The Women Powering Bitcoin Adoption
Celebrating International Women's Day
The Women Powering Bitcoin Adoption
According to Google Analytics data from 2021, only 14.23% of bitcoin engagement comes from women. This statistic is indicative of the broader trend in the technology industry, where women are underrepresented. However, in reality, women are playing a critical role in building the foundations of a world that operates on a bitcoin standard.
Women have been instrumental in many areas of bitcoin adoption, including policy, financial analysis, bitcoin mining, the environment, human rights, technology, film, education, and even memeing. In this article, I take a look at some of the women who are propelling the bitcoin movement forward.
Meet the Trail Blazers
At first, regulators largely ignored bitcoin. But, as its potential to upend the existing monetary system and financially empower private citizens has become apparent, regulatory attacks on bitcoin have increased. In their current form, they take the shape of the promotion and development of central bank digital currencies, or CBDCs.
Natalie Smolenski is the founder and executive director of the Texas Bitcoin Foundation, a co-founder of the Texas Blockchain Council, and a fellow at the Bitcoin Policy Institute. Many will know her through her work educating policy makers in the U.S. But, more recently she has been appearing more regularly on non-U.S. media such as the U.K.-based podcast What Bitcoin Did and her ideas are reaching a global audience.
With a background in anthropology, Smolenskihas become increasingly concerned about the growth of the surveillance state and its societal impact. She is especially concerned about the proposed tools that the state wishes to have at its disposal. A strong advocate against CBDCs, she recently gave a presentation online, hosted by the IMF, to outline why she is opposed to them. Smolenski views this technology as something that presents no additional benefits to citizens, and she eloquently outlined in her presentation how CBDCs will provide governments with an authoritarian tool for oppression. See links to the full presentation and slide deck.
Her leadership in this space led the host of What Bitcoin Did, Peter McCormack, to ask her if she might be willing to lead a political movement to “build liberty,” to which she responded “Well, I'm out here trying’.” Watch this space.
In the U.K., the government is embracing digital surveillance technologies, from CBDCs to digital IDs. Most recently they released a roadmap for the British version of a CBDC, which they have christened with the innocuously sounding name “Britcoin.” This prompted author, environmentalist and Bitcoiner Susie Violet Ward to write an article in City A.M. shedding light on the realities of CBDCs and the U.K. Prime Minister's questionable support for them. In the article she states,
“CBDCs will result in a loss of privacy, they are likely to require a vast amount of personal information to be collected, stored, and shared among government agencies, financial institutions, and technology companies. This presents a significant risk to citizens' privacy and could lead to potential breaches and exploitation of personal data.”
Ward has now become a vocal spokesperson against CBDCs, subsequently appearing on a U.K. nationwide news channel — GB News — to advocate against them. I predict you will be seeing much more of her in the future.
One of the challenges around bitcoin adoption is translating the benefits of this technology into language that the general public and those in traditional finance can understand. Here, analyst Lyn Alden leads the way. With a background in engineering, Alden has been working as an investment analyst for years. She had some interest in the emergence of bitcoin, but mainly saw it as an interesting technology whose promise she was supportive of. These days, she writes extensively about bitcoin in the context of investments and is able to marry its concepts with the world of traditional finance, providing a bridge that allows anyone to understand bitcoin and its value in simple terms. You can subscribe to her newsletter here.
Bitcoin Mining and the Environment
Over the last few years we have seen concerted attacks directed towards bitcoin mining. Disappointingly, these have often come under the cloak of “sustainability” and “environmental protections.” Most recently the crypto firm Ripple paid Greenpeace $5m for its “Change the Code, Not the Climate” campaign. With this nice, tidy sum in their coffers, Greenpeace proceeded to write a hit piece demanding that the bitcoin code be changed in order to save the planet. Ignoring this demand’s ignorance of bitcoin’s decentralized nature and code, the piece exposed Greenpeace’s shift towards corporate interests instead of environmental concerns, disappointing many of its previous supporters.
Environmentalist and Climate Tech VC, Daniel Batten publicly ended his subscription following this tweet thread. But the strongest rebuttals to the misinformation piece by Greenpeace came from Margot Paez, a left-wing climate physicist and passionate Bitcoiner. On Twitter she goes by @jyn_urso and you can read some of her responses to Greenpeace and Ripple here and here.
Paez, who is also a fellow at the Bitcoin Policy Institute, in partnership with philosopher and environmentalist Troy Cross, wrote a response to a request for information on the energy and climate implications of digital assets, posted by the Office of Science and Technology Policy in the U.S. Their response looks at the realities of the environmental impact of bitcoin mining, contrasted with its benefits. You can read the full piece here.
Needless to say, having a dedicated climate activist so eloquently defend bitcoin has provided credibility to the environmental movement within the Bitcoin community, but Paez has also created an open dialogue with policy makers who can now access a real expert in both climate change science and bitcoin.
While many Bitcoiners highlight the humanitarian benefits of bitcoin, Anita Posch is one of the strongest advocates in this space. Posch is the author of Learn Bitcoin and the founder of Bitcoin for Fairness, a nonprofit that supports bitcoin education and adoption in developing countries.
Posch wrote a detailed article for Bitcoin Magazine entitled “Opposing the Corruptible Fiat System, Bitcoin Enforces Human Rights,” which looks at our understanding of human rights, the international guidelines which are supposed to protect them, and how bitcoin, independent of international agreements, both supports and enforces these rights.
As well as hosting her own podcast, Posch has created her own bitcoin podcasting service, BTC Podcasting, which allows content creators to host podcasts for free and monetize them via the Lightning Network without the need to run their own node. This service is already seeing uptake by several Bitcoin podcasters.
Contrary to what many people think, the bitcoin code is not at a standstill. While improvements are continually being made to its code by Bitcoin Core developers, some of the most exciting work is happening around so-called layer-2 technologies. These are essentially technology layers which sit on top of the main blockchain and provide the bitcoin network with additional functionality or scalability. The Lightning network allows bitcoin payments to scale, and one of its leading champions is Elizabeth Stark — a self-professed fan of open-source code and decentralization who is the CEO of lightning labs. Together with Olaoluwa Osuntokun, an ex-Google engineer and co-author of Mastering the Lightning Network, Stark co-founded lightning labs and is working with her team to develop open-source software to power Lightning.
Out in the wild, as companies start exploring how to integrate lightning payments, Hannah Rosenberg, a Lightning advocate and web developer with a background in economics and a passion for bitcoin, has built Velas Commerce. Velas Commerce enables businesses to integrate lightning payments into their websites, applications, enterprise systems, and more. Services like hers will become increasingly critical for the adoption of lightning and will facilitate access to this cheap, secure, and borderless payment technology.
So we’ve covered some of the key supporting frameworks for bitcoin adoption, but what about the arts?
There has been an explosion in Bitcoin content over the last few years and we are now seeing the professional storytellers among us turning their talents to documenting bitcoin.
Alana Mediavilla came to bitcoin fairly early in 2015, but she did not fully appreciate its power until 2020. At that time, while living in California, she saw the freedoms she had taken for granted being rapidly eroded. Since then, her interest in Bitcoin has deepened, and she has combined this with her experience as a filmmaker at Google — and her film company FilmKik — to create an in-depth documentary on bitcoin mining with the triggering title Dirty Coin.
The film aims to separate facts from “factoids,” and provide a window into what bitcoin mining is. Mediavilla is currently travelling the world filming, and I await the documentary release with excitement. Funding for the film is being partially crowd-sourced through Geyser, which allows anyone to contribute to its creation, making it a truly decentralized and bitcoin-spirited project.
As the foundations for the bitcoin protocol were being developed by the cypherpunks during the last half-century, a culture of “memeing” sprung up around this space. Memes allowed the community to protest injustices and mock their perpetrators using humor, providing much-needed comic relief during challenging times.
Carrying on that baton of humour, is Bitcoin Bekka, the infamous Canadian memer. Bitcoin Bekka is part of the Meme Factory, which has declared itself not to exist. She leads the way in bitcoin humor among women and is unstoppable. When Elon Musk’s censors are not holding her in Twitter jail, her memes relentlessly simp Michael Saylor, a prominent bitcoiner who is the founder and chair of MicroStrategy, while keeping others in the community honest with her fearless trolling. With a halo of fiery red hair and razor-sharp wit, her memes are often too racy to retweet. You have been warned.
Lastly, what would bitcoin be if nobody knew about it, or if its magic stayed within the confines of the Bitcoin community?
Angela Chan is a Vancouver-based teacher who co-founded EVOS Blockchain with fellow teacher Kyle Berdusco. Together they are scaling bitcoin adoption by first training teachers, who, in turn, can educate all their students. This method of driving bitcoin adoption can also be seen in El Salvador with the “Mi Primer Bitcoin” (My First Bitcoin) program. Ultimately, this will be how we reach the global population and equip the next generation with the skills they need for a world built on the bitcoin blockchain.
In conclusion, women have been making significant contributions to the bitcoin industry. They are often more risk-averse, taking their time to fully understand the technology before embracing it. However, once they do, they are relentless in building a solid foundation and shepherding the technology into the future.
Women like Natalie Smolenski, Susie Violet Ward, Lyn Alden, Margot Paez, Anita Posch, Elizabeth Stark, Hannah Rosenberg, Alana Mediavilla, Bitcoin Bekka, and Angela Chan are paving the way for more women to become involved in these industries and to help drive adoption worldwide.
As awareness of bitcoin grows and evolves, women will continue to play an important role in shaping its future.
Happy International Women’s Day to all, but especially to the fearless female pioneers of the incredible energy force that is bitcoin.
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