Less than 5% of crypto entrepreneurs are women, but a few female founders and influencers are breaking the bias in the world of NFTs and the metaverse.
Data from multiple studies paints a stark picture of the gender-funding gap within the web3 sector.
Research from Crunchbase revealed that only 9% of all funds deployed to technology startups went to founding teams that included at least one woman.
Furthermore, the data showed that start-ups with a solo female founder, or those composed of all-women teams, raised just 2% of all venture capital dollars.
This is a missed opportunity, according to a study by PitchBook, which found that startups founded by women outperform those founded by men.
The data from the 2019 study reinforced a “correlation between hiring female decision-makers at the investment level and outperformance at the fund level".
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A separate study by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) found that “businesses founded by women ultimately deliver higher revenue”.
Female-led start-ups deliver higher returns on investment, nearly 10% more over a five-year period, than those led by men, according to the study.
Crypto initiatives led by women are rare in a sector dominated by men and are less likely to receive funding from venture capitalists.
Research associate Angela Walch at the UCL Centre for Blockchain Technologies, told Reuters: “The crypto world seems to mirror the tech and finance worlds in terms of gender; there are women, but the space is heavily male-dominated.
“As crypto becomes more mainstream, it is important to have diverse perspectives in creating and running the systems so that better decisions can be made.”
Pushing against the headwinds are the following ten female founders and influencers in the world of NFTs and the metaverse.
1. Allyson Downey
Allyson Downey is one of the co-founders of Meta Angels, an NFT community that "harnesses metaverse relationships to unlock real life opportunities".
She told Yahoo Finance UK that there is still an opportunity to lay a foundation for equitable gender representation in web3.
"But aside from aiming for equity for the sake of equity, the reality is that companies with female leadership historically outperform.
"Investing in building an ecosystem that includes more women-led companies is economically smart."
She said the sector is in its infancy, so for "women who are coming into web3 with experience in building and growing businesses then it is an arena where they can really shine".
Ten years from now Downey thinks there will be a much stronger connection between offline life and web3.
"The user experience will be so much better and more intuitive, allowing people to use web3 in their day to day lives, as easily as they use a credit card or contactless payment today," she said.
2. Ariana Waller, aka Ariana The Techie
Ariana Waller is a full stack software engineer who has been in the blockchain space since 2017.
She is the founder of Mueshi, which she describes as a marketplace to buy, sell, and fractionally purchase fine art NFTs.
The US-based startup founder is passionate about encouraging more women to consider a career in web3.
Her message to women is: "We need you in this space".
To female founders already in web3, she said: "You may be the only one but soon there will be many more women building, investing, and creating in this space.
"Someone needs to hear your specific journey, your specific voice to be inspired to be in this space.
"Women who are building in web3 space in 2022 are pioneers.
"We’re making history and sometimes that means you’ll be the first or only woman in the room and that’s okay.
"Stand your ground, other women around the world need to hear your story so they can walk through the same doors you had the confidence to."
Waller forecasts that web3 developments will "decentralise traditional institutions and create an opportunity for communities across the globe to work together in a unique way" and thinks web3 will "positively impact international governments, voting systems, the arts, education and more".
3. Emily Yang, aka pplpleasr
Emily Yang, who goes by her pseudonym plpleasr, is one of the world’s major NFT artists and a member of the influential PleasrDAO, a collective of DeFi leaders, early NFT collectors and digital artists.
Yang describes herself as a "multidisciplinary artist with a focus on web3, NFTs, crypto, DAOs, and philanthropy".
Her work inspired the formation of the prolific investment group PleasrDAO and helped define the aesthetic of the decentralised finance movement. She made the famous "Crypto vs Wall St" Fortune Magazine cover and has collaborated with Steve Aoki and Sotheby’s to launched a fund to support upcoming female artists.
Recently she founded Shibuya, a decentralised video platform that helps fund indie creative projects.
She described her earlier career working in visual effects and animation as "very rare to ever see a female in a leadership or supervisory role".
As a result, she said she felt strongly discouraged and her confidence in her career progression was hindered without any examples or role models to look up to.
However, she said that "with web3 being a brand new canvas, I think it's important to change that to give females an equal platform and voice".
She described the web3 community as male dominated, "but still extremely inclusive, probably more than any other industry I've had the experience of interacting with".
Her advice for female creators looking to succeed in the space is to not be shy and to "take that leap of faith to network and you'll realise everyone in web3 just cares about good ideas, not what you look like or your background".
4. Iris ten Teije
Iris ten Teije is the co-founder and CEO of Koia. She describes her start-up as “a platform for people to buy, trade and collect fractions of iconic assets”.
Koia links NFTs to real-world assets to fractionalise them. She said this is “a big opportunity and where the real use case and value of NFTs and tokenisation comes into play”.
She said: “We have a major gender pay and gender wealth gap and as trillions of dollars of value will be created in web3 over the next decade, I want women to benefit from that as much as men to get closer to true gender equality.”
Teije urges women wanting to enter the web3 sector to “join as many relevant communities as possible and getting involved in at least one NFT project of which you like the vision and art”.
She said she is excited about the prospect of “communities coming together and democratising access to capital, and with tools like Syndicate enabling this, the future looks bright”.
5. Jaime Schmidt
Jaime Schmidt is the cofounder of BFF, a decentralised organisation that supports women and nonbinary people in getting their share of knowledge, opportunity, and financial rewards in web3.
She said there was a need for more diverse voices at the forefront of web3, as this is "critical for innovation, mass adoption, and social good".
She described blockchain technology as having created inroads for women in the future of business, the creator economy and digital communities.
She advises women who are interested in progressing within the web3 field to "look for ways in which it resonates with your own circumstances, interests and growth potential".
6. Kadine James
Londoner Kadine James works as a creative technologist at Yahoo Creative Studios, where she specialises in 3D virtual production, motion capture and mixed reality broadcasting, Volumetric capture, and photogrammetry technologies.
She is also the founder of The Immersive Kind Collective, a crypto fashion and digital art collective, and advisor to AllStarsWomen NFT Club and DAO.
James said the crypto industry is incredibly male-dominated right now, adding that “we need to do more to change this and bridge the funding and investment gap”.
She names initiatives like Rise Women, Boss Beauties, All-Stars Women NFT Club, and DAO as being important in bringing about change and a positive impact.
James sees the future of web3 as a place where “the metaverse becomes tangible, where what we do and what we own as our digital selves can exist across all platforms so that if you are playing a video game or participating in a video conference, our virtual identities are now core to who we are in the ‘real’ world”.
7. Krista Kim
Krista Kim is a contemporary artist and founder of the Techism movement. Her work explores the concept of digital consciousness.
She said web3 is “about creating meaningful and authentic community as we are all communities going forward” and describes her working process as creating “metaverse realms that uplift humanity”.
Kim wants more female leaders in the evolution of web3 because “the more empowered women are in web3, the more evolved and peaceful the world will become as a whole as women will create alternate worlds in the metaverse that changes world culture, co-creation, collaboration and decentralisation."
She said women wishing to succeed in web3 should “let your passions and talents uplift others".
“Your consciousness within will be magnified in the metaverse, so be sure you’re feeding positive energy and valuable inspiration to your community through self-care.”
Kim sees the metaverse developing to create a new environment with a “transcendent culture that rises above all real-world divisions of politics, religion, race, gender and geography”.
She said: “Beauty and inspiration will win in the metaverse. We will be sovereign individuals with greater opportunities for all to participate economically and have digital ownership through NFTs and DAOs”.
8. Laura Shin
She said: "The ideals of Web3 are about democratising access to financial services and also democratising governance, so a world in which the wealth and power went primarily to men would be antithetical to those ideals."
Her advice to women wanting to succeed in the crypto is "to have fun, crypto is a fun space, and if you pursue your own joy, you’ll naturally succeed".
She thinks web3 is going to become "more ubiquitous, easier to use, more tangible, and less abstract".
9. Martyna Borys-Liszka
Martyna Borys-Liszka is the account director at YAP Global and chair of the Financial Services and Fintech Group. She works with clients and media to make sure "valuable projects with excellent teams take the centre stage they deserve and reach relevant audiences".
Borys-Liszka has been at the forefront of “making sure crypto breaks into the mainstream for all the right reasons”.
She said studies "have proven that men and women bring different valuable skills and personality traits to the table".
"When you’re working in a male-dominated space, it's easy to find yourself trying harder than you should to fit in, we tend to start mirroring certain behaviours or emulating traditionally 'male' characteristics," she said.
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"If that's you, then do you but if it's not, don’t. Bring your whole female self to work, all parts of it, use your instincts, speak up and take up space."
She has a wish that in ten years' time "the terms 'web3' or 'crypto' won’t be ominous to people outside of this industry".
She added: "It still is, as my friends who are not professionally involved in this space remind me, and equal access to information and resources is the future I’m working towards."
10. Stefania Barbaglio
Stefania Barbaglio is the founder and director of Cassiopeia Services, the award-winning London-based boutique investor & public relations agency. Considered one of the top British female digital PR experts she uses her communication skills to maximise the visibility of web3 creators to the media, investors and communities.
She sees more opportunity for female leaders in the web3 space than in traditional sectors.
“Web 3 and crypto power a new system, inclusive, diverse, and permissionless where creators are empowered and thanks to the invention of NFTs they are able to directly manage, protect and monetise their assets.
“Women’s creativity, skills and abilities can shine without the traditional judgment by a patriarchal society where their sole role is wife and mother.”
She advises that women wishing to succeed in the sector should “follow your passion, be ambitious, stay focused, surround yourself by inspiring people and make challenges your opportunities, and you will succeed”.
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Barbaglio sees a future where web3 ushers in more “decentralised governance and community empowerment”.
She forecasts that “data will be the most valuable asset; experiences will be the most sought-after products; privacy and anonymity will be like gold”.
“People won’t need to be tech experts to live in Web 3, versus today, and in just one click, you will be in or out," she said.
“There won’t be one metaverse but many, all interoperable; we will be able to move between the past, present and future.”