The North American Bitcoin Conference was held in Miami, Florida, in January this year. There were three women and 84 men on stage.
And the conference’s after party was held in a strip club …
Cryptocurrency combines finance and tech — two male-dominated sectors. According to the World Economic Forum, only 16 percent of female students graduate from science and technology subjects compared to 47 percent of men, and not even a supposedly egalitarian tech giant like Twitter has more than 15 percent women in tech roles.
With these numbers in mind, it should come as no surprise that about 90 percent of bitcoin users are men, predominantly white and Asian and between the ages of 18 and 34 years of age. They’re usually straight and come from middle and upper-class families.
“[It’s] already worse than any other fiat money system,” explains University of Melbourne’s Dr Robbie Fordyce, who says blockchain has a Gini coefficient of “close to 0.98.” That’s a measure of economic inequality with 0 representing equality and 1 perfect inequality.
Women are dissuaded from pursuing science and technology from a young age. A UNESCO report recently highlighted the fact that teachers in some countries still have gender-biased expectations when it comes to maths and science, which doesn’t encourage girls to pursue a career in STEM.
But the tech side is just one aspect of it: men and women have different appetites for risk.
Digital coins’ practical applications are few and limited — and they still seem to have a bad reputation. Read the news about crypto on any given day and the headlines will be talking about countries banning altcoins and ICOs, or Facebook and Google banning crypto ads.
And of course, crypto is volatile and the value of these digital assets fluctuates wildly so investing in them feels like gambling.
Women are known to be more risk-averse than men, so it should come as no surprise that they steer away from investing in digital coins.
But when it comes to investing, being cautious is not a bad thing.
In fact, a recent study suggests that women tend to be better investors because they assume less risk, save more and have a long-term focus
A few days ago I was chatting with a fellow writer and editor interested in the crypto space about this topic and she summarized the problem women face in these industries: “My female friends are less interested [in talking about finances and crypto] than male friends, and most ask questions like ‘but what is bitcoin or blockchain?’ as opposed to how they can get involved.”
To get involved in blockchain women need access to more forums, blogs and spaces in which they can ask questions and discuss the technology that underpins crypto and its future uses without being talked down to or made fun of — which seems the main form of communication even between men in crypto forums and on Facebook. Men can help out by treating female newcomers as equals having a conversation.
But there are a few signs that suggest things are slowly starting to change.
According to Bloomberg four out of 30 of the largest ICOs launched in 2017 had female co-founders and the digital currency exchange Coinbase is hiring more women — according to their reports 46 percent of new hires in 2017 were women or ethnically diverse.
In February at a summit for women in crypto organized by Future/Perfect Ventures Jalak Jobanputra, the attendees made the Blockchain Inclusive and Diversity Pledge, which seeks to mentor, support and encourage women and other minority groups join the crypto and blockchain world. They will do so through scholarships, conferences and working with other companies.
The global organisation Women in Blockchain has branches around the world and organises events and tech talks highlighting the achievements of women in the industry. These are fantastic and accessible ways to ask questions in a supportive environment.
More crypto journalists and entrepreneurs are also lending their voices to help other women join the community. Journalist Rachel Wolfson, CEO of Lightning Elizabeth Stark and CEO of Civic Ledger Katrina Donaghy are amongst the women who are inspiring others to explore these spaces.
Small changes that are worth noting, particularly when other numbers seem so bleak.
Welcoming women to these spaces means looking at problems and communicating in different ways. It means reaching broader audiences, diversifying and creating a more diverse digital economy.
But if you’re a crypto bro and you don’t care at all about diversity or getting more women involved, then consider this:
Having more women in the crypto space will increase the market cap. So it’s entirely in your interests to help out.
By Gabriella Munoz