On March 4th, 2014 the federal government officially acknowledged the importance of digital currencies. Thomas J Curry, head of the US Office of the Comptroller, stated that digital currencies are “potentially revolutionary in their impact, and are advancing at a breakneck pace.” This announcement contrasts against the value of Bitcoin eroding by almost 75% in the past year. And just like the government, investors are still displaying substantial interest in digital currency companies. This sentiment is supported by the January 20th announcement that Coinbase raised $75 million in Series C funding. This is believed to be the largest investment ever made in a Bitcoin-related company. In total, Coinbase has raised $105 million in VC funding since its formation in 2012.
Data Fox provided a list of every digital currency company (both domestic and international) reporting $1 million, or more, in funding. There are 53 companies on the list, located in 13 different countries.
Of these companies, 32 have headquarters in the United States; 21 are based in the Bay Area and 6 are based in New York City.
Women & digital currencies
With all this hype, I still have to ask: are women participating in this digital currency revolution?
Preliminary research says no – or at least, not much. A review of the team pages on each of the 53 company sites revealed 267 people listed in leadership positions. Of the 267, only 16 are women. To put it more clearly, women occupy only 6% of leadership positions in 53 largest digital currency companies.
The graphic below further emphasizes what this 6% looks like.
For a “revolution” this seems, well, pretty darn non-revolutionary. The LA Times, Tech Crunch, and many other publications have recently published articles revealing the plight of women in tech. Unfortunately, even women in the wider tech field have a leg up over women in digital currency companies. A 2014 report published by the Center for American Progress reported that women account for 14% of senior management positions at Silicon Valley startups. While 14% is still low – it’s over 2 times as high as the digital currency industry.
The future of digital currency & women
As a woman currently working in the legal technology field, I can understand general plight of women in tech. For those who don’t know, “legal tech” is a niche industry focused on using technology to improve the practice of law and the lives of legal professionals. While legal tech and the digital currency industry have an overlap of tech – they’re rooted in law and finance respectively. Law and finance are industries traditionally dominated by men. In law for example, despite the fact that law school is split 50/50 between men and women – only 4% of the top 200 law firms have female, firm-wide managing partners.
While statistics for such a niche field are hard to come by, legal tech definitely feels like an insular community largely predicated on a gender neutral playing field. And perhaps this is because of women like Stephanie Kimbro, Alison Monahan, Nicole Shanahan and Yael Citro, who are setting the industry standard rather than being touted as the exception.
Here’s just a few legal technology companies founded and/or led by women:
Not only are these women paving the way, but they’ve also given out advice that has stuck with me:
“As a founder of a company—female or male—your job is to focus people on the right things, which are building a great company and a great product.”
- Yael Citro, Co-Founder of LawPal.
“The minute you lose focus and talk too much about your personal life or things that would be perceived as frivolous stereotypes of women, you lose your audience in some way,” she says. “Keeping the attention of your audience with a very clear message of who you are and what your goals are as a company is the most important thing.”
- Nicole Shanahan, Founder at ClearAccessIP.
As the only female member on my team at LawGives, a legal services marketplace, I actively integrate Yael and Nicole’s advice into my day-to-day routine. Instead of focusing on my gender, I actively keep the focus on the quality of my work and how my contributions are working to build a great product and company.
This post was written by Hannah Konitshek of LawGives where she focuses on Law + Entrepreneurship + Tech. Connect with her @hannahkonnn