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Businesswoman hopes 'butt-kicking blockchain characters get girls into tech'

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

The award-winning founder of an international cybersecurity company led from the Waikato is launching a suite of butt-kicking cryptocurrency characters to persuade women to join STEM careers.

Entrepreneur Ankita Dhakar, 27, has designed the NFT characters, called Cyber Cosmos Warriors, to represent her ethos of strength, fairness, and equal opportunities for women. 10,000 characters, which were created in October, are available on CyberCosmos.world from December 11. It’s part of Dhakar’s mission to inspire 100,000 more women worldwide into STEM careers or Metaverse membership by the end of 2022.

"I want them to grab this opportunity early and take advantage of it now," Dhakar says. "Women should dominate the metaverse, and technology with it, at least in NZ if not elsewhere."

NFTs are non-fungible tokens, meaning digital assets tradeable on the Ethereum blockchain. Every NFT featured an exclusive artwork which gives rarity value to it. The Metaverse -hyped by Mark Zuckerberg - is a shared digital realm in which each person has an avatar, and NFTs can be used to trade anything.

Dhakar believes her NFTs can achieve three goals in one. The Girl Power flavour of the artwork attached to each NFT should catch the attention of school leavers; women taking over an NFT should get returns on their investments; and each Cyber Cosmos NFT increases the representation of women in STEM. "I’ve found from many conversations with women that few are familiar with NFTs and blockchain," Dhakar says. "This is what I hope to change with Cyber Cosmos."

CyberCosmos characters resemble a cross between Xena: Warrior Princess and Black Widow. They come complete with a detailed science fiction/cybersecurity mythology in which intergalactic Amazons in the year 2070 form a team which battles to change mindsets about women in the cyber field and the capability of women to provide cybersecurity.

The characters represent the fearless step Dhakar took when leaving India by herself to study business and commerce in New Zealand in 2015, aged just 22. After becoming fascinated by cybersecurity risks to businesses, Dhakar founded SecurityLit in 2020, aged just 27. That year Dhakar won the Women in Security Aotearoa ‘Rising Star’ award, and was later named an IFSEC Global Influencer.

Dhakar has no reservations about sharing success this early in her career, and says she feels CyberCosmos warrior-girls are ideal for young women who, just like her, might not have fallen into a STEM career if other women hadn’t encouraged her to follow her dreams.

"I was a rebellious kid, my parents weren’t happy when I came to NZ in 2015 to study business because no one in my family went outside India!" Dhakar says. "I’m a very passionate person so when I get into something, I become wholehearted about it."

MYOB’s Women in Tech report 2019 found just 23% of NZ ICT workers are women.

Dhakar encountered exactly this during her business journey.

"It’s a male-dominated workforce. A lot of people initially didn’t take me seriously, but I stayed focused and honest with my vision and today here I am."

Dhakar says empathy and equity are close to her heart. Once the milestone of 50% of sales is achieved, $25,000 will be donated to an NZ charity decided by CyberCosmos’s Discord community.

"We’ll be organising events and awareness campaigns and looking to provide employment and internship opportunities to girls looking for that one chance to get into STEM. One of the first steps will be networking with other Women in Tech advocates."

Dhakar helped organise the challenges for the most recent Waikato University Cyber Security Challenge, and her company SecurityLit has a mentoring programme which has already trained three female interns.

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