As she considers the lack of gender parity in the cryptocurrency and blockchain space, Kristin Smith, the director of external affairs for the Washington-based Blockchain Association says: “For whatever reason there are more men than women.”
She says: “I think it is so important as an issue as it is across all financial services and technology and we absolutely need to have more women involved in this space.”
The association is a recently-established trade association made up of members who are key players – projects, exchanges, investors and companies in cryptocurrency.
It is the “unified voice of the blockchain industry” and says blockchain will play a “pivotal role in our shared digital future.”
The association wants to create a regulatory agenda that advances value exchange, capital formation and consumer protection.
Smith says: “We advocate for their public policy goals before regulators and before Congress.”
“The purpose is to work hand-in-hand with policy makers in order to get the regulatory environment for the industry to thrive,” she says. “This is a very complicated space and it does take time to get these messages across.”
Coming from a public policy background, she has previously worked as a lobbyist.
“I’ve always been interested in public policy,” she says. “I’m very excited to be part of this trade association. I want to get more women involved in the future of this space.”
As a non-profit organisation, it targets its members at the cryptocurrency part of the industry and it is not as focused on blockchain.
The organisation is deliberately “very focused” in terms of its membership. Kristin says: “My jobs is to manage federal policy in the US and you have to get the right environment as part of that. I’m dealing directly with law makers and my target is educating people in Washington.”
The association is looking at issues of security and custody regulation and only launched as an organisation in 2018.
Yet, in this relatively short timescale, it has already “doubled in size,” Kristin tells me, “in terms of membership.”
Founding members include Circle, Digital Currency Group, Polychain Capital, Protocol Labs and Coinbase.
Lot of effort
“We have to make it useful for people and the technology, in general it has become apparent that it takes a lot of effort to make it more inclusive,” she explains.
“I do not think there is a masterplan to keep women out of cryptocurrency,” she says. “But for whatever reason men every time are drawn to math, science and technology at a different rate to women.”
The technology, she argues, is “such a big part of the future, it would be great to see more women getting involved.”
Although there are “lots of guys sitting behind screens doing coding which is very important,” it’s equally important to have the “communications, journalists and lobbyists in the industry which also matters.”
Every aspect brings opportunities for women. Some of these efforts “over time are going to have a big impact,” she adds. “It is so important for the future and I think it will make a real impact on Congress.”
Congress, she adds, has been relatively “slower” than the general public to get involved in the cryptocurrency space.
Last autumn, the association brought about a proposed piece of legislation to Congress seeking clarity on digital tokens and tax provisions for virtual currencies, which currently incur capital gains taxes. It aims to “clear up” the confusion surrounding regulation of crypto.
“We have something out there to build on in Congress,” she explains. “We are working to educate our colleagues and seeing how we can improve the bill and get their feedback on it.”
Working through the continuing shutdown in Washington, she says a lot of agencies and regulatory authorities have been affected.
Education, she adds, is a real issue as it is such a “large, complex technology in its early stages and its not something people use every day.”
“There’s a huge information gap and I’m doing a lot of briefings speaking to policy makers getting more information to them. Education’s so important,” she says.
She says there are “so many” people she admires in the cryptocurrency space. She particularly admires the work of journalist Laura Shin and her Unconfirmed podcast, on which she recently featured, but adds: “Everyone you meet in this industry is so passionate.”
She describes decentralisation as “so powerful” and “what Bitcoin did was a miracle of computer science.”
People are excited about the potential of the technology and the decentralised apps that will improve the internet in the future.
Law makers are interested in the dual principles of protecting consumers while promoting innovation, she says.
“So many individuals all around the world are contributing to something valuable as a result,” she adds. “The idea of open source software brings the movement to a new level and anybody can participate if you commit yourself.”
It is “open and democratic and it has the potential to bring the internet back to its roots of people jumping in and collaborating,” she continues.
“Bitcoin is simple and has a use case with a simple value,” she adds. She hopes to see more decentralisation, “which eliminates or reduces the need for costly middle-men,” and effectively gives individuals more control over their data.
“This is empowering around the world. It is difficult as things are still ideas being built and we do not yet necessarily see the impact or the tremendous potential.”