Leanne Kemp

Leanne Kemp is the founder and CEO of Everledger, a company increasing transparency and trust through technology.

With a vision of a world in which diamonds could be tracked from the mine to the retailer, Leanne, a self-taught engineer by trade, founded UK-based Everledger in 2015. Her focus came from her observation that the diamond supply chain was often only recorded on paper, increasing the risk of value manipulation, fraud, theft and other unethical practices.

Leanne was ranked one of Forbes’ top 50 women in tech for her work with Everledger, which was named a Technology Pioneer by the WEF for its contribution to improving sustainability and transparency using technology. She also co-chairs the WEF Global Future Council on Manufacturing and takes part in the Global Future Council on Blockchain.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

I’m the founder and CEO at Everledger, a company interweaving blockchain with other technologies to connect complex supply chains. By utilising a range of IoT innovations, NFC and AI, our solution can evidence the lifecycle of any object in real-time and increase transparency into supply chains. We have pioneered enterprise blockchain solutions since 2015 when we focused initially on the diamond industry and since then we’ve been expanding to other industries including fashion, wine and spirits, and electric vehicles. Most recently, we began tracing merino wool for Australian Wool Innovation (AWI) and working with HP, Fairphone and Call2Recycle on a program to encourage lithium-ion battery recycling for the US Department of Energy.

I’m also active in many initiatives and organizations focused on entrepreneurship, technology and sustainability. This includes the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), World Economic Forum, Queensland University of Technology, Australian Federal Government, Queensland Government, Blockchain Australia, and University of Queensland.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I’ve always strived to fill my career with purpose. Very early on, I discovered I was passionate about bringing more transparency to the industries that need it. In 2015, I founded Everledger inspired by the challenges faced by miners and the lack of transparency and fair trade. Eventually the UN developed a new standard, the Kimberley Process, to regulate the market, but it was still lacking in transparency. I remember it was Satoshi Nakamoto’s whitepaper on blockchain that made me realize this technology will be crucial in creating solutions to solve these types of applications – complex supply chains needed a solution to bring information from different sources together, with security and privacy.

We started with diamond supply chains – it’s a fascinating space, with each stone being one of a kind. At Everledger, we’re able to mirror each diamond with its digital twin using a symphony of different technologies. From there, the dream of bringing transparency to the world soon became a reality. This vision of solving a global problem is supported by our technology that today serves many other industries, from colored gemstones to wine, and expanding all the way through to other luxury goods.

Thinking about the future, I see the need for more transparency in the lithium-ion batteries market. This is what is going to have a significant impact on stored energy, electric vehicles, mobile phones, computers and solar panels globally. We want to continue shedding more light on these opaque areas.

Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

Although blockchain, machine learning and AI have no gender, women are still a minority in the workforces of all these sectors. Industries that lack diversity, gender or otherwise, are less innovative, so the underrepresentation of women in the space risks that we miss the full potential of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. There’s a need for a greater diversity of thoughts and strategies to drive the technology in the right direction, and greater inclusivity of women in the space would help spur these new ideas. The education system will play a major role in overcoming these barriers. It has the power to break the stigma of the tech sector being exclusively for men by encouraging women to study STEM fields from an early age.

What do you think companies can do to support and progress the careers of women working in technology?

Organizations need to take the big step from advocacy to action and open more opportunities for women. We should also look beyond the technology expertise and be more open-minded about inviting women from different industries into enterprise blockchain. They can use their other experiences and skills to bring fresh perspectives and a different viewpoint that someone who’s been entrenched in the tech for a decade might not have. Ultimately, it’s also our responsibility as a blockchain business to offer all employees equal opportunities to progress into management positions.

There is currently only 17 percent of women working in tech, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

In an ideal world, being a women in the tech industry would not be considered a big deal – it would be the norm. If I could wave a magic wand, I would make it all about talent rather than gender. I wish for the industry to think beyond it when considering if someone is a good candidate for a job. It’s also important to provide all employees with equal opportunities for development and keep encouraging their progress.

The change would also happen much quicker if the businesses across the globe were aware of the value of a diverse workforce. Developing enterprise systems would benefit from fresh ideas from diverse backgrounds to make sure the solutions are designed with a wide range of users in mind.

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