I recently attended a tech event/hackathon on blockchain. There were 32 people, of which 2 were women.
My interest in blockchain started in 2012. I was a little late to the party, however, I would still be considered an early adopter. When I get interested in a subject, I generally dive ALL in. I would estimate I am exploring the blockchain and crypto world for at least several hours a week. I have been exploring complimentary currencies and economics since 2006, not just as a hobby but as a committed practice. (This was before blockchain was born in 2008.) And just as a point of reference, complimentary currencies have enabled community thriving for as long as humans have engaged in enterprise. It has only been since the late 1800’s that complimentary currencies have been made illegal, or difficult. Indeed the design team for the Euro conversion mechanism advised that all European states keep their local currencies and adopt the Euro as the trading currency. But as we know that advise was not heeded, and we have the mess that is becoming ever more difficult to keep alive.
My main interest in blockchain is in transformative disruption of currency particularly the parallel deployment of complimentary currency, economics and the human value mechanism. Plus ways to design a universal basic income within a bounded community using cyrptocurrency.
Or…in plain English, to enable all domains of human value contribution to be recognised, added to the blockchain, and accounted for. To have economics be about well-being of the home for all residents on Earth. To end the methods of exploitation, extraction, and wealth creation for the few at the expense of the many.
It should have come at no surprise that in the arena of the tech/blockchain hackathon my voice was dismissed. Or not heard at all.
I enter a conversation, offering value, thoughts, ideas, provocations, reflections, connections…open, sincere, passionate, engaged…and I see the look in the eyes of the male to whom I am speaking. And there is an almost reflexive glazed-over wall of defence that occurs. I might be speaking the most brilliant thoughts that will add x10 value, but he simply cannot, or will not, hear me.
This question I was left with as I drove home. I did the usual thing for me. I inquired as to what I had done wrong, if anything, and how I might have shown up differently. What was my intention? Did I carry any righteous superiority? Was I excluding optionality? Was I, heaven forbid, bossy?
After some deep inner exploration, it was clear that the only thing I could have done differently was shown up as a male.
Being heard is a kind of wealth. I was in a room where the unconscious bias of the room did not have the capacity to hear me. My wealth in the eyes of my fellow participants was dismissed reflexively. Before the first words were out of my mouth.
Interestingly, they are the ones being impoverished.
After years of not accounting within myself for my own value, I know what I have to contribute. I also know that my offering is partial, and will benefit through a synergistic connectivity to others. But for that to happen, others need to be open to connectivity. And in this case that was not present.
Being heard is a form of wealth, and when we dismiss people we instantly create an underclass of the voiceless. Women, and particularly women in certain industries like tech, are an underclass.
There is much being written at this time about the unjust relationships of women in tech…of the exploitation of women in industries, of the outright abuse women have suffered at the hands of master manipulators who have used their power to diminish a women’s worth in her own eyes.
Indeed, on a thread I read today, a women suggested that someone set up a site for women of the world to note that they too had been subject to sexual abuse at some stage of their lives. I do actually believe that if we did this, the percentages would be staggering. Truly staggering, even to we women who guess at the numbers.
Sexual abuse is not simply a womens issue. Yet for as long as the patriarchal system has been alive, abuse of women has been overlooked. Women have been rendered silent.
And silence is the universal method of oppression.
Who is heard and who is not heard defines the status quo. Until women’s voices are heard, the status quo will not change. (And all the other underclasses of people who are stepped over when they attempt to raise their voice or to simply speak.)
To change the tech industry, we need to change who we listen to. More guys doing the usual guy things will get more of the same. You may think more of the same is good. I might suggest that more of the same is a world of access for the few, off the backs of the many. Right in my home town I have once again come face to face with the hard truth that the depth of experience that I do bring in other domains is completely ignored as offering any value to the world of tech.
What I know I have to bring to this conversation is emotional and social capital, human synergistic design, systems thinking and complexity, always tracking back to the wellbeing of all. I don’t need anyone to tell me this is worth something. I know it is. I know that I know how to enable people, diverse people, to come together and co-create awesome projects and enterprises, and to do so almost entirely self managed and with little to no human upset. I know how to design systemic thinking into a project so you can be sure you get what you want to create, and not a side affect that may undermine your initial impulse that had you start in the first place.
Translation. I know how to create incredible synergistic teams, to remove layers of hierarchy and red tape, to enable people to come to work whole, and work within community, bringing their best selves, to cut out massive expense on departments that are no longer needed when people are self managed, to ensure that the founders have the structural integrity inbuilt that will ensure they stay strong even when the going gets tough, to remove the high need for legal agreements that strip all creativity out. To rekindle trust. To ensure integrity at every point, both in human and technology design. To create things that actually matter to humans, and adds real value. To consider the consequences, 7 generations down. To challenge underpinning assumptions that so many of us step right over. To craft organisations that are deliberately developmental, where people arrive and stay, long term, for love, saving on the revolving door of HR and needing to spend on search for talent. Where talent comes to you, multiplied. Because you have created the kind of culture that people long for. I know strategy, alignment, how to ask the hard questions that most people deliberately seek to ignore. These are the things I know how to do.
Hmm…are they worth something? I think so. Would they contribute to a blockchain hackathon? I would say yes.
I am now asking the question…what is my, and other women’s Rosa Park’s moment? How do we demonstrate that our voices actually do matter? That the world of tech needs both yin and yang to have technology serve humanity, and not have humanity serve technology? And we are dangerously close to having humans serve technology. (tech addiction anyone?)
If tech is to support our increasing ability to show up human..real..connected…resourced..included..part of something… then we need the voice of women.
To be rendered voiceless is to be dehumanised. That is not the world I want to continue to be a part of.
An added thought. I wanted to create a field of grace around this experience. It occurred to me that other than the reflexive inability to hear a women’s voice within in the frame of a hard tech event, some of the men in the room may have only been able to see the world from ground level. No altitudinal/systemic perspective. Ground level means linear, process driven, sequential. A systemic perspective starts with the whole, the end point, the consequences, and then comes down to ground. At the systemic level, the build is emergent, often non linear, and many times counter-intuitive. People who spend their days writing code and building app’s may not have fluency in systemic perspectives. When I speak from a systems point of view to a ground level tech person, I might well be speaking Chinese.
But in a least a few of the cases at this event, I was dismissed before I said my first word.