Denelle Dixon is CEO and Karen Chang is VP of Engineering at Stellar Development Foundation (SDF), a nonprofit organization designed to help grow the Stellar blockchain network.
They are two female executives in an industry dominated by men, but in an organization that has managed to buck the trend. Thirty-nine of SDF’s 81 employees are women.
Dixon and Chang appeared on The Decrypt Daily podcast to discuss how diversity and inclusion can help cryptocurrency companies and organizations—and what they can do to move beyond buzzwords.
“It's not rocket science that when you have diverse backgrounds and perspectives that actually bring everybody to the table, it allows different conversations to happen,” Dixon told host Matthew Aaron Diemer. “We see it all the time when there's someone missing from the table, that the product actually misses a component of what's needed in society.”
One practical way of achieving this, she said, is by mandating that diverse candidates be interviewed for each open job. “When you start there and then you just hire the best candidate...the best candidates oftentimes end up being the ones that represent these different perspectives.”
Yet, while other organizations, such as the NFL, have instituted similar policies, they haven’t all had similar results. While 70% of football players are Black, only 9% of head coaches are. Blockchain firms face a similar disparity, trying to reach a diverse global audience with very few women in leadership or staff positions.
Thus, indicated Dixon, “You just have to really want it to happen and have to focus on it and make it a priority.”
Hiring, of course, is just half the battle.
“If you look at tech across the board, there's no tech company that's not saying we are in absolute 110% support of diversity and inclusion,” said Chang. “From the top-down, the messaging is great. Now what's happening is it kind of breaks down from the bottom-up.”
She gave the example of female employees regularly being asked to take notes in meetings. Or, managers who don't pick up on non-verbal cues from female employees who don't want to speak up in front of more boisterous male colleagues.
“There's kind of this internal constraint of, ‘Should I really be at this table? Should I really speak up? Is my voice necessary? Is my insight interesting?’ said Chang
Both women agree that it is.
Said Dixon: “We just need to have people who look and sound like the people that we represent all around the world, so that we can actually have their views and perspectives.”