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International Women’s Day: Women and Crypto – The Direction in 2019

International Women's Day: Women and Crypto – The Direction in 2019

It is International Women’s Day 2019, and a time for Bitcoin News to reflect on a year in print and celebrate women in fintech, and those women of all ages whose lives still remain largely uncelebrated.

The point of International Women’s Day is to look back over the past year and pinpoint the successes and failures in the promotion of equality between the genders. It is also a time to reflect on how to further combat sexual violence, harassment, domestic violence against women, and examine gender power structures, particularly in business.

A new UK government report has revealed that salary imbalance between the genders when it comes to business is still slow to change. Although one in three entrepreneurs are women in the UK — a hugely improved figure — many of the companies run by women are also half the size of those with male directorship. The report goes on to indicate that accelerating female recruitment into business over the next year could add an extra USD 25 billion to the UK economy alone.

One such entrepreneur is Queenslander Leanne Kemp who was named by the World Economic Forum as one of the most promising tech pioneers of 2018. Kemp’s blockchain startup, Everledger, was founded in April 2015, offering a way of tracking the provenance of diamonds; identifying them, and following their ownership history. She now has 2.2 million diamonds listed on Everledger’s blockchain and has now begun to add art, wine, watches jewelry and even natural resources to the blockchain. She maintained:

“We have a responsibility as next-generation technologists to underpin how this technology will form and inform all of us in our roles as citizens of the planet… There’s an important role to be had in re-innovating existing products in markets to bring transparency and provenance and then also the tracking of their second lives.”

Another Australian, Katrina Donaghy, co-founder of startup Civic Ledger, took her talents to London in 2014 to explore how she could integrate Bitcoin and blockchain into business. She told the Australian Financial Review that on arrival she was surprised to see the degree to which these technologies were already being utilized by London’s large financial institutions.

“If you just look at the companies that have done ICOs, there are very few women, but if you look at the ones that have been built based on customer validation and actually have sales, well most of the good blockchain companies that are still around were co-founded by women in the early days.”

In the US in 2018 ConsenSys teamed up with Black Girls Code, a non-profit organization providing tech training to young black women between the ages of 7 and 17. This established the first blockchain training program of its kind in the US which has plans to branch into US states and beyond. The program will eventually be available in Oakland, California, Atlanta, Georgia and in New York City, with plans to run in Johannesburg, South Africa. Black Girls Code CEO Kimberly Bryant commented:

“The ConsenSys team has consistently impressed me with their commitment to creating pathways for access and inclusion within the blockchain ecosystem and their passion for introducing these tools to the next generation of coders.”

The organization wishes to train a million girls by the year 2040, becoming a high-tech version of the Girl Guides. One aim is to ensure that minority groups in fintech have a space to grow and flourish encouraging innovative outside investments into such groups.

Amber Baldet is a household name in fintech, co-founder of Clovyr, well known for her work at JPMorgan as a leader of blockchain products, and developed the Ethereum based Quorum software designed to accelerate financial databases. Baldet left Wall Street to develop her own software by founding Clovyr and get startups on the road to using blockchain technology more effectively. She says:

“I’ve had the opportunity to talk to people who see things very differently… Being able to transition back and forth, I can help people understand each other and build stronger products together.”

Of gender diversity in the tech world she suggests, “People have tried to call out crypto as being better or worse…Diversity is a challenge across all tech subcultures.”

In the UK last year, the number of women showing an interest in investing in cryptocurrencies leaped from 6% to 13% over a six-month period. A City Am conducted by cryptocurrency firm London Block Exchange, showed that cryptocurrency was most popular with women in the millennials group. Another survey conducted by Reddit at the end of 2017 indicated that one out of five women had considered investing in cryptocurrencies with a huge 96% of Ether users being males.

What then of the uncelebrated names of the past year? Since last year, the United Nation’s World Food Programme (WFP) has distributed cryptocurrency-based food vouchers to more than 100,000 Syrian refugees living in Jordan, bypassing bureaucracy and getting aid to where it’s needed. The new project initiated by the WFP and UN Women was announced supporting the UN Women’s “cash for work” program running at both camps.

The cash for work program was organized by Syrian refugees to support local communities, offering them the opportunity to put something back into their new homeland. Typically, paid tasks included collecting waste, assisting with projects building homes, roads, and local schools, and in some cases working in education and the health industry as assistants. In areas which have seen destruction due to conflict and have since been liberated, refugees also participated with repairing heavily shelled infrastructure.

Cash transfers as part of that scheme enabled women assisting in the UN Women cash program to access their funds directly without a third party with accounts securely stored on a blockchain network. Women were thus enabled to pay for goods at participating supermarkets in Jordan by using one of a network of eye-scanners at their local supermarket, linking their cash to the Building Blocks program which was introduced for refugees at the Azraq camp in 2017.

UN Women continued its program to increase financial literacy rates among women by offering seminars at their “Oases”, encouraging recipients to examine their Building Blocks accounts online. Oases are safe spaces for women and children to congregate in the camps, where they can meet others and learn. They are usually funded through overseas aid and the host nation. UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka explained the thinking behind its plans for women refugees in Jordan:

“We know that women in crisis situations and displacement settings tend to have lower digital literacy than men, and often lack access to the technology and connectivity that are so critical in today’s world.”

Ngcuka adds that such projects are designed to accelerate, as she put it, “progress towards women’s economic empowerment on a large scale”.

Humanitarian organizations have pointed out that women are disproportionately affected by such crises and consequently are often forced to become the primary breadwinners while taking care of their children and families as an extra burden.

Robert Opp, Director of Innovation at WFP, points out that it is a desire for “social good” which is driving the current use of blockchain technology by the organization:

“Blockchain technology allows us to step up the fight against hunger. Through blockchain, we aim to cut payment costs, better protect beneficiary data, control financial risks, and respond more rapidly in the wake of emergencies… using blockchain can be a qualitative leap, not only for WFP, but for the entire humanitarian community.”

 

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Ready Steady Go: On Your Marks for the Stablecoin Steeple Chase

With Japanese regulators confirming that stablecoins do not fit the definition of cryptocurrencies outlined in the country’s Payment Services Act, the stablecoin chase seems well and truly on in that country and, so it appears, everywhere else.

As Bitcoin News reported yesterday, according to the FSA, firms issuing stablecoins in Japan need not register for licenses, though they may need to register for issuing payment instruments. Significantly, this clarification of the FSA’s 2017 guidelines means that large stablecoin transactions, up to JPY 1 million (around USD 9,000) can be made unhindered by the same guidelines which apply to other transactions.

A stablecoin is a cryptocurrency pegged against something of widely-accepted value such as a state currency, typically the US dollar, giving it price-stable characteristics. It is seen by some as a safe hedge against the volatility of conventional cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin or Ethereum. Currently, they are underutilized apart from traders using them to guard their positions during bear markets.

What is the current state of play in the apparent rush towards stablecoins? There seems to be no stopping the charge as the London Block Exchange (LBX) announced its plans to launch the LBXPeg, a stablecoin backed by the UK pound recently.

LBX has stated the current stablecoin market needs disruption due to many firms’ lack of transparency, commenting that “many available stablecoin offerings are inadequate for the needs of businesses, traders and consumers” and citing “opaque management structures, distribution schedules, and auditing processes”.

Nick Tomaino, founder of @1confirmation, calls stablecoins “the holy grail of cryptocurrency”, suggesting that coins such as Bitcoin were too prone to volatility. Tomaino suggests that the US dollar is a fiat working example of stability. The dollar falls down as a stablecoin, primarily because it lacks user control being dependent on the Federal Reserve and the US banking system.

The Winkevoss Twin would clearly agree with Tomiano’s “holy grail” epithet, given their recent success with the New York regulator. The Gemini Dollar, launched by the Winklevoss twins, will allow users a one-to-one exchange on the US dollar on the Ethereum blockchain.

A Hong Kong-based blockchain investment firm is also planning to launch a new stablecoin backed by the Japanese yen. The company, Grandshores Technology Group, will launch the funding round in late 2018 or early 2019. Grandshore feels that the stablecoins will have mileage on release. It argues:

“We believe cryptocurrency traders and exchanges will be potential takers of these stablecoins… We are entering the next stage of blockchain evolution, a stage which is akin to when computer operating system was transiting from MS-DOS to MS-Windows.”

Australia company Bill Trade, which launches its own coin next year, sees stablecoins as solving “one of the principal issues that may drive investors seeking steady returns and merchants that currently accept traditional currency away from digital currencies: volatility”.

The chase is on.

 

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Stablecoins Still Lack Institutional Confidence Despite Crypto Growth

Since the Royal Mint in the UK canceled its stablecoin project (RMG) after a US-based exchange group withdrew their support before the digital token launch, questions are now being asked about the lack of institutional support for such projects.

The Royal Mint is the government-owned mint responsible for producing coins for the United Kingdom. The Mint quickly tried to find an alternative exchange for trading its digitalized gold after RMG withdrew its support, but due to the UK’s Finance Ministry intervention, it was forced to cancel the project at the last minute.

The result of institutions not supporting these projects is a cause for concern, maintains Alex Bosworth, a developer at the decentralized network Lightning. He commented about his disappointment when a project he was involved in folded up; warning that government’s hesitation to support stablecoins could hinder the progress of highly investable and potentially successful projects in the future.

Government institutions in the UK still tread carefully when it comes to cryptocurrencies, despite some warming to the development of projects based on blockchain fundamentals. Even some banks are showing interest, such as UK High Street Bank NatWest which recently announced that it plans to leverage DLT for the syndicated loans market. However, fears regarding crime and money laundering are still a relevant factor when government departments consider products based on digital currency.

Bosworth’s concern is that stablecoins generally require the participation of traditional institutions. He suggests that these institutions are still not fully convinced by the argument for digital currencies linked to traditional assets and may be far more prone to withdrawing from token projects without warning as a result. However, this doesn’t stop the announcements of new stablecoins. London Block Exchange (LBX) has announced its plans to launch the LBXPeg, a stablecoin backed by the UK pound.

LBX hasn’t named its banking partner yet but has suggested that one-for-one reserves will be held by a third-party bank. LBX CEO Benjamin Dives claims this crypto pound is to be the first of its kind to be launched in the UK and is optimistic about the speed of development of the new coin.

Professor of Economics at UC Berkeley, Barry Eichengreen, argues that stablecoins contain certain “weaknesses,” and are not only expensive but require a reserve that is equal to or more than the coins in circulation to ensure market stability, making government regulation complex.

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Stablecoin Race Is On: This Time It’s the UK’s Cryptopound

It’s a frenetic month for stablecoins, and the trend is further accentuated by another development as a London-based startup announces its own plans to develop a cryptopound.

In the US, a stablecoin is a cryptocurrency pegged against the USD, giving it stable-price characteristics, seen by some as a safe hedge against the volatility of conventional cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin or Ethereum. Currently, they are underutilized apart from when traders use them to guard their positions during bear markets.

Last month, announcements of stablecoin launches appeared to have been coming from east to west, beginning with news of Gemini and Paxos being given the go-ahead to launch their own stablecoins by the New York State regulator. This was followed by Hong Kong-based Grandshores Technology Group announcing a funding round for a Japanese Yen-based stablecoin.

With the proposed launch of an Australian stablecoin last week by crypto exchange Bit Trade and the Emparta infrastructure, followed by the Goldman Sachs/Circle announcement of a US Dollar coin to end the week, this latest move from the UK was almost unsurprising.

After yesterday’s development in the UK, there seems to be no stopping the charge as the London Block Exchange (LBX) announced its plans to launch the LBXPeg, a stablecoin backed by the UK pound. LBX hasn’t named its banking partner yet but has suggested that one-for-one reserves will be held by a third party bank. LBX CEO Benjamin Dives claims this crypto pound is to be the first of its kind to be launched in the UK and is optimistic about the speed of development of the new coin:

“The primary use case will be settlement for OTC trades in the London market, then commonwealth exchanges where they don’t have fiat banking, and then securities tokens who want to pay dividends in a cryptopound… We would be ready for the first cryptopound to be minted in the next 10 days.”

LBX has stated the current stablecoin market needs disruption due to many firms’ lack of transparency, commenting that “many available stablecoin offerings are inadequate for the needs of businesses, traders and consumers” citing  “opaque management structures, distribution schedules, and auditing processes.”

Professor of Economics at UC Berkeley, Barry Eichengreen, suggests that stablecoins, seen by some as highly attractive for investment due to them being pegged to one fiat currency aren’t as stable as the name suggests. He argues that stablecoins contain certain “weaknesses”, and are not only expensive but require a reserve that is equal to or more than the coins in circulation to ensure market stability, making government regulation complex.

 

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Women’s Crypto Interest Has Doubled This Year, Millennials Lead the Way

The number of women showing an interest in investing in cryptocurrencies has gone from 6% to 13% over the last six months, reports City AM.

The report, conducted by cryptocurrency firm London Block Exchange, showed that cryptocurrency is most popular with women in the millennials group. Another survey conducted by Reddit at the end of 2017 indicated that one out of five women had considered investing with a huge 96% of Ether users being males.

Bitcoin News recently reported that figures, released from community-driven Bitcoin statistics and services site Coin Dance, showed that as of May 2018, 94.73% of Bitcoin community engagement and active participation came from men and 5.27% from women.

Although statistics can be unreliable, it does suggest that if the CoinDance figures are correct, then this increase in cryptocurrency interest among women has occurred over a much shorter period, born out by London Block Exchange’s senior business analyst Agnes de Roeyer, who believes women have recently become keener to join the crypto market, explaining:

“There’s still a common misconception that cryptocurrency is a game for men, but we’ve seen hundreds of women sign up for our exchange in the last few months and some of the most inspiring and knowledgeable investors, leading the way in the industry are female.”

The research also investigated the “Fear of Missing Out” phenomenon known as FOMO in crypto circles, suggesting that women are 50% less likely to suffer from the crypto malaise of missing the next big investment opportunity. Women also are less impulsive than men, likely to consult family and friends before making an investment.

It’s not surprising that these figures suggest that it is women in the millennials group who have increased the percentage of women participants in the space, as millennials remain the dominant group worldwide in cryptocurrency investment. A recent survey revealed that this group viewed Bitcoin as more trustworthy than big banks. What exactly the survey meant by “trustworthy” is not elaborated on, but it is suggested that they find the Bitcoin blockchain a more secure option.

 

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