Episode #15: Amanda Wick — Women in Crypto

Episode #15: Amanda Wick — Women in Crypto

Last updated:
December 16, 2022
Total length::
27 min
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Cryptocurrency, Crypto
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Are you a woman working in crypto? Do you have women in your team? How can we attract more women to the industry and showcase the women working in profossion? Check out womenincrypto.org

Walter Jennings: Welcome to Waves in the Finoverse. I'm Walter Jennings, the host of a podcast, brought to you by Finoverse. We're talking with the wavemaker creating ripples, waves, and tsunamis across finance, crypto, FinTech, Web3 and beyond. Listen weekly to hear the change makers talk firsthand about their experiences in this dynamic industry. Welcome to Waves in the Finoverse.

I'm your host, Walter Jennings, and I am joined in the booth by Amanda Wick, the founder for the Association for Women in Crypto. Welcome to Waves in the Finoverse.

Amanda Wick: Thank you so much for having me.

Amanda Wick with Walter Jennings during Singapore FinTech Festival 2022

Walter Jennings: No, it's fantastic, Amanda, to see you, to meet you and to be able to talk about equity and inclusion and finance. So tell me about your hero's journey and the founding of the association.

Amanda Wick: Hero's journey is probably strong, but it all started when I left government and I went to go work as the Chief of Legal Affairs at Chainalysis. And as a woman in tech, I saw that it was very different and it definitely was not as inclusive or as welcoming. And I think a lot of women, unfortunately, have that experience. I was really lucky to be blessed with strong supporters at Chainalysis - my comms and marketing team, Molly Saint, Mady Kennedy, Ian Andrews. There we go. They were really supportive and we started a speaker series called Women in Crypto, and we had women from venture capital, women from investigations. And we were just trying to feature and show that there are women out there.

There's actually quite a few women in FinTech who do crypto blockchain, Web3. The problem is they're just not showcased and highlighted as much as men. And I don't think it's intentional. I just think when we're not intentionally inclusive, we're unintentionally exclusive. And that's a really big problem, I think both with traditional finance and with digital finance. But we have a chance to do it better with digital finance, and that's what we started the association to do.

Walter Jennings: Fantastic. Now tell me, what are some of the day-to-day things that occur in the association, or if you don't mind, I'll just call it Women in Crypto, that helps female professionals in this industry.

Amanda Wick: Yeah. So right now what we're trying to do, we have a website, women in crypto.org. I highly recommend everyone go.

Walter Jennings: Check the show notes. It's right there.

Amanda Wick: Exactly. Luckily it's easy to remember women in crypto.org. and we do educational and networking events. So the goal is to offer both in-person and virtual networking opportunities, but then also educational content. So we want to try to provide obviously free content that's helpful, but then there's also a membership aspect to try to get professional women to join to make a truly global networking association. So what we found when I started looking at the space was that a number of, there was like a patchwork quilt of women's associations.

And a lot of them were run by women who had full-time professional careers. Those women, obviously when Covid hit, they had families, they had obligations, like they had full-time jobs on top of their association. So it's very difficult to sustain something if it's not your full-time job. And so I just decided to do this full-time.

And our hope is to build a truly global network of women and male allies. I've had some of our best supporters have been male allies who have just jumped in and said, how can I help? And that is super inspiring and it's so much easier than they think the answer is just be intentionally inclusive. But right now we've had three launch events in California, DC and New York. We started in the United States. We had an event in Bangkok last week. We're here at Singapore FinTech Festival. We'll probably have another event in DC before the end of the year in person.

And then next year we are really ramping up working with conference planners and coordinators to try to have a presence so that at the major FinTech conferences, there is mentorship, networking opportunities for women. There is a working with the conference planners to be inclusive of speakers. So there's a lot that we're doing. And I could go on forever. So you cut me off when I'm talking too long.

Walter Jennings: No, Amanda. Not at all. Now listen, earlier in the show we were talking about pain points and friction. What are the kind of objectives to that? What are the challenges that you are hearing from members and how is the association helping them reduce their own friction when they're within their organizations?

Amanda Wick: So interestingly, it really depends on the country. Cuz we've spoken, I've spoken with women all over the world now with these events, and it's interesting that there are cultural differences, but then there's also huge cultural similarities, right? So a lot of women have difficulties finding good mentors.

Some women, unfortunately, the worst experience they've had is sadly from other women and men have been like the best sponsors. We don't talk enough about kind of women on women problems. But I think we're talking about it more. It tends to be a generational difference from a scarcity mindset, right? If you were the token woman and you're older, and now other women are coming, you're free to give up the woman pie.

Walter Jennings: I am, you know. I work in public relations my whole career, and I can tell you that the shift in attitude from kind of people I worked with earlier in my career to today, it's wonderful to see the growth, the empowerment. There still isn't equality fully across the spectrum, but there's a heightened awareness and attention to the issue with groups like your own.

Amanda Wick: Yeah. And I think that's a really critical point is that ,yes, there's heightened awareness and attention. The problem with unconscious bias is that it's hard in the moment, right? So you're planning a conference, you're putting together a panel, you're making some opportunity, and you go to who you know. And if a lot of men know a lot of men, then they tend to reach out to men. And what we're trying to do is just inject into that conversation. Don't just be aware. Don't just be cognizant. Be intentional about being inclusive, because intentional inclusivity will make a change, which is why we kind of say awareness was great, but what we need is militants and diligence, right? So I just saw, there was a conference I think in Dubai last week or the week before. And one of my former colleagues posted a picture of him on a panel of seven men.

And I wrote back and I was like, this is not what inclusivity looks like. It's just not, the mannel kind of needs to be eliminated. And I say that and people say, well, you're fine with all women panels and this is where the militants comes in. Cause I say yes. And when there's gender equality and equal pay then I'll also have a problem with the all woman panel. But for right now, if you're looking at a panel that is all men, then you're doing something wrong because there are females out there who are subject matter experts who deserve to be included in the conversation.

Walter Jennings: I want to get personal, and thinking in my mind... No, I'm thinking about the female professionals who are working in financial services in blockchain, in crypto exchanges and more, and what resources are available to them through the Women in Crypto Association that help them better deal with their day-to-day reality?

Amanda Wick: Yeah. So one of the big things we're launching next year is something called mentoring circles. And this is the idea, like a lot of people when they think of mentoring, they think of, oh, I have a senior mentor, right? And I learned from this senior person, but this is really outdated and wrong thinking because some of the people that I've learned the most from have been 20 something year olds who are fearless and start their own companies, right?

Walter Jennings: Right. I'll introduce you to my teenager son. He'll teach you a lot.

Amanda Wick: Exactly. And that's the thing about technology. We're constantly learning from young people, and yet we think that the learning path only goes one way. So instead of a mentoring of a senior woman and a junior woman, we have mentoring circles where we put about six to eight people together.

Walter Jennings: Fantastic idea.

Amanda Wick: Match them across industries, across geographies. And we say, look, you can all learn from each other. And we saw this at our launch event in Santa Clara where there was a very senior successful woman who was having difficulty kind of getting into the C-suite. And she said, you know,  I'm just having difficulty getting into this. And this woman who is I think maybe 29, she said, well, have you thought about joining a startup? And the the woman said, that's too much risk. And she said, oh, I've started my second company. Like, we should talk. And you could just see the bonds being grown and the possibilities being open. Because the reality is women are more risk averse. We just are, we invest less in venture capital, we tend to be just more risk averse generally.

So to have those conversations, sometimes women need somebody to push them to consider the cost risk analysis. But you know, if you don't take big leaps, it's very hard to make big gains.

Walter Jennings: Well, also the other point is you just don't know what the options are until you do.

Amanda Wick: Exactly.

Walter Jennings: Consult with your universe of people that you know, or even newcomers because they suddenly provide a perspective you never had.

Amanda Wick: That's right. And that's why conferences like this are so incredible because you walk around and you see all the amazing things that people are doing that you had no idea. You meet somebody, you collaborate, you realize like places where you can cross network and develop things together.

And those connections, I don't know if you've ever read the book Range, but he talks about how generalists thrive in a specialized world and picking out all of these different things and seeing like the links between what this company does and this company. There's a company over there that's doing a partnership with like a company that does, uses bread to make beer, right? Like they're basically like recreating, they're reusing like food waste to make new things. And these partnerships, when you're thinking about them are so important because something we talked about a little bit earlier is how this is so global.

I'm from the United States, there's a lot more people here, I think from outside of Southeast Asia. And for as global as FinTech and crypto and blockchain is it's still so siloed, the networking and the interactions, right? And we really need to change that. And that's why the association is seeking to be global, to have members from all over the world. Because you can't just be the person in the United States. You can't just be the person who knows people in Singapore because there's so much out there now that if you can move money in seconds, you need to know the people who can help you in seconds.

Walter Jennings: Yeah. Noah, it is one of the hallmarks of Web3, which is the whole idea of it takes an ecosystem to build a FinTech. Because even if you run a blockchain foundation that doesn't help you with the middleware and the DApps and when you walk through this event, Hong Kong FinTech, you notice the dozens of companies and then that kind of spark that occurs when people meet and suddenly recognize that your wallet is solving my DeFi problem and your professional network is in line with mine. So it's those kind of happenstance accidents that lead to great discoveries.

Amanda Wick: This is literally how I ended up on the podcast. Me and Angus were talking at the TRM Labs booth and we just happened to overhear each other. We were both, I was raving about Erie Red Board's LinkedIn, which I do quite frequently. He's at TRM. And Angus and I just happened to start talking. I told him what I did. He mentioned that he did conferences and this podcast, and the next thing you know, I'm here with you. And those opportunities happened so much if you open yourself up to all of the people here.

And the vibe here at Singapore FinTech Festival is so amazing. Last night at Club Street, people just sat down with strangers, introduced themselves. It's just an incredible thing that if you open yourself up to it, which I get is hard for introverts, and we could have an entire podcast on the difference of networking for introverts and extroverts. And that's something that we do at our events because we have to do facilitated networking to involve introverts because you just, if you just have some cocktail hour, that's an introverts nightmare, right? It's just too difficult to make meaningful connections that way.

But here, it's, there's just a vibe that's very conducive to that. And it's a really incredible thing when conferences can accomplish that.

Walter Jennings: I recommend all my fellow introverts start a podcast. It's the best way to socialize.

Amanda Wick: It is a very nice way to have a meaningful conversation with somebody. And, and we all crave that, especially coming out of Covid. We are all looking for meaningful connections outside of our home with other people because a lot of us felt we were trapped for so long. And even my most introverted friends right now are realizing how much they in fact needed other people. And I think that was a little eye-opening for all of us.

And as we come out of Covid and as the world reopens, that need to kind of like reach out and grasp for people is also really conducive to business opportunities and meaningful things and ways that we can change the world together. So it just feels like it's a very exciting time and like a tipping point to really make change, especially using all the incredible FinTech products that are coming out of conferences like this.

Walter Jennings: Earlier you mentioned, I think I'm gonna have t-shirts made that say women in crypto be intentional.

Amanda Wick: I would buy that shirt.

Walter Jennings: Yes, I'd probably give it to you. But when we spoke before the show, we were talking about unconscious bias and I wanted to, that is where you might have people organizing an event who just only think of the men they know. But let me flip that a moment and come to you from the perspective of a female professional, do they have an unconscious bias against what they can achieve or you mentioned earlier risk aversion. How do we instill the confidence so that they're pushing more and over trying to overcome that?

Amanda Wick: Yeah, so that's a great question and that's something that we try to do at our events. When I was, when we had our event in Bangkok, we were talking with women all over Africa and Asia, women in cyber. And one of the women from Africa said something that was so interesting cuz she said it's very hard for them to get women to be CISOs like Chief security officers. And part of the reason for that was because if there's a breach, the first person to get fired is the CISO, right? And so yes, it comes with the reward of the C-suite, but it comes with this risk of being accountable and possibly losing your job. And that's a scary thing, right? And women tend to be providers, they tend to be the bedrock, they tend to be the people that everyone relies on. So men are in some ways conditioned to be able to take more risk and have somebody to kind of support them.

Whereas women tend to be way more concerned about job loss or financial insecurity. There's so much that gets wrapped into that. People's life situations, their partners, whether they have children dealing with all of that is why women benefit so much from talking to other women at different points in their lives, at different points in their careers. And also talking to men, right? So that's why we also talk about the importance of having male and female mentors and just as importantly male and female sponsors. And those are different things. A mentor is there to help you, to advise you to, to answer questions when you have them. A sponsor is somebody who says, there's a podcast that you should be on and I'm going to connect you. There's a job that you should be in I'm gonna put you forward for it.

They push you and they help you, and they support you. And I think if you talk to a lot of successful people, they can pick out the sponsors in their life who have helped them. And so again, going back to intentionality, being intentional about your relationships and having mentors and sponsors can make all the difference. Cuz sometimes you need somebody, my best friend who's on my board, Jane Kovski, we were just talking this morning how she was like, I'm so glad you shoved me out of the nest of government. I had somebody who shoved me out of my nest.

Sometimes you need somebody to push you and to get you to think more broadly and women and when women and get together, women who support other women. And we have one rule, and that is no mean girls. And it's a critical rule because and the women out here know exactly what I'm talking about.

They know exactly who the mean girls in their lives are. And that is a really strict thing because when women who really support other women get into a room, magical things get done. And if we keep out the mean girls, it is, I'm loving the head nodding. It's so great, but it's a very real thing.

And you know, when women and women get together and then you add supportive male allies who are like, how can we help? The biggest thing I tell men is tell me what you need. I have a woman that I can put forward. And that's the thing is we have to get men to be more intentional. You're planning a conference, you're working on a paper, you have a job opportunity, just be intentionally inclusive for both women, people of color. And it's such an important thing. And to think globally, even conferences in the United States, I'm like, you couldn't get one person from Southeast Asia or Europe. You think all of FinTech is in the United States. Yes, travel is a cost issue, but we just have to figure out ways to do this better.

And being more broadly inclusive is something that we just, we all have to do it for, for crypto, for global FinTech. If we're gonna make this work, we have to be more intentionally inclusive.

Walter Jennings: I wrote on my notes, I drew a line down the side. Well, on one side I put mean girls in crypto bros. And on the other side I put women in crypto and male allies.

Amanda Wick: Yeah. The crypto bros are very real. I will say, somebody commented to me how refreshing it was not seeing any like backward turned hats running around. And the vibe here is less crypto bro, I think in some conferences, and I think that conferences are starting to realize how exclusive the crypto bro culture is.

Walter Jennings: Yeah. Well I think that is a very, very narrow segment of all that Web3 has to offer, which are the traders and the hadlers and the coin bros, the crypto bros. But within Web3, as we expand that out in FinTech, you're looking at massive systems that are trying. I mean, we had earlier the CEO of the Cardano Foundation talking about intention and equity and really driving to support sustainable development goals. So there are pockets of that and it's less..

Amanda Wick: Oh, there's huge pockets of it. Yeah. And the thing is the problem is that the crypto bro culture is, to your point, I think getting less, but it's still like an outsized amount of the people who are showcased and highlighted, right? I think the problem is that you need more voices in the room. And one of the things that we were talking about yesterday is I don't think it's a coincidence that as the conversation about responsible innovation is growing and crypto is becoming more legitimate, you have blockchain analytics companies that are able to help with a ML and KYC. And the topic of responsible innovation is growing. It's like a wellspring. I don't think it's a coincidence that there's a tipping point that we need to have more inclusion of different voices in the room.

When you exclude women from the room, unfortunately bad things tend to happen. Like statistically when you have women in the room, that's where you get risk moderation discussions about what should we do? Not just what could we do? And too few of those conversations were had at the beginning and now we have what we have, but trying to kind of force the market now into we trying to force innovation into responsible innovation requires a broader range of voices in the room.

And so I think you have this convergence basically of inclusivity and responsible innovation, and people are being, I think, more cognizant of the need for inclusivity and not just women, people of color, people from around the world. Like this is a really important topic for everyone. I'm obviously passionate about women and being inclusive to women, but whenever I see a panel of all white people, I ask the same thing. Are you serious? Like that, that's all one voice, right? Yeah. And we just need broader voices.

Walter Jennings: Now, um, unbeknownst to you, I am a middle-aged white male and..

Amanda Wick: I had not noticed.

Walter Jennings: I know, it's amazing your blindness there, but, speaking to someone like me, what are two or three things that I can be thinking about differently to be a better male ally?

Amanda Wick: That is such an amazing question. And the thing is realize that in the moment that you're making decisions, you've had years of conditioning that will have you make the wrong choice. And that's not, that's the definition of unconscious bias, right? And when I say wrong choice, I just mean the lesser inclusive choice. It's not intentional. I don't think white men run around the world saying, how do I just keep this amongst white men and exclude everyone else? Or at least I'd like to think those guys aren't out there. That's the Pollyanna in Me.

Walter Jennings: There was a Saturday in a life skit by Eddie Murphy many years ago on that...

Amanda Wick: Sadly, my last job showed me the impacts of racism in white supremacy. So I can say they sadly are out there, but for them guys who are asking, how do I be a good male ally, understand that in the moment that you have an opportunity where you're looking at other people, whether it's speaking, hiring somebody any opportunity, if you are intentionally inclusive, and I hate when people say, oh, like diversity. I'm like, no, no, this isn't diversity for diversity's sake. This is realizing that there are incredibly qualified, sometimes more qualified women and people of color, and you need to be intentionally inclusive because the neural pathways in your brain will have you reaching out to the people that you know before you know it. So in that moment, pause and think, is there a woman, is there a person of color that I could include?

And if I don't know one, then intentionally reach out to somebody like me, intentionally reach out to some of my founding members who are running  black women blockchain Council, Ziba women in Africa. There are so many organizations that can find you a woman or person of color that there's really no excuse. You can't not find one if you're looking.

So the first thing I would ask is, look, and the second thing that I would say, and this is a huge thing, I knew a male ally who did this, and it was so impactful. He would not speak on panels that were all men. If he saw that the other speakers were only men, he would say, that's just not, no. That if you could maybe be a little bit more inclusive, I can suggest a different panelist, but he would actually just not speak on. And it forced the conference planners to really look at what they were doing and say, oh my gosh, we didn't even notice that. Yes. Do you know a woman? And so those are the two things that I would say is. - a) figure out ways to be intentionally inclusive and b) help us call it out when you see that somebody's maybe not so inclusive because they probably don't mean it, they just need a little help and we can help them.

Walter Jennings: I would also encourage our listeners to kind of recognize their own unconscious bias. If you're heading all of ushave it. Yeah. If you're heading out to Starbucks with a bunch of the guys, instead perhaps find maybe a younger female professional,  sit with them. Yes. Ask about the barriers they're facing in their workplace and just learn. You don't have to have the answers, you just have to have some of the questions.

Amanda Wick: And I know, there's some really fine lines here. And I've had people say, Ooh, like, where do you get with white savior? I've heard that expression. Like there's this, and I hate when people say that because the reality is if a lot of the pie is held by white people and white people realize that's a problem, then when they reach out, you shouldn't be smacking the hand away. You should be saying, is this coming from a good place? Is it sometimes coming from a bad place? God, I hope not. But if it is, I get it. But don't always assume that it's coming from a bad place. Assume that it's coming from a place where the more we talk about this, the more people look around and say, gosh, this is a lot of white men, or gosh, this is a lot of men. Or, gosh, we just need to have different voices.

And anytime somebody does that, I think we should recognize it. And Jill does importantly, anytime people don't, we really need to be more militant about calling it out in a nice way. I try to do it as nicely as possible. I use a lot of emojis. I take that from Ari Redbord. He's the king of emojis. And I try to be as nice as I can about, Hey, I'm sure you're great, but let's do this better. We can do this better.

Walter Jennings: Well, we'd love to see the Association for Women in Crypto down at D3 Bahamas that..

Amanda Wick: We would love to be there

Walter Jennings: in January because this week long festival is all about community and inclusion. And The Bahamas is a star in the Caribbean and right at the foot at the steps of North America. And there is going to be a big focus on community inclusion and equity.

Amanda Wick: And I love that you're thinking that we'd love to be a part of it. And for anyone listening, if you're interested, if you have a partnership opportunity, if you're interested in inclusion and making sure that the future of digital finance is inclusive, please don't hesitate to reach out to me. Our websites, womenincrypto.org. My email is amanda@womenin crypto.org. And I just appreciate everyone listening and thank you for the phenomenal conversation and questions. This was an absolute blast.

Walter Jennings: Amanda Wick, founder of the Association for Women in Crypto, full-time job dedicated to the cause. Thank you so much for joining us on Waves in the Finoverse.

Amanda Wick: Thank you so much for having me.

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