She started trading in crypto out of interest, but never imagined that this would eventually lead her to become managing director of Bitget, the market leader in crypto trading (futures trading and copy trading). 80,000 people found Bitget for copy trading and 300 million has already been earned with it. TechGirl of the Week Gracy, however, would like to see more of those traders being women.
She was a television newsreader, but she wanted to be an entrepreneur. “I had friends who showed me the world of crypto. Think Binance co-founder Yi He and investor Tim Draper. I started investing in Bitcoin and other crypto when I heard that Bitget was looking for a managing director. At that time I was already involved with Bidget’s sister, Bitkeep, and decided to take on the role of ‘builder’ as an investor.”
They thought that was a good idea at Bitget and so it happened. “What I find so interesting about crypto is that it is decentralized. As a journalist I was already involved in a lot of technology and finance, so I already had a natural curiosity for new possibilities. Bitcoin and crypto challenge the traditional financial market, even the common currency market and that is fantastic. When I lived in China and got married in the Maldives, I found it a hassle to deposit money, which also had to be converted to US dollars. Crypto makes that transition much easier.”
Of course, it took some guts to take on that role of managing director. “I suffered a lot from the imposter syndrome, which Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg also writes about in her book. I was the only female partner in the previous fintech startup where I worked, while there were eleven partners. And I was also the only one born after 1990. You have so much self-doubt: am I really that good? Am I here just because of my looks? I was often the only woman in the boardroom and then you have a very mixed feeling: either I am very good, or not good at all.”
Gracy marvels at imposter syndrome. “I worked hard for it, but even then you sometimes get the feeling that you don’t deserve it. Women are often judged on their performance, while men are judged on their potential. We have to change that. Women themselves, but also the working environment. What did I do to get rid of that syndrome? I did my best not to think about it and started a foundation: SheShapes. We want to empower women to work in different sectors, including technology. We do this through mentoring programs and simply building a community. We help each other mentally and spiritually. I recommend it to all women: find a group to belong to and if you can’t find one, start your own group.”
Yet it is not the case that Gracy is now completely rid of the syndrome. “I still have it a little bit. You also still come across a lot of bias about women. A few days ago I was on a panel, again the only woman on stage. I was asked how I approach my work-life balance. I really hope that question is never asked of female leaders again. No one else on the panel got that question. You certainly don’t promote women in working life that way.”
Gracy has said that innovation cannot happen without women. “Research has shown that gender diversity improves product innovation and performance. McKinsey showed that companies where more than 30 percent of executives are women outperform those where that is 10 to 30 percent. Women bring different angles, ideas and market insights to projects, enhancing the creativity of the entire team. Being innovative and efficient is essential when you work in the tech industry: that is ultimately what makes the difference in this competitive market.”
But how do we get women there? “Women are better at some things, just like men. Men are biologically stronger, women in many cases have better communication skills and are softer when it comes to conflict. That can be very powerful, but it will get us into marketing and HR faster. If we learn more about technology, it would help tremendously. We need to be a little more gutsy and go after jobs in science, math, engineering and technology. We should certainly do something about this gender bias ourselves. It is no coincidence that we sponsor the Juventus women’s team, and we do not just invest in DIY Girls, a foundation that inspires children to choose STEM professions.”
Do not give up
Gracy, who has a four-year-old child of her own, wants women not to give up too quickly. “If you have a child, emphasize that you are a family and that the father, if present, must also play a role. Don’t just give up your career because you’re going to be a mother. Be a strong woman for your children, a good role model. And if we look at crypto: 12-20 percent of investors are women. We really need to do more with that. The current world is already becoming a bit friendlier towards women, partly thanks to #metoo, but that is only for very clearly defined matters. There are also so many less obvious things that bother women. For example, I read in the book Data Bias that the world is made up of all kinds of less obvious biases. For example, look at a hotel: the temperature there is often 22 degrees, because men find that the most pleasant temperature. Women prefer it higher, but the standard here is really the man. Do not ignore such details, because they also contribute to prejudice and unfair treatment.”
Gracy Chen is clearly a woman on a mission. However, she has even more challenges. “I am still looking for how to take good care of my child on the one hand and grow my business on the other. I am a happy, single mother, but I balance many things on a daily basis. In addition to motherhood, Bitget and SheShapes, I also do a business degree at MIT. I don’t mind that: I don’t want to stay in my comfort zone, I want to achieve a lot. In addition, there is also a lot of room for growth at Bitget: the collapse of the FTX (the crypto market) and the dilemmas surrounding crypto, plus the question of how we will serve a global market. We are growing fast: last year we had 150 employees, now there are 1,300. I want to continue working towards those bigger goals together with our employees, while at the same time everyone feels good about working for us.”
About TechGirl of the Month:
Every month we interview women in tech. We do this because we think it is important that women are seen and heard. Only 16 percent of people in the Dutch tech business are women. If we want to use technology, we have to make sure that it is made by an inclusive group of people who look at the product or app from different angles. No bias, but a product or service for and by everyone. But also: a working area in which everyone feels welcome. This is one of the reasons why these interviews are so important. Show that it can be done differently. And perhaps: show that things have to be done differently.