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Ask the average person on the street what cryptocurrency is. You'll most likely get answers such as, "internet money," "non-bank currency," and "I haven't the foggiest idea." Cryptocurrency, such as Bitcoin, is a decentralized digital cash system. With traditional banking, a central server keeps track of the money you spend so you don't spend more than you have. In addition, with traditional banking come fees and other costs, and someone who has control over your money.
With cryptocurrency, on the other hand, there's no centralized server, so every peer in the network has this information and does the work of a centralized server. A straightforward infographic that explains cryptocurrency can be found here.
Cryptocurrencies use cryptography to keep them secure rather than a centralized banking institution. Because they're not connected to federal or state government, and because of their fluctuating rates and the volatile economy, Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are seen as a way for investors to protect themselves against the declining value of their native currency, much like some people buy gold.
Because it's decentralized, the information―date, time, and dollar amount of recent purchases―is stored in blocks, each having its own code. These are called blockchains.
Although Bitcoin is the most famous cryptocurrency, it's far from the only one. There are approximately 1,500 different cryptocurrencies right now. Creating a new one isn't difficult, and that's why so many people are excited about cryptocurrency.
Unfortunately, there's a large disparity between the number of men and the number of women engaged in cryptocurrency. According to Coin Dance, women only make up 8.78%, compared with 20% involvement in the tech industry as a whole. The good news is that the number of women getting involved with cryptocurrency is on the rise, and this field has the potential to level the playing field worldwide in many ways.
At a Bitcoin conference in San Jose in 2013, Connie Gallippi had an idea. While the excitement of this new and potentially lucrative form of currency shot through the conference like lightning, Connie was sparked by a different thought on cryptocurrency; not one to make money but one to give it away. Her philanthropic cryptocurrency company was created so people in the Bitcoin community could easily donate some of their earnings.
Her foundation, BitGive, allows people to donate to charity, and it's worked with such non-profits as Save the Children, The Water Project, TECHO, and Medic Mobile, helping them to accept Bitcoin along with regular currency donations. The foundation targets its advertising to people in the Bitcoin community to let them know how easy it is to share the wealth and do some good for others. The foundation's website includes a tracking system that shows donors exactly how various charities are spending their cryptocurrency donations.
Elizabeth Stark learned about Bitcoin in 2010. It caught her attention because, with it, you could transfer money without paying an arm and a leg in fees. Her strong dedication to the internet and all it stands for, and a belief that knowledge should be available to everyone, led her to found Lightning Labs, a software company that creates software for the Bitcoin payment network. The software makes Bitcoin transactions cheaper by allowing them to be securely moved off the main blockchain.
A world traveler who speaks French, German, and Portuguese, Elizabeth Stark advises startups on cryptocurrency, decentralized technology, and AI. She also taught peer-to-peer technology, privacy, open source software, and memes at Stanford and Yale and is a fellow at Coin Center.
Amber always loved computers and taught herself to code at the tender age of 11. Amber worked for J.P. Morgan as the head of its Blockchain Center of Excellence. J.P. Morgan was one of the first traditional financial institutions to jump on the Bitcoin bandwagon. She worked there for eight years and decided to leave and start her own company, one that created software to help companies who wanted to start using Blockchain.
Amber knows the importance of open source and digital privacy and keeping Blockchain accessible. She's the co-founder and CEO of Clovyr, which provides applications and services designed to bring application development to the world of cryptocurrency. In 2017, Amber was chosen as CoinDesk's "Most Influential in Blockchain."
Galia co-founded Mytopia, a gaming company for smartphones that was awarded Game of the Year and Developer of the Year by Smartphone Magazine. Eventually, she sold Mytopia and attended graduate school in Barcelona. After school, she began hearing the buzz about Bitcoin.
Galia feels the goal of cryptocurrency isn't to make money; it's to make the world a better place. She created Bancor Protocol, a nonprofit foundation that specializes in converting currency for cryptographic tokens and gives anyone the ability to create their own cryptocurrency and be able to exchange it. Bancor raised $153 million through its Initial Coin Offering (ICO) in less than three hours.
She believes women should have the opportunity to get involved in the industry. To that end, her business is made up of 35-40% women.
Joyce Kim graduated from Cornell at age 19 and then attended graduate school at Harvard and Columbia Law School. She's an expert in cryptocurrency and often gives presentations on the subject to banks, governmental agencies, and the United Nations. She's the Executive Director of Stellar.org, which is an open-source, decentralized protocol for digital currency to authorize transfers allowing cross-border transactions between any pair of cryptocurrencies. She also is a managing partner at SparkChain Capital.
She did her pro-bono work as an attorney for immigrant families and victims of domestic violence. She was previously a venture capitalist at Freestyle Capital.
Perianne Boring founded the Chamber of Digital Commerce, the world's largest Blockchain trade association. Its goal is to help Blockchain technology gain acceptance and become more widely used.
Perianne also founded the Blockchain Alliance, which is a forum between the Blockchain industry and law enforcement; the Global Blockchain Forum, the goal of which is to develop industry best practices worldwide; and the Digital Assets Accounting Consortium to establish standards for the accounting, auditing, and reporting of cryptocurrency and assets.
Perianne is a contributor to Forbes with her column, "The Beauty of the Blockchain," and she was chosen as one of CoinDesk's "10 Most Influential People in Blockchain 2016." She was an adjunct professor in Blockchain at Georgetown University's McDonough School of Business in 2018.
Of cryptocurrency, she said, "Blockchain technology has such a wide range of transformational use cases, from recreating the plumbing of Wall Street to creating financial sovereignty in the farthest regions of the world."
While the number of women in the world of cryptocurrency is still relatively small, companies in the industry are eager to hire them. The field itself is still new and wide open to possibilities, and women need only find, or create, their own place in it.