Finance is growing. Cryptocurrency is knocking on the door of conventional banking and threatening to upend the norm. Banks are adapting the services they offer to keep up with the times, shifting their gaze more and more to the digital audience. Regardless of who wins out, crossover careers like those in financial analysis or investment counselling are projected to grow 12 percent by 2024.
And yet, the world of cryptocurrency is grossly dominated by men.
In the industry, women are so marginally represented in leadership that holding a conference party at a strip club didn’t seem out of place. User representation doesn’t look much different. One study estimates that 95 percent of the searches done on “bitcoin” originate from male users, and while one industry expert argues it’s probably more like 80 percent, that’s still decidedly imbalanced.
Women not only deserve to have an equal hand at the table, but the investment world and the control of wealth stand to benefit from accurate representation — not to mention the additional investment capital. Women control nearly 60 percent of the wealth in the United States. If cryptocurrency wants to make blockchain a truly viable alternative to conventional banking, they can’t afford to miss out on the female-driven investments.
Psychological studies report that women are, on average, more risk-averse than men. Some parties attribute the lack of female investors to this trait — cryptocurrency, at its inception, was a highly volatile and wildly uncertain investment. Choosing to buy into bitcoin (or any other digital coin) wasn’t considered a solid investment. In fact, with predictions about the future of bitcoin and the viability of other cryptocurrencies, the market still presents an uncertain future.
However, the lack of female investors runs deeper than that, and certain systemic inequalities must be addressed to increase accessibility. For most of the population, bitcoin was little more than an inconsequential news blip or another tech fad until its value ballooned in 2017. Most of the initial investors were Silicon Valley inhabitants or frequenters of Reddit and other video game forums, which are traditionally male-dominated environments.
As information spreads through business and social networks, men talked to other men who talked to still more men, keeping the information about early bitcoin insulated among one gender. It likely wasn’t intentional to exclude the majority of women from the conversation — there are many men outside of the tech sector who remained just as oblivious — but the male-dominated tech industry certainly didn’t serve as an inclusionary introduction.
Better representation is essential to making bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies widespread and diverse in their investors. Giving women a larger piece of the pie is only one aspect of representation, but it’s a good place to start. Had bitcoin been more available or talked about in its early stages, it may have been an investment opportunity that transcended socioeconomic barriers to benefit more people.
To start, the industry needs to be palatable to more than a straight, white, male audience. Conferences that end at strip clubs and parties being served by models need to be a thing of the past. Sexist events don’t “serve the audience” — they ensure that no one but that audience will feel comfortable, and effectively cuts the industry off from additional investment pools.
Bringing women in offers new perspective and the opportunity to reach new audiences. The risk aversion demonstrated by women means that they often come out on top in the long run, making them valuable assets to company teams and upping the viability of women-led companies. The projections of women already in the cryptocurrency field reflect this trend, showing added foresight and a tendency to security among female entrepreneurs and founders.
Women are more likely to doubt their qualifications, though, when trying to break into a new field. Even if the men are just as under-informed, the boy’s club status of the industry grants them a gentler learning curve, while the rest of us are just trying to make sense of the new trends.
Create Functional Tools
Blockchain is confusing. It’s new(ish), it’s not intuitive, and it completely disrupts our norm. As bitcoin exploded, the question “how does blockchain work?” seemed to be circulating as much as news stories covering the latest boom.
In order to invite more people to the table, the information needs to be accessible — in both physical and intellectual ways. Our society is already strongly technologically literate; it’s nearly impossible to get by without an email address, social network account, and some measure of computer proficiency. However, we’re still a long way from rivalling the tech-savvy minds that occupy Silicon Valley, in the same way that we’re not all mechanical experts or public relations specialists.
Digital entrepreneurs are uniquely poised to meet this need. Currently, apps exist to trade and “bank” different digital coins. The applications fall short, though, when it comes to education and visibility. Understanding Bitcoin and its cryptocurrency counterparts must be easy — the information should be delivered in a simple platform that feels intuitive and familiar, and the publicity surrounding the applications or resources needs to reach those outside of the insular tech and finance communities. It may feel like a tall order, but historically, entrepreneurs have created the means to change fundamental parts of our society — why should cryptocurrency and modern banking be the exception?