Blockchain's Gender Divide: A Data Story
When it comes to gender equality, the blockchain industry still has a long way to go. To assess the gender balance in blockchain startups right now, LongHash took a look at the most recent 100 blockchain startups listed as “upcoming” by ICO tracking site ICO Rating, and tracked apparent gender in three areas: the overall gender balance of the team, the number of women at the executive level (which we defined as listed as C-suite or founder), and the number of women on advisory boards.
In total, we logged 1,062 listed team members, including 326 listed as founders or C-suite executives, and 473 listed advisors. The results were...disheartening.
Just 14.5% of blockchain startup team members were women. In leadership roles, the numbers got worse. Just 7% of the blockchain startup executives we logged were women, and for advisors, that number was just 8%.
78 of the 100 startups we looked at didn’t have a single female executive. 75 of them didn’t have a single female advisor. 37 didn’t have a single female employee on the team at any level.
Even accounting for a conservative margin of error, the numbers are quite telling. And unfortunately, they also might be overly optimistic. In the case of advisors, if you discount two outlying startups that had large advisory boards with more than 25% women, the overall percentage of women in advisory roles drops to under 6%. And in the case of executives, there was only one startup out of the entire 100 we looked at that had more than one woman in an executive role.
There doesn’t seem to be much connection between whether a startup has a woman as an advisor and whether it has any women executives. Blockchain startups with a female advisor were actually slightly less likely to have a woman in an executive role (5.5%), although since so few startups had female advisors to begin with, the sample size (25 startups) for that data is small. Startups that had at least one woman in an executive role were a bit more likely to have at least one female advisor (9.5%), but again, the difference is small and the sample size (23 startups) is low, so it may not be fair to draw any conclusions from this data.
There are a few other additional disclaimers we need to make.
First, these charts list apparent gender based on photographs and names, and may not truly reflect the gender identities of each team member.
Second, we gathered this data by observing the team listings on each startup’s website. It’s possible some startups made errors or omissions in listing their staff, and it’s possible we miscounted or mislabeled a few team members over the course of the logging process.
Third, because we had to draw some kind of line (there’s no universal list of positions considered truly executive), we defined “executive” for our purposes as specifically only team members listed with C-suite level positions (CEO, CMO, CTO, CSO, etc.) or listed as founders or co-founders.
It nonetheless remains clear that there is a huge gender gap in blockchain. That’s something that previous surveys and research have suggested, so it won’t come as a surprise. But our data shows that even among the latest startups in the #metoo era, it's still a problem. The crypto bear market clearly hasn’t driven away the blockchain bros.
Tech in general is a pretty male dominated field, but Silicon Valley’s big tech companies all have a workforce that’s at least 25% women. Carta research suggests women represent about 29% of employees at small tech startups. That’s twice as many women as we found at blockchain startups. And Women Who Tech reports that about 15% of startups that got venture funding have women on their executive teams. That’s double what we found in blockchain startups. The gender gap in tech is bad, but in blockchain tech, it appears to be markedly worse.