Breaking the Tech Industry’s Glass Ceiling

How one woman is helping others to move forward in their technical careers.

Gloria Kimbwala, a block chain engineer in the San Francisco area is changing the way women navigate the tech industry through her work with upcoming generations. In an interview with Camden Kelly, Kimbwala discusses how her own journey into block chain has led her passion for helping others.

Empowered Women, Empower Women” – Gloria Kimbwala

A 2018 study by the New York Times found that the presence of women in the crypto and blockchain industry is only at 13%. What do you think is the largest obstacle for women wanting to enter the said industries?

As most women view cryptocurrency as the entryway into the blockchain, I attribute the real issue to be in the financial industry. Blockchain stretches so much further than merely finance and as it grows, so too will women’s interests. Similar to how the internet started, as a financial market, blockchain has to overcome its initial use for the marketplace to see the true value. The terminology in the financial market can be a turn off for some people as it is a “jump in” culture, however, there are groups such as “Women in blockchain” that exist to help women become more involved.

What would you say are the benefits of women in blockchain verses entering other technology?

The possibilities are endless when it comes to the benefits of women entering into blockchain technology. For one, there is the concept of bounties or an open economy which we can use to close the gender pay gap. And then you have the freedom of blockchain economics in that it allows women to work and accumulate a living even when say on maternity leave. The concept of financial empowerment for women in something new in this generation, when my mother was trying to get a bank account in the 1970’s she needed her husbands signature.

As a woman trying to educate others on the blockchain industry, how do you go about explaining it to those with little technical knowledge?

I would say to think of a grocery list and this list is automatically distributed to you, your husband and your mother in law. The moment you pick up an item on the list, everyone can see what you’ve picked up and everyone has access to the list. The only difference is that on blockchain the user does not know who else is on the list but the list is encrypted so users are not able to identify unless they know your address. And, you’re only identifiable if someone knows your address.

That seems very intricate to explain to say a stay at home mom reentering the workforce, do you have any advice for those women?

Look for a local meet up! There are groups everywhere of people looking to learn more, there is no shame in wanting to expand your skills. Blockchain is a lot easier to comprehend than people realize.

When it comes to bringing blockchain into the mainstream marketplace, which industry do you think will be the first affected?

The legal industry as far as contracts are concerned. But, the largest impact will probably be seen in the environmental or charitable giving area. Mainly in the voting or political areas or in the developing countries because they are more eager to accept a new form of wealth.

You currently organize “Camp Code” a 1-week immersive boot camp for young women, using your experience, do you find there to be interested in the technology from the youths of today? Especially young women?

Yes, there is a huge interest and it is growing! I’ve worked with girls as young as 4 introducing them into technology. Women now have more resources and society is more aware of the gender breakdown in terms of industry. This generation is being encouraged through positive role models to push them into technology. Stereotypical gender roles can still be a problem for women in technology so a strong support system helps.

When it comes to companies looking to hire more women for their technical teams, what advice would you give them?

Even when women were getting the same offers, they tend to negotiate less which leads to smaller compensation packages. Women were reaching via methods that were not as popular. Women are also more sensitized to terminology, phrases like a “software rock star” can be a turn-off. This can be especially true in terms of job requirements as women are less likely to apply unless they have all the skills. If there wasn’t a woman involved in the management position it will likely influence the woman’s chances. We need to teach women more of the interview process, I know when working with students we teach them to look in the spring semester when in fact it’s the fall. Hearing from women who are in software jobs can be a huge piece of encouragement. Company education is crucial to get the ball rolling, the biggest attraction is “what are you working on” and “what are you working with”

We’ve all heard the phrase “technology goes in waves,” why do you think blockchain is being so frequently talked about?

It’s so disruptive, it’s been around for 10 years, governments outside of the United States are looking at this. Blockchain looks at global audiences and as the internet grows we are turning into global humans and I think that blockchain really enhances the idea of what it means to be a global citizen. The transparency of blockchain is a real pull for businesses that require an open environment.

Given the infancy of blockchain technologies, do you value experience or degree more when it comes to hiring others in the industry? And, do you think it is too early in the blockchain cycle to begin teaching about the software in schools?

My idols in the engineering industry have always been Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerburg, all people who didn’t graduate college but have built these amazing careers. Show me your code, show me your skills, I value skills over blockchain. Some of the best engineers I know don’t even have computer science backgrounds. Women or people who nontraditional backgrounds are seen as assets in the software place. What’re you building in your free time? What’s your passion?

And finally, how did you get into tech?

I was always on my phone and one day I thought “WOW I could probably make a career out of this” so I took a class at my community college and realized I loved it and was good at it. I was the only girl in my class and I never realized that was a snapshot into the technical community. I stuck out like a sore thumb, but I was totally fine with that.