Campus-led movement she(256) launches mentorship program for women in blockchain

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Priya Saundaresan/File

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She(256), a campus-based movement promoting diversity in the blockchain industry, launched a global mentorship program for female-identifying mentees Aug. 16.

The mentorship program will partner mentees with professional mentors of different genders and professional backgrounds. The program’s guidelines suggest that mentors and mentees maintain digital communication and speak on the phone or in person one to three times a month. The program aims to make the blockchain community a “less intimidating” space for female-identifying individuals of all experience levels by connecting them with mentors from a variety of backgrounds.

“It should be a group effort to get more women into the blockchain space,” said campus sophomore Alexis Gauba, one of four she(256) co-founders. “The set of mentors (who have applied) are extremely talented, with different professional experiences, and come from a wide variety of different backgrounds around the world.”

She(256) has received about 200 mentor and 200 mentee applications after news of the program spread in the blockchain community on Twitter. The program has received attention from prominent professionals in technology, including Linda Xie, the co-founder and managing director of Scalar Capital Management, and Ryan Selkis, the co-founder and CEO of Messari, a cryptoasset startup. Xie and Selkis signed up as mentors and tweeted about the program.

“I care about the blockchain space very deeply from a societal, economic and moral point of view, and I want to see it succeed,” said James Moreau, the technical community lead at Witnet and a prospective mentor. “It would be gratifying to give people who also care about the space but don’t know how to get involved … a little bit of insight.”

The program has been spearheaded by Gauba, who said she co-founded she(256) with campus students Medha Kothari, Sara Reynolds and Mashiat Mutmainnah in response to a “severe lack of diversity” in the blockchain community. Gauba said the founders believe that those building blockchain technology must represent the world’s diversity for the technology to reach its potential.

“I signed up to mentor because I want more people with good minds and good intentions in the space,” Moreau said. “If you have something to offer, whether it’s technical, or whether you can educate people, or whether you can create content or community, it should be simple for you to get involved.”

Mentees of diverse ages and experience levels have also applied, according to Gauba, including a professional in her late 20s who applied as both a mentor and a mentee.

“There aren’t very many girls involved in tech in my school or my area in general, and the reason is that we didn’t have exposure at an early age,” said Reva Jariwala, a sophomore at Monte Vista High School in Danville who applied as a mentee. “I don’t really have a firm understanding of blockchain, so I would just like to gain that understanding.”

Campus interest in blockchain has grown significantly in recent months after the unprecedented rise in the value of bitcoin and research done by campus professors and organizations such as Blockchain at Berkeley.

“The wonderful thing about the blockchain space is that it’s still so new,” Gauba said. “There’s an opportunity to set a precedent that diversity is important from the very beginning.”

Olivia Nouriani is the lead schools and communities reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @olivianouriani.