Increasing diversity in the blockchain space
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Increasing diversity in the blockchain space

On this episode of the What’s NEXT podcast, Alexis Gauba, co-founder of She256 and Mechanism Labs, explained why there’s so much work to be done to close the gender gap in the blockchain world.

Alexis is actively working on a solution, and we discussed how she is trying to increase diversity in the blockchain space, and how She256 is working to break down the barriers to entry. At the same time, Alexis also co-founded Mechanism Labs to solve some of blockchain’s core usability and infrastructure problems.

The state of the blockchain market

The need for diversity, inclusion, and broader community outreach in blockchain first hit home with Gauba when she entered the space about 18 months ago as a college student eager to build various decentralized applications.

“There was this one particular event in Berkeley where it was me and three others,” she said. “We were the only four women in this room of like 60 to 100 men, and this was far from the first time that this had happened.”

Gauba said one of the reasons for a lack of diversity in the blockchain sector is that it can be a jargon-filled, intimidating niche. Nevertheless, she noted, there are some women who are doing incredible work in blockchain.

She256, a non-profit organization Gauba co-founded, aims to build on that base — to make blockchain more inclusive and accessible to women, high school students in underprivileged areas, and anyone with a non-technical background.

One way to facilitate more diversity is She256’s annual conference featuring the research and innovation developed by women in blockchain. Last year’s event attracted 300 attendees, and Alexis said the support and enthusiasm of the participants was the catalyst that transformed She256 into a viable organization.

She256 has also launched a mentorship program. Its goal, Alexis says, “was basically to make it less intimidating for new people to enter this space.”

To date, the program has included 500 participants from around the world, all female. Participants range from high school age up to mid-career professionals interested in the blockchain sector. Mentors have stepped-up from a wide variety of different specialty areas within the blockchain ecosystem.

Looking ahead, She256 plans to run a series of “blockchain fundamentals” boot camps for underrepresented high school students and to publish a weekly newsletter that includes interviews with women in blockchain. Also on the horizon is a design-centric hackathon for high school students.

“The goal here is for high school students who have maybe never heard of blockchain before, or maybe haven’t really programmed that much before, to have an accessible way to solve real problems in the blockchain space,” she explained.

Making blockchain more accessible

In addition to the need for more diversity, Gauba said one of the biggest challenges in blockchain right now is usability. “It’s really important to make this technology accessible to real people,” she said.

There are big issues on the infrastructure side of blockchain that need attention, Alexis said. In particular, she pointed to scalability, incentivization, and decentralized governance as major issues within the blockchain ecosystem that are a long way from being solved.

“Everything in the space is kind of developing at the same time,” she said. “Like you have your infrastructure developing at the same time as people are trying to figure out how this can be usable to users, and what key problems it’s solving.”

But Gauba believes that progress is being made in both applying the technology for real-world applications and in making it more accessible. One example is a UNICEF project that is enabling people to make payments using blockchain technology.

“They had to completely redesign it so that it could be used by individuals who are illiterate,” Gauba explained.

Closer to home, Gauba said, her 11-year old sister managed to figure out on her own how to set up a MetaMask account and use Uniswap to convert between different cryptocurrencies without asking any questions.

“Things like that,” she said, “give me a lot of hope for how the [blockchain] space is growing and how people are really starting to care about usability.”

To learn more about Gauba’s personal journey and her work in diversifying the blockchain sector, you can listen to the full episode in the embedded player above, or subscribe through Apple PodcastsGoogle PlayRSS, or your favorite podcast app of choice.

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