Women $POWR in the Crypto World!

Missy SmithStaff member, Missy Smith, takes a deeper look into cryptocurrency trend.

Every winter break or summer season, I choose something to study and dive into when I’m in between “stuff” with a little more time to grow a hobby or a part of my dream. Last summer, I scratched my creative butch itch and learned how to do some woodworking. I sanded and polyurethaned a bench in my driveway in the hot summer sun. The result is pretty awesome! Here is an after and before pic. 

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Someone asked me what I learned in the process. I made a list. 

  1. Sanding by hand is tedious, but I got to know the wood better by taking my time and using patience with each stroke, resting when necessary, and being more perceptive of changes when I come back to approach the canvas.
  2. No shortcuts. I cannot rush the work. When I rushed or tried to take shortcuts, the end result was blegh. 
  3. There are not a lot of women hanging out at Home Depot and sometimes I had to figure things out on my own or wait for a long time before anyone would help me.
  4. I met a lot of cool folks in the woodworking and refurbishing community!

This past Winter break, I decided to dive into creative work and finish some lingering music projects from 2017. After reading headlines about something called Bitcoin and pondering my own investments, I accidentally stumbled into cryptocurrency. Like Home Depot, when I started researching, I didn’t see a ton of women (or African Americans) talking about it. I did some digging. To no surprise, I quickly learned that there are not a lot of queer folks, women, or women of color in the crypto universe, just like STEM, corporate America, and higher education. But I know we exist. I see us all the time, and I am one of the few in these spaces sometimes. Being an outlier is not new to me, so I was curious about crypto. If the boys can do it, why can’t I? Why can’t we?

What is it? A Blockgeeks Inc. guide explains it well. “If you take away all the noise around cryptocurrencies and reduce it to a simple definition, you find it to be just limited entries in a database no one can change without fulfilling specific conditions.” Even more simple, your bank has a ledger that accounts for transactions, but in the crypto world a network of your peers owns the ledger. Everything is tracked, there are not mistakes (so far. And yes, I know things get hacked. Banks get robbed too!). If you are still confused, here is an image that links to a deeper dive.

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Why am I so interested in cryptocurrency? I think that for the first time in a long while (however long that is), there is something that is leveling the playing field for folks who might not have a chance to get ahead. Millenials know that should save money and invest in their retirement. Some folks are fortunate to be able to do it, and others may not be so fortunate. For me, I am in the weird generation before Millennials, and I have a unique outlook on tech, financial security, and I’m DIY enough to want to make my own way. Beyond investing, there are some great companies doing innovative work and reimagining the ways we send, spend, and receive money. 

I found some Facebook and Reddit groups for my identities as a woman and as a black person investing in crypto. There are minority professors and business leaders working as admin, holding FB live chats to talk about new coins and market strategies, all while growing the network of folks who are looking for a different way to make and spend money, digitally. I even learned about an LGBT cryptocurrency that wants to showcase the buying power of small(er) and mighty communities!  

Working at the Women’s Center has exposed me to global issues that impact women, and after studying eco feminism for one of our events last semester, I was excited to hear about sustainable currency initiatives. There are a lot of women and minorities working in the crypto space, leading companies that are offering innovative solutions to 20th century problems, thinking forward and manifesting a better future.  I learned about Power Ledger ($POWR), an Australian company that wants to recreate buying and selling of energy using blockchain technology. Their CEO, Dr Jemma Green is taking her team from Down Under to work in North America, earning headlines as “the woman powering the energy industry on the blockchain” from her peers! 

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Lympo ($LYM), a new coin that may change the healthcare industry, is led by CEO Ada Jonuse. Her company is changing the way the internet uses healthcare, data, and fitness apps and incentivizing wellness. There are even some companies that are making it easier to send money to family members in other countries. They do it faster and cheaper than traditional currencies. Women are also creating their own powerhouses networking groups to support each other and teach the world about crypto. So after all my digging over break, what did I learn? For starters, I am not a financial advisor.  But also . . . 

  1. Coming back from break is hard, but I get to know myself by studying the pieces of my bigger dream. I’m in school to make my dream concrete, so I continue to dive into work that I love. By thinking of the future, I am able to find joy vs stress in the work.
  2. There is no quick way to make money. I cannot rush the calendar year. When I rush, I stress and become obsessive. Be careful with your spending. Learn about investing and how to use the different exchanges! 
  3. There are not a lot of women working in the crypto space. I had to search for us, and I know we are knowledgeable about making money in the crypto world. We make our own networking groups to empower each other #girlsclub 
  4. I learned about a ton of cool people (people that look and live like me) making big headlines and leading 21st century companies, global entities, that will change the world.

Many mornings, I wake up and find headlines about women in crypto. We are leading and contributing and the world is taking notice. Crypto will not last as another boy’s club, not if we can change the narrative. If you want some more reading, here are a bunch of recent articles, mostly about women and crypto, that have made my morning coffee more enjoyable! Have fun!

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The Socialization of Women in Math: Who’s aware?

Sydney PhillipsStudent staff member Sydney has had a rocky relationship with math throughout her life. As a graduate student in the Applied Sociology program at UMBC she began to rethink her relationship with math through her statistics courses and with the support of her (Women!) professor and TA.

On Thursday September 14, the Women’s Center hosted their first fall roundtable on the topic of Women in Tech. I was there to listen and also write the roundup for the Women’s Center.

Women in Tech Flyer - printAlthough I am not a woman in the STEM field, a lot of what was shared really resonated with me and led to a reflection about my relationship with math. Let me start by saying it’s not a positive relationship. I’ve always struggled with math, I feel like it takes me longer than others, my professors (read: male professors) have always seen me as a burden, and now just thinking about it gives me anxiety. I’m talking “I don’t understand anything on this page, I’m going to fail this test, I’m going to fail this class, and I’m never going to get a job and my life is over” types of anxiety.

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I used to say I hated math because I thought I was bad at it, but the roundtable really made me reflect on if this is true or if I’ve just been socialized to believe this. I never thought I was a person who was bad at math; I thought I was bad at math because I was a woman.

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Comic from XKCD

Even as a graduate student who passed all of her undergraduate math classes and received an A in graduate level statistics (make note, I had women professors), I still think I’m inherently bad at math, which makes NO sense. This problem exists outside of my experiences as well and is reflected in the disparities between men and women in the STEM fields. For example, although more women are awarded bachelor’s degrees than men, only 17% of computer science graduates are women.

My reflection made me want to reach out to other women to see what their experiences with math were and if this socialization process affected their relationship with math at all. Like many other quests into knowledge, this one did not go quite as planned, but still I received a lot of feedback that included some key themes I think are important.

The first theme is that those who struggled with math or felt as if they were being told they were bad at math, began to feel this way from a VERY early age (most respondents reported between first grade and early middle school). Young girls who were working out math problems were told that if they didn’t understand it right away that they never would and they should basically give up.

The other theme was that most of these comments (or in some cases just dirty looks) came from male teachers. Not only were women being socialized through verbal interactions to believe they were bad at match, they were also aware of the nonverbal interactions between themselves and their male teachers that added to this thought. The patriarchy is alive and well in the classroom y’all.

Here are some responses:

I was talking with a classmate trying to figure out what a problem meant when the teacher came up to us, yelled at us for distracting our classmates, and that if we didn’t understand it – we wouldn’t ever get it. – Rachel (22).

2nd grade, the teacher said I just wasn’t up to it -Jamie (24)

A college professor told me before the class even started that I was either going to fail or drop out of the class, I ended up passing the class with a high B just to prove him wrong -Jill (23)

Most of the women who wrote about these negative experiences also expressed that their negative relationship with math has continue throughout their lives. In terms of their current feelings, they expressed feelings of doubt and anxiety when doing math, or even a complete avoidance of math in life altogether.

I hate it. I’m super intimidated by it. The thought of having to help my daughters with their math homework in the future, terrifies me! -Marie (38)

Some of the women who had negative experiences early on did end up having a good relationship with math later on. Some women have always had good experiences with math. The one common denominator between these positive math women was: a support system, and most of the time this support system was made up of other women (women teachers, Mom’s who worked in the field, etc.).

I had a teacher, Ms. Raden… I don’t know if it was her approach or the fact that she was a woman that made me more comfortable.  I took more advanced classes and eventually got a degree where match and equations are big.- Darcy (31).

My algebra 1 teacher went out her way to encourage girls. -Debbie (55)

I think the support I’ve had from my parents encouraging me to pursue math and science in my career has helped me to not feel inadequate in my mathematical abilities. -Caitlin (25).

Most of the responses I gleaned seemed to be aware of the stereotype of women being bad at math and science. Thus, while I expected emotional answers, I was not prepared for the amount of angry responses I received… which were directed at the survey itself and me. A lot of women took offense that I would “assume” they were bad at math or that their experiences were negative. They had never encountered the problem I was bringing up and therefore didn’t think it was an issue on a larger scale either. I have pretty thick skin, but to be honest, shifting through 30 responses with a large amount being very passionate about why I was wrong hit me hard. I immediately wanted to defend myself but also didn’t know how to respond. I didn’t know how to move forward with the blog or get out the message I was originally trying to convey. At first I just wanted to ignore these responses and focus on my original goal, but after reflecting (again) and getting input from coworkers and an amazing supervisor (Thanks Amelia!) I decided I needed to face what was making me uncomfortable head on.

I think it is important to note that women have a variety of experiences, and all of them are valid. While a lot of women have great experiences with math it is also a fact that there are large disparities in the gender makeup of people in STEM fields and that many women have had negative experiences. I want to foster a space as well as a society where all women’s voices are heard but also not at the expense of women with differing stories. Some experiences are good and some are bad but the consequences of a society that largely labels women at a disadvantage are very real. Although women’s involvement is on the rise, there are still barriers that need to be addressed in order for a more equitable field (and society) to emerge.

To the women in STEM fighting against these barriers, I thank you! To the women who feel comfortable in their own skin around math, I envy you! To the women who avoid math at all costs, I understand you! And to the women who can feel their blood pressure rising just when the word is uttered, I am with you!

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On Campus Resources:

UMBC Center for Women in Technology

More about the issue:

Women and Math: The Gender Gap Bridged

Women in Math, Science, & Medicine: Still Work to be Done

The Truth About Gender and Math

Women in Tech: A Roundtable Round-Up

A resource roundup provided by Women’s Center student staff member, Sydney

Women in Tech Flyer - print

Each month the Women’s Center hosts a roundtable discussion where we provide a few chosen panelists with guiding questions and then have a community discussion about a particular topic and how it intersects with women and gender. Roundtables are great opportunities to become involved in discourse and ask questions directly to those involved. On Thursday, September 15th The Women’s Center hosted our September roundtable, Women in Technology. In case you missed it or are interested in revisiting the topics, here is a summary of our discussion. At the end, we include some links to reading materials and additional resources.

We started off the session by discussing some relevant statistics regarding women college students who are pursuing STEM degrees and careers. Women earn 57.3% of all Bachelor’s degrees but only account for 17.9% of the degrees in Computer Science.

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Source: careerfoundry.com

When it comes to the workforce, women make up a small percentage of the tech jobs. And even a smaller percentage of those in leadership positions!

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Source: statista.com, 2014

And although women only make up a small percentage of tech jobs at these companies, women use these platforms more than men!

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After addressing some of the statistics about the discrepancies surrounding women in STEM fields, we heard from our panel about their experiences in academia and the tech industry.

Dr. Danyelle Ireland who is the Associate Director of the Center for Women in Technology (CWIT) and Dr. Marie desJardins, the Associate Dean of  College of Engineering and Information Technology here at UMBC, talked about why there is such a small number of women pursuing STEM. They set out to debunk the myth of a “lack of interest” surrounding technology for women and instead pointed out social factors that contribute to the low numbers. These included:

  • A lack of awareness of jobs or role models
  • The socialization that STEM is for men reaffirmed by video game and tech advertisements. Specifically, Dr. desJardins’ shared that when personal computers first began to be marketed to the general public in the 1980s, advertisements only focused on men as the would-be-users of this new technology.
  • Bias and discrimination that women may face in the workforce.
  • A hypercritical culture in which women constantly critique their own work.
  • The introduction of AP computer science classes in high schools which women students did not think was their space and a discrepancy of life goals between men and women.
  • The Innate Brilliance Model
  • And performance perception in which women are much harsher on their own performance compared to men’s self-perception.

We then heard from our last panelist, Katie Dillon, who is a UMBC CWIT student majoring in computer science. Katie discussed the importance of seeing women in her classes and how, in her experience, CWIT has created a more women-friendly climate in her tech classes. She then talked about her experiences in the tech industry and the sexism she faces as a woman intern in the tech industry. These instances ranged from being mistaken for a secretary (and not the engineer she in fact was) to being told she only got her position only because she is a woman.

We ended our discussion with each panelist giving participants their advice on how to handle workplace sexism or discrimination. There were two common theme throughout the answers – making connections  and knowing your limits. For women in tech it is important to surround yourself with allies, whether that be a mentor or fellow women employees, in order to have a soundboard if an issue was to arise. Knowing your reporting guidelines is also important (for example, “Can you report an instance of sexism anonymously at your workplace?”). The last piece of advice the panelists gave was to know what you stand for. Dr. Ireland made a point to tell the audience that it is not worth compromising yourself for a degree or a job and Dr. desJardins gave the advice that people respect when you are unapologetically yourself. Katie also made the great point that you are interviewing a company just as much as they are interviewing you – don’t be afraid to find out what they are willing to do for you!

Below are some resources surrounding Women in Tech: 


For further reading:

 

Be sure to follow the Women’s Center on myUMBC to stay tuned for our next round table event in October!

*Reaching* to Encourage Young Women in STEM : A Guest Post

Meet Isabel - the founder of the UMBC Reach Initiative.

Meet Isabel – the founder of the UMBC Reach Initiative.

This is a guest post written by UMBC rising junior, Isabel Geisler, who is leading the charge for a new initiative on campus called The Reach Initiative.

When I was 4 or 5 years old, I wanted to be an Astronaut. Mostly, because it was the closest career to being a Jedi, but I also loved space, Neil deGrasse Tyson, and theoretical physics.

I remember one night when I was young my sister and I were waiting for our mother to come home from work.  We were excited because on that night, Nova was doing a special on Quantum Physics. There was one part I remember specifically, where the host is pushing up against a wall and telling the audience how theoretically, if he pushed against the wall long enough for thousands and thousands of years there is a chance that he could just push his arm though the solid wall.

This is obviously a gross over-simplification…but for a 5 year old, this was the closest I could get to magic.

“Quantum Physics: The Fabric of the Cosmos” you can still look up the show today, I even found out that the entire episode is actually from a book by Brian Greene. Last winter, I saw it in a used bookstore, but didn’t buy it because I didn’t think I’d understand it. I don’t know when and why specifically I lost interest in pursuing physics, but I’m guessing it started when I got my first ‘B’ in math and I hate to psychoanalyze myself…but this is how it starts off and ends for many young women who were previously interested in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) fields.

When we look at the STEM fields and look at the proportion of women and men who are pursuing degrees you will find that the majority are men. When speaking of primary education, boys are 6 times more likely than girls to have taken engineering. When speaking of college, the gap gets wider. Despite the fact that roughly 58% of all college students are women, in a computer science class men will outnumber women at a ratio of 8:2. When speaking of professional careers, on average, men will hold about 76% of all STEM jobs. These percentages are reflected across the US –including UMBC- and this does not even begin to include the gaps between Women of Color and their representation in the fields.

The STEM pipeline is the term used to describe this phenomenon. At every gap in this pipeline, for example, elementary school to middle school, we see women dropping out of STEM. Many assert that this is simply because women are not interested in a career that is famous for being unsociable and sterile. This is the wrong assumption.  If we were to look at the experiences of many women in STEM, we would find an ongoing trend of implicit bias, discrimination, and a lack of institutional support. The gross underrepresentation of women in the STEM fields is not only unfair, but it is dangerous.  How can our society expect to be innovative when 50% of our intellectual power is missing from the STEM workforce?  Continue reading