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Women in crypto: Untraceable CEO helps break glass ceiling

By Monte Stewart


Updated

Photo of pink boxing glove breaking glass
Tracy Leparulo, CEO of Untraceable, is helping women in crypto break the glass ceiling. - Photo: Shutterstock

Tracy Leparulo felt out of place when, as a university student, she began her foray into the cryptocurrency industry.

Now, Leparulo, CEO of blockchain event planning company Untraceable, is helping to break the sector’s glass ceiling.

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Women face challenges in crypto

“Being a woman in crypto has its challenges – definitely,” Leparulo, whose firm is hosting the  Futurist conference in Toronto from 8-10 August, told Capital.com.

“In the early days, I was one of the first few females in the space. I remember my first volunteer meeting I put together for the first hackathon I ran in 2014 and I was the only female in the room.

But it’s an interesting field to be in because, compared to other industries, I feel like females are catching up. Because blockchain is so new, women are better placed to be in leadership roles, she says. 

One clear driver of uptake in crypto across many parts of the world has been its utility for facilitating remittances. 

While there are a number of interesting fintech firms in Southeast Asia which are looking to provide low cost remittance services to overseas workers in the region, in Africa blockchain is taking the lead.

She helped launch Ethereum

“In Bitcoin Decentral was a project called Ethereum,” she says.

Leparulo was  hired by the founders of Ethereum to work on a pre-Ethereum project called Crypto Kit.

"I later helped them launch Ethereum at the first Bitcoin Expo in Canada,” she says. 

Leparulo’s company, then known as Traceable, hosted that event. She ran another hackathon and got involved with a group called Crypto Chicks, which helps women get involved in the industry.

After rebranding her country as Untraceable, she went on to host crypto and blockchain-related events around the world.

Photo of womanTracy Leparulo, CEO of Untraceable (Courtesy of Untraceable)

Crypto and remittances 

One key driver of this is the staggering high commission charges that overseas workers incur due to a lack of basic financial infrastructure in their home countries. 

The CEO of PYPL, a Dubai-based remittance firm which uses blockchain tech, said sending cash back to Africa can cost up to 14%.

This was a problem that Leparulo discovered for herself after she spent 2011 and 2012, in Kenya with some friends launching a micro-loan program for women entrepreneurs.

When Leparulo and her friends returned to Canada, they found it incredibly difficult to transfer funds across borders.

Luckily, Leparulo and her friends learned about bitcoin, which was then in its infancy, and an event coming to Toronto called Bitcoin Decentral.

BTC to USD

 

“It’s a roller coaster ride,” she said. “It’s one thing that, when you’re in the space, you just get used to it. But, ultimately, I think [crypto] is the future.”

That future appears highly uncertain after crypto-lending companies Celsius and Voyager Digital and hedge fund giant Three Arrows Capital crashed and entered bankruptcy. 

Crypto CEOs are mainly men

According to data firm BoardEx less than 3% of financial services firms globally have a female CEO.

Nonetheless Leparulo says that the crypto sector is still dominated by men when it comes to leadership roles. 

BTC/USD

62,745.15 Price
+1.700% 1D Chg, %
Long position overnight fee -0.0616%
Short position overnight fee 0.0137%
Overnight fee time 22:00 (UTC)
Spread 106.00

UNI/USD

11.63 Price
+2.300% 1D Chg, %
Long position overnight fee -0.0753%
Short position overnight fee 0.0069%
Overnight fee time 22:00 (UTC)
Spread 0.08964

XRP/USD

0.60 Price
-0.040% 1D Chg, %
Long position overnight fee -0.0753%
Short position overnight fee 0.0069%
Overnight fee time 22:00 (UTC)
Spread 0.01168

DOGE/USD

0.14 Price
+13.120% 1D Chg, %
Long position overnight fee -0.0753%
Short position overnight fee 0.0069%
Overnight fee time 22:00 (UTC)
Spread 0.0012872

“A lot of founders and senior executives are male,” she says. “[There are] lots of females in the crypto sector but it's a challenge to get some of those into leadership positions”

While crypto may not be as different from CeFi in terms of gender equality Leparulo, there are, “many incredible females who are in leadership roles, in crypto.”

ETH to US dollar

Buterin serving as keynote speaker

This year’s fourth annual Futurist conference is expected to host a few thousand attendees from multiple countries and feature Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin as the keynote speaker.

This year’s fourth annual Futurist conference is expected to host a few thousand attendees from multiple countries and feature Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin as the keynote speaker.

The timing is perfect as ETH is set to finally go ahead with The Merge - a hard fork which will see the protocol switch from a proof of work approach to a proof of stake approach. 

ETH's 'the Merge'

Given Buterin’s recent bullish comments on the potential for ETHs price to rise once the hard fork is complete it should be an interesting event. 

Previous Futurist conferences have hosted 5,000 visitors from 40 countries. Leparulo expects most of this year’s attendees to come from the US and Canada due to pandemic-related impacts on travel with several visitors from other countries coming as well.

The event, which includes a hackathon and developer work stations, will also be streamed.

XRP to USD

Leparulo has witnessed first hand the evolution in the industry which one digital coin CEO told Capital.com had moved from ‘dark and dingy spaces’, to becoming increasingly dominated by corporates.

“It’s incredible to see the different audiences and the evolution of this [global crypto] community,” she said. “It started as a very libertarian, social-goods movement. And when I joined, it was a very different audience as to who it is today.”

But the glass ceiling – the figurative barrier between men at the top and women who want to get there – still exists.

CEOs are mostly men

“A lot of founders and senior executives are male,” she said. “[There are] lots of females in the space but it's a challenge to get them into leadership positions.

And a deep experience of the sector is not needed to progress. 

“When I started in cryptocurrency, I was very young, I had pink hair, I wasn’t a developer, I wasn’t in capital markets, I was in marketing and community building and event planning – and I found a way to make my mark.”

Her advice to other women seeking to start in the sector?

“Don’t get intimidated by people having this crazy lingo and talking, or man-splaining something to you,” said Leparulo, who now sports long red locks.

Volatility is part of crypto

“Try and go and figure out what you’re good at, what you can bring to the table, because it’s an industry that welcomes everybody and, whatever it is, you can make your mark.

Li Gong, a partner with venture capital firm Youbi Capital, believes that some women might be reluctant to enter the crypto industry because, like her, they are naturally risk-averse. 

But Leparulo said volatility is a way of life in the sector and is confident that the industry can get through the latest crypto winter.

“I’ve lived through it four different times at this point,” she said. “So I don’t see it as a winter. I see it as an opportunity.”

Markets in this article

ETH/USD
Ethereum / USD
3446.35 USD
80.36 +2.400%
XRP/USD
Ripple / USD
0.60111 USD
-0.00021 -0.040%
BTC/USD
Bitcoin / USD
62745.15 USD
1047.05 +1.700%

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