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Why the Network Effect Is the Best Way to Support Women in Web3

Jul 11, 2022 Marilyn Wilkinson reading time 4 MIN

Unchained. The Blockpit Magazine sat down with Bridget Greenwood to talk about the gender gap in Web3, why it’s a problem, and what needs to change. Bridget is determined to see more women succeed in a largely male-dominated space, which inspired her to set up The Bigger Pie, a global community that supports women and gender minorities interested in blockchain, crypto,  DeFi and emerging tech. Bridget is also Co-Founder of The 20bn Club, alongside Dr Amber Ghaddar, which addresses the funding gap for female-led startups.

With over 20 years of experience in the financial sector, Bridget began her journey with Bitcoin and blockchain in 2017. She had witnessed the fallout of the 2008 financial crisis and was immediately thrilled by the prospect of having an alternative system, free of governments and central bodies.

“I realized that this was an incredible technology that could be used not just in the financial world, but across all industries, and didn’t want to see women miss out on another tech wave, another transfer of wealth. I decided I wanted to be able to support the women in the space because we just don’t have enough.”

Is Web3 a boys club? 

While more women are getting into crypto, less than 5% of crypto entrepreneurs are female and among the world’s 121 leading crypto companies, only five have female co-founders alongside a male co-founder. According to Bridget, that’s down to the network effect.

When you look at how Bitcoin is the grandfather of blockchain and Web3, we’re taking two components. One is tech and one is finance. And both of those are naturally dominated by males,” Bridget says. “So when you put them together, we have a network effect, and obviously the network effect is going to be with people who are like you, who are in your community, and again, that’s predominantly males that are in that sector.”

Bridget herself was introduced to the world of crypto by people she knew, a prime example of the network effect in action. People’s networks are impactful, and being connected with the right people is crucial to geting ahead in any field. She realized female lawyers, for example, knew other female lawyers from being on panels together, but she saw a gap in the Web3 space for female founders, managers, engineers, and curious learners to be able to connect with other women in the Blockchain community. 

The NFT space appears to be more inclusive and appealing to women due to the creative side, with MSD’s World of Women and Leah Sam’s Power of Women leading the way. But the rest of Web3 has a long way to go, especially the startup scene.

Female founders less likely to get funding for Web3 startups

Bridget highlighted the need to support female founders who are at a disadvantage when it comes to getting funding for their startup. Unfortunately, the situation seems to be getting worse instead of better. Pre-pandemic, women were receiving 3% of funding, mixed teams approximately 8-11%, while the rest of the funding went to all-male teams. Now, Bridget says this this number has gone down to 2.2% or even 1% in certain sectors in certain countries. 

According to Bridget, this is down to the network effect. She explains, “You need to have a warm introduction to a VC and most of those networks are male. So getting into that network is difficult. And when you do pitch to VCs, whether you’re pitching to a male or a female VC, unconscious bias steps in.”

A Harvard Business Review study revealed that male and female entrepreneurs get asked different questions by VCs, which affects how much funding they get. Q&A interactions between 140 prominent venture capitalists (40% of them female) and 189 entrepreneurs (12% female) revealed that male-led startups raised five times more funding than female-led ones.

The study showed that investors adopt a “promotion orientation” when interviewing male entrepreneurs, focusing on hopes, achievements, advancement, and ideals. Conversely, when talking to female entrepreneurs they were more likely to adopt a “prevention orientation”, which is associated with safety, responsibility, security, and vigilance.

A problem for everybody, not just women

Bridget points out that the lack of women in top positions in Web3 is a real problem – not just for women but for the technology itself, as it will be a blocker to mass adoption. 

“How can you understand the needs of the world if you only have a select few of those people building them?” asks Bridget. “Unless we have everyone at the design, development and deployment table, including women who are half of the population, then we’re just not going to be able to build really incredible real-world solutions that meet the needs of everyone, and we won’t get mass adoption. It’s hugely important that we’re able to bring women in.”

Typically, technological breakthroughs throughout history have been created with men’s needs in mind, according to Bridget. As an example, she mentions the iPhone. 

“The iPhone and most things are developed for men. When you look at the size of an iPhone, it’s been developed for a man’s hand. The usability of an iPhone is very different for someone who’s got smaller hands. It’s pervasive, absolutely everywhere we are.”

The value of female role models

Bridget highlighted the value of female role models and seeing women in top leadership roles, so reaching those elusive top tech positions seems like an appealing and realistic goal for young women and girls.

Without role models, you can’t be what you can’t see,” says Bridget. “I know some people talk about the fact that we have a STEM pipeline issue, so women aren’t coming into tech at the same level as their male counterparts. I don’t see fixing the pipeline as being a solution until we can fix women getting to C-suite level and being visible role models, so that as you’re growing up, you can see that actually this is a path for me.”

Bridget also emphasizes the importance of creating safe spaces, making events more inclusive and ensuring gender parity at conferences and on panels so everyone feels safe and welcome.

The Bigger Pie

Bridget decided to create The Bigger Pie for women to have a safe space to open their networks, share resources, and open up opportunities for women in the Web3 space. Bridget explains that this was sorely needed.

“I reached out to the women who are in the space and I asked, ‘Do you feel there’s a need to be supported because you’re female?” Recalls Bridget. “And the overwhelming answer was ‘Yes’”. 

Bridget Greenwood The Bigger Pie

The Bigger Pie is all about leveraging the network effect so women can help other women success in the Web3 space.

“Having grown The Bigger Pie, the network effect has been incredibly important,” says Bridget. “We really have a culture of reciprocity. We have women who are C-suite and leading in this space, who are phenomenally busy, but always give their time to be able to answer questions, open up their networks, point to resources, and in a way that is supported. There is no silly question. Nobody sort of talks over you, talks down to you. And I think that’s incredibly important when people are coming into a new space.”

Web3 is our chance to do better

Web3 is our chance to set a higher standard and achieve a greater level of of parity, rather than repeating the same mistakes and recreating the same injustices from the Web2 world.

Bridget sees Web3 as an opportunity to do things right and the immense potential of blockchain technology is a key reason why she chose to focus The Bigger Pie on Web3, rather than other tech fields. 

“It’s so nascent, even though we’re over a decade in,” says Bridget. “I still think it’s likely that a lot of the companies that are going to succeed haven’t been formed yet. So if we can make a dent as these teams are being built, have gender equity right at the start, that’s much easier than going into a space where the culture has already been set.”

Bridget Greenwood The Bigger Pie

Want to learn more about Bridget’s views on women in Web3? Listen to our full conversation on the podcast.

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