Johanna Maaghul is an author, technical writer, literary agent, and the Co-founder/Chief Integrator of ODEM, an education and blockchain company. Johanna, who spoke with ODEM’s marketing team ahead of today’s International Women’s Day 2019, is speaking out in support of greater female representation in the blockchain and cryptocurrency world.
What’s the connection between blockchain technology and the need for gender balance?
There was a theme that I heard in the blockchain space this year at the World Economic Forum in Davos. It was that blockchain technology is flat and non-hierarchical. And not to get too political or stereotypical, but there’s research that shows that women are generally more collaborative than men. Men tend to bond through competitiveness. The reason I’m bringing this up is that blockchain by nature is a collaborative technology well suited to women. It removes hierarchy and flattens things by putting everyone on the same level. My point is that there’s hope and excitement for matching more women with opportunities through blockchain technology.
How do collaboration and blockchain technology play out at ODEM?
Our culture at ODEM is very collaborative and not a very hierarchical structure. We have hierarchy only as it addresses the organization of things as we develop blockchain in education. We organize ourselves so that people understand how to work with their team and have a clear sense of their responsibilities. In terms of sharing information and as a company, I speak for all ODEM executives when I say our goal is to be as transparent as possible with everybody on the team about our vision, how we’re getting there, and what our resources are to do it. As our ODEM Platform education marketplace gets more and more developed, the whole world will see where we’ve come from and where we’re going.
Among staff and contractors at ODEM, women account for more than 40 percent – a huge number in the male-dominated blockchain industry. What can the industry learn from ODEM’s success in attracting and retaining women?
The industry can learn that if you organize yourself well as a company, if you’re clear in your vision and you’re aligned in your values, it makes the workplace more inviting not just for women, but for all participants to add value and be of service. We keep our intentions clear and at the forefront of all we do at ODEM. Everyone understands that we’re all here to serve a bigger purpose through decentralized education. By aligning our vision and mission to promote affordable and accessible education, we can create more opportunities for collaboration and trust within our company.
To what extent are you creating an environment at ODEM in which women can succeed? Do you risk alienating men?
To create an environment of balance and gender equality it’s not just about hiring the right women, it’s about hiring the right men. Men who aren’t comfortable with, and have not had meaningful experiences working with women, may find it challenging often without even being aware that it’s not comfortable. If you have men who are forward thinking and understand the value that women bring, and welcome it, then what you get is an organization like ODEM. And so, that’s also a testament to the type of men we’ve hired.
Why aren’t there more women in the blockchain industry?
The reason is that blockchain’s first successful application was Bitcoin. The currency really entered the public consciousness during the financial market turmoil of 2008-2009. So financial markets were the first to recognize the benefits of blockchain. People soon started getting paid in Bitcoin in countries where they couldn’t get paid otherwise. People were using Bitcoin to transact globally across borders, and it proved to the world that there is another option that doesn’t involve banks. However, the people who were early adopters of Bitcoin and blockchain technology were part of established financial markets that traditionally involved more men than women.
What’s the cost of the industry’s low female representation?
The most obvious cost when you have a company where women aren’t equally represented is that the company can’t serve its base well because the people inside the company are not representative of the clients and constituents they’re serving. If a company is 80 percent men but their client base is equally women, the company is probably missing the boat. For example, most books are read by women. It would be strange if the publishing world was mostly men because it would not have a good gauge of what products women want. So just from a purely practical perspective, it’s useful to understand the view of women as a way to sell more products.
What’s next for women in the blockchain industry?
What’s going to happen over time as applications for blockchain become reality, and as blockchain starts moving into microfunding, entrepreneurship, and supply chain, you’re going to see an amazing opportunity for women because they’re going to have more venues to share their skills. Not just their collaborative skills, but more channels to sell what they do well. If they have skills that aren’t recognized or available they’ll have more opportunities to make themselves available for commerce, the arts, creative efforts and products. Blockchain levels the playing field so that anyone can produce goods and services. The goods and services can now speak for themselves.
What will make blockchain more attractive to women?
As the technology gains mass adoption and acceptability as an alternative to traditional commerce for supply chains and even for trade and services – all things that are currently owned and managed by centralized companies and entities are going to be challenged. The blockchain levels the field and allows anybody to participate anywhere in the world.
Does the industry need to encourage deliberate action to hire more women?
Yes, absolutely. But the men need to be clear. If their goal is only to make money, then it’s not going to matter whether they have women in there or not. If their goal is really to create something bigger and have it adapted and used as a true alternative form of payment related to supply chains and commerce, then they’re going to need to bring women in. ODEM’s mission is to make education accessible to everyone. And so I think it’s safe to say that even we need more women.