An article published in City AM on 2 July 2019

By Dr Maxine Room CBE

Featuring: All-Party-Parliamentary-Group for Blockchain’s momentous impact on using blockchain for good in education, research, sports, charities and NGOs.

Blockchain for good: Using Blockchain has the ability to tackle inequality.

Recently, I was in Westminster at the All-Party-Parliamentary-Group for Blockchain on education, research, sport, charities and NGOs. It reminded me of a working trip to India in 2000 as I was able to connect a lot of blockchain dots.

In India I was ‘selling’ British qualifications for a further education college and doing research on the transferability of qualifications. The relative poverty I observed was overwhelming. I visited a school, a charity, who provided hot meals everyday for 100 primary-aged children for a total cost £5 per-day. Returning home, I fundraised £150 to pay for 1 month’s meals. The money was sent however, never received or cashed as far as I know.

Listening to the panel I reflected on this and my interest in ‘Blockchain-for good’. Had I known about blockchain, how could it have been applied, to education, my research and this charity? The panel covered these various uses and challenges of blockchain concluding “It’s not a magic pill, but certainly can go a long-way to making current business and process more efficient and transparent.”

Everyday a media reference is made to equality, diversity and inclusion but progress is slow.. I’m keen to see how blockchain solutions for good can be integrated, influence and drive change for these areas particularly in these turbulent political and economic times.

However, someone whispered in my ear at a recent blockchain event ‘they are all only interested in making money.’

Making businesses capitalise on the use of blockchain more successfully and profitably by embracing an equality diversity and inclusion strategy is an attractive proposition whether linked to blockchain, crypto or not. It’s economic good sense! Doing good through the use of blockchain can give you a feel-good factor, a #metoo advantage in addition to making money!

Equality, diversity and inclusion can be seen as a minefield to be navigated carefully. However, consider who is making these kinds of judgements in organisations, who are the decision makers? Of the top 350 companies in the UK only 24 have female Chairs. Although 700 women have been appointed to Boards since the Davies Report, and some Boards have over 50% representation, some have none and the overall statistics hide the reality. Many businesses still don’t understand or recognise the value diverse teams bring. It’s easier to recruit and manage people from networks you know. Diverse teams are challenging but bring innovation.

A FinTech article by Gemma Young, of DiversiTech asked: Is there anyone out there who doesn’t think that workplace diversity is a good thing? It referred to blockchain having inbuilt democratisation transcending race, colour, religion, creed, age, gender, sexual orientation and protected characteristics. A recent One Loud Voice event focused on the need for male advocacy. Diversity data linked to gender profiles of blockchain companies and events isn’t easy to access. However, observe any blockchain event or company and do the maths! One figure is glaring, VC funding for women-led business sits at 0.5% in the UK!

Over the past few months I’ve been privileged to have conversations and discussions about the links between blockchain and equality that have the power to disrupt through a call to action, or two or three! Reducing social and gender gaps benefits are recognised but structural barriers still exist that mean women and girls cannot reach their full potential. Equally this can be applied to other marginalised groups across the globe. It’s not exclusive to gender.

What does the UN say? The global gender pay gap is 23%; 5% of Fortune 500 CEO’s are women; 65% of women have experienced sexual harassment in the UK and 96% of global homicides are by men.

IMF research shows that tackling workplace sexism could boost economic productivity by 35% says IMF chief Christine Lagarde.

Almost half of all female managers say their workplace is sexist and in some cases shut women out of the workplace altogether, says Young Women’s Trust.

The relative ‘newness’ of blockchain without legacies of demarcation of labour, roles and responsibilities could be a driving-force for change. Something as simple as identity could bring financial inclusion to hiring and payment for skills and contribute to reducing gender poverty associated with women globally.

The blockchain world is a continuum dominated by men because it is ‘technology’. The ability to make it gender neutral lies with a complete overhaul of “the mobilisation of knowledge, skills attitudes and values through a process of reflection, anticipation and action, in order to develop the inter related competencies needed to engage with the world’ says the OECD Learning Framework.

Blockchain is seen as possibly the most disruptive force of modern times. It can be the force of change to disrupt one of the greatest challenges of our time, inclusion and diversity.

The words of Amir Dossal, Executive Chair of the Blockchain Commission for Sustainable Development are poignant and a call to action “It is not women who need to change, it is our species and lip service is unacceptable”. What lip-service will you change today?

Dr Maxine Room CBE, CEO of All of Us in conversation with James Bowater.