Blockchain is a decentralized technology. As such, its very code posits that diversity is an active good: The ideal distributed ledger includes nodes on every inhabited continent, in every time zone, and in every country. Code should link people and bridge gaps; with blockchain, people paradoxically come together in their far-flung decentralization.
Unfortunately, blockchain often falls short of these admirable goals.
To be fair, blockchain is not alone in its problem. In 2016, the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission published a report on Diversity in High Tech that showed white men were significantly overrepresented in the tech industry at large. After examining occupational data and considering published research, the EEOC concluded that “Discussion of the lack of gender, racial and ethnic diversity in the high tech industries generally divides into two themes: the “pipeline” problem-STEM occupations attracting white men-and the inhospitable culture in relevant industries and occupations forcing women and minorities to tolerate the environment or leave the field.”
That tech in general has a diversity problem does not absolve blockchain in particular. In 2018, The New York Times reported on women who wanted to enter blockchain turned away by the frat-like actions of “blockchain bros.” While the odd blockchain bro still participates in the industry, there has been some progress; there’s now a Diversity in Blockchain group, and there are near-weekly “women in blockchain events” in major tech hubs.
Blockchain may enjoy some advantages in its quest to diversify. The EEOC concluded that the “pipeline” to tech jobs often failed women and people of color. Because blockchain is an emerging technology, there’s no traditional path to joining the industry. Many in the sector are self-taught or came to blockchain from entirely different careers. Blockchain is young, vibrant, and growing; though a few schools now offer classes on the technology, there are few barriers of standardization to keep the curious away.
As blockchain transforms from emerging technology into established paradigm, it’s essential that the industry strives for the ideal of diversity propounded by its foundational code. Decentralization cannot mean a worldwide confederation of white blockchain bros. For blockchain to endure and expand as it should, it must serve as a model and exemplar for the broader tech industry. In the 2020s, let’s commit to building a better blockchain by making a more diverse network.