The discussion around women in crypto comes up a lot, as the space has been known for being male-dominated. However, 2021 is already showing signs that more women are investing, working, and learning about crypto and blockchain than ever before.
For women in finance, there is a long history of exclusion and sexism. The struggle of women in the traditional financial world is well known.
When it comes to careers, reaching higher positions is a struggle. For example, in 2020, only 37 of the 500 CEOs on Fortune’s 500 list were women, which was considered a record high.
On the investment side, traditional finance has long excluded women. In the United States, a woman still needed her husband’s permission to open a bank account until the 1960s.
While progress has been made, the way women are talked to about money is still heavily gendered. One study found that 65% of financial advice for women focuses on reducing spending rather than smart investment strategies.
However, when it comes to crypto, a small percentage of women involved are already making their mark, and more are joining every day.
A recent growth spurt
It may seem like bitcoin is everywhere, with the recent bull market ushering in more traders and interested parties. However, the growth of women in this space has been slow overall.
A Greyscale investor study found that only 15% of bitcoin investors are women. However, 47% of all female investors surveyed said they would consider investing in bitcoin. This is an improvement from 43% in 2019.
Overall, 2020 and 2021 have seen much faster growth for women in crypto. According to research by CoinMarketCap, Q1 2020 saw a 43.24% growth in women compared to the same time the previous year.
The study showed that while European countries and the U.S. had over 50% growth, it was Latin American countries that really saw a surge. Countries like Venezuela, Colombia, and Argentina saw over 80% quarter-on-quarter growth.
“I do believe that the idea of crypto as a male space is wrong. Women do many things better than men, and female communities are more tightly bound. The more women enter this industry, the better because a community is a backbone of any platform,” says Ales Kovalevich, CEO at BDC Consulting.
Building a community of women
The growth of the crypto community across genders is all about who you know. For many, getting involved requires a referral from interested parties.
In a survey done by BDC Consulting on women in crypto, a third of those involved said the main event pushing them to interact with cryptocurrencies was through a person in their network. This includes partners, friends, and work colleagues.
When considering this as the main vector, it becomes clearer why it has been slow going.
“Men often ask me why more women aren’t interested in bitcoin and digital assets. I tend to ask them this question in response: who first told you about bitcoin, and, in your daily life, who do you find yourself discussing crypto with? Answers often reveal that men tend to raise this subject matter with other men, far more than they do with women,” explains Chloe White, National Blockchain Roadmap Lead in the BDC report.
“I believe that this tendency makes a significant difference to the gender balance at community meetups, in online forums, and to the shape of the industry as a whole,” she says.
This is not to say that there aren’t growing communities. For example, women-focused meet-up groups are popular. These spaces ecourage larger participation, which is key for better crypto adoption.
“Crypto and blockchain not only represent short-term wealth generation, but they also represent the next frontier of enterprise software (which is where the real wealth generation comes in!). If we want that software to be universally adopted, we can’t afford to exclude people who represent 50% of our future user base. Women belong wherever decisions are being made,” says Christiana Cacciapuoti, SVP Marketing & Innovation at MadHiveTech and Executive Director of AdLedger.
Choosing financial freedom
As mentioned, financial independence for women is a relatively new possibility. As a result, it’s not surprising that this freedom is a key priority for those involved in cryptocurrency.
Financial freedom is a key driver for many in the entire crypto-world. However, there is an added dimension when it comes to women. On top of escaping fiat systems run by governments, crypto also removes barriers experienced by women. These include restrictions on joint bank accounts for married women and simpler ways to access money.
According to research by BDC, 44% of respondents said they invest in cryptocurrencies to gain financial independence.
“We were impressed that, for women, the most valuable characteristic of crypto is freedom. Moreover, it was very surprising that the concept of freedom is so multifaceted and well-developed,” explains Aliaksandr Dabranau,
Coordinator of the research project.
“Women appreciate simpler money transfers, independence from the employer and family budget, the absence of restrictions for citizens of certain countries, and many other expressions of freedom,” he says.
An unfriendly environment
However, while there might be improved growth and interest, this doesn’t mean that the barriers to entry have been removed.
Some crypto communities can be unwelcoming. However, most of the issues encountered are the same ones following women through male-dominated industries for years.
These include harassment and a lack of inclusion. Unsurprisingly, those surveyed by BDC felt that crypto information and spaces are made by men for men. These could be events or even community spaces on Discord or Telegram.
Some found that men responded differently to them in these spaces once they realized they were women. This included an increase in sexual harassment. However, others responded that they were welcomed because there are so few women in the space. As such, they are considered the impressive exception rather than the rule.
For Devon Krantz, CEO of Linum Labs, the limiting factors for women in blockchain are part of a larger problem across tech and STEM arenas.
“I think change comes with people getting more accustomed to the technology as a whole. It’s also difficult to differentiate between blockchain towards women and technology as a whole towards women,” she says.
“We’ve seen it with a lot of STEM sectors where woman’s involvement, it’s been generally low, but it’s starting to get a lot better. It actually starts from influences from as early as preschool and high school, with women not being influenced to pursue the same careers as, for example, their male counterparts. But that narrative is starting to change and we are seeing more women starting to get involved, and it’s starting to become more acceptable to be involved in this industry,” she explains.
The more the merrier
This growth is considered a positive by the women already in the crypto and blockchain worlds. Kovalevich explains that this male-dominated space shouldn’t put off those who want to get involved, especially since they are needed to push for greater gender diversity.
“The first female food truck driver also had trouble at first – not because it’s a difficult job but because it’s considered a male job. Crypto and finance are still believed to be for boys, but that’s just a stereotype. And feeling that you’re not alone is important for those women who are helping to move the industry forward,” says Kovalevich.
In addition, minority groups are often bolstered by an increase in their numbers. For women in this space, more support from those already involved is key.
“As more women are entering blockchain technology, they are opening up new gates for women all over the world. They will provide support to women who have been facing isolation while working in male-dominated environments,” explains Surbhi Audichya, Blockchain Developer at Hifi Finance.
“Blockchain definitely needs you. Initially, it can be a bit intimidating, but this space is really encouraging. I have met amazing developers who have helped me throughout my journey in blockchain,” says Audichya.
Not all women
While the number of those involved in blockchain and crypto is slowly improving, there are other factors that need to be considered, like which women are being counted.
Studies relating to crypto often have one major flaw. Much like topics discussing global finance, they take the developed world as the standard. Unfortunately, this leaves out those in countries with different circumstances.
With the crypto community in general, this isn’t always the case. Cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology have been significant tools for people in the developing world.
However, the BDC Consulting survey didn’t delve into the socio-economic or regional aspects. This is common among surveys of this kind.
For example, those in the survey were largely from Europe, the U.S., and Asia. However, Nigerian respondents represented the entire continent of Africa.
Nigeria does represent a big crypto market on the continent. However, it is also only one specific region with a very specific set of economic and cultural contexts.
This is not the fault of the survey, as there have to be parameters and scope. However, it does mean there are those often left out when it comes to analyzing women’s involvement in cryptocurrencies.