‘We need to change mindsets’: The push to get women into blockchain
Niamh O’Connell doesn’t mince her words when asked why she thinks women might be apprehensive about working in tech.
“It is and has always been painted as a male-dominated and risky industry,” she says.
This notion, as opposed to the realities of the industry, is the issue.
“Rather than focusing on the rewards and opportunities, this has been the focus.
“We need to change mindsets!”
Niamh’s own background means she’s well-placed to make that assessment. She spent her early 20s in professional services for Deloitte but a work event introduced her to blockchain and changed her career trajectory. She's been working in the sector, first with Deloitte and then with Consensys, for over two years.
“Now, I couldn’t imagine not working in tech! This mindset shift is all down to the opportunity and experience I encountered when starting my career.”
Making a difference
Blockchain, for those of us not familiar with the world of fintech, is the technology that supports cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin.
Like lots of sectors in tech, and by Niamh’s own admission, it is a bit of a boys’ club.
“I’ve been working in the blockchain space for almost four years. During this time, the majority of people I have worked with or met in this ecosystem have been men.”
On the one hand, she says, she feels lucky to work at the forefront of this nascent type of technology.
“On the other-hand, I found it frustrating that there were so few women aware of – yet alone working in – this space when it has the potential to change the future of humanity!”
Not willing to sit back and hope for change, she decided to do something about it and founded BlockW in 2018.
The initiative, aimed at women, aims to build awareness of blockchain technology in Ireland and foster inclusion within the industry through events and meet-ups. BlockW is not just about networking either – a recent event counted as CPD credits for the Irish Computer Society (ICS) Foundation.
Over a year in, Niamh is proud of the impact it's had.
"We’ve received really positive feedback from our membership, which is constantly growing, about the quality content but also how the community is really inclusive and open, so things seem to be working!"
Her efforts haven't gone unnoticed. Niamh beat stiff competition to take home the Blockchain Leader award at last year's Dublin Tech Summit Women In Tech Awards.
She was shocked to win and says the highlight of the event was getting to meet other women "who were highly regarded and recognized in their field."
Still, being a winner has stood to her over the past year and she's been determined to make the most of her platform.
"It provided me with a wider platform to continue creating awareness of blockchain, through more international speaking opportunities. I think it’s also helped me elevate the work we are doing at BlockW in Ireland and Europe."
Niamh is returning to the awards this year as one of twelve judges who will pick this year's crop of winners.
Her is official media partner to this year's Dublin Tech Summit Women In Tech Awards.
The event, which celebrates achievements, diversity and inclusion, will take place at Dublin's RDS on 10 October. Find out more here.