than 1 million people. These numbers hold great promise for using blockchain for gender equity.

What's next for blockchain and gender equity?

To move forward with using blockchain for gender equity, we must make a concerted effort to increase the representation of women in the ranks of blockchain, particularly in startups with a social and financial impact. We should encourage organizations working to bring more women into technology, such as Women Who Code, Latinas in Tech, Black Tech Women and Lesbians Who Tech, to join together with their sisters in finance, such as Financial Women's Association, Accounting and Financial Women's Alliance and Women in Finance Association. Together, we can spur a wave of blockchain solutions with the express purpose of the economic empowerment of women.Let's not forget that closing the economic gender equity gap expands the economic pie for all.

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If we want to use blockchain as a tool for gender equity, we would be wise to close the startling gender gap in blockchain. We can bring together our sisters in technology and finance to chart a wave of economic empowerment, and we can follow the lead our sisters in Southeast Asia. Social media and hashtags were the beginning. Blockchain is the next step.

(By Katica Roy. Roy is an ambassador for gender equity in the workplace and beyond. She is the CEO and founder of Denver-based Pipeline, a SaaS platform that leverages artificial intelligence to drive economic gains through closing the gender equity gap.)

Ellevate is a global network of professional women who are committed to elevating each other through education, inspiration and opportunity. 

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