“On March 8th it is International Woman’s Day, which seeks to celebrate women’s achievements. This year’s theme #pressforprogress is calling for change – change in gender equality across the globe”
– Jane Zheng, Marketing Partner, Delphy
Chances are that you’ve heard of bitcoin. But if you’re a woman, the odds are much smaller than you actually have a stake in it.
The idea of digital currency as an application of the blockchain technology operates on a mechanism of decentralisation. It is an open-source verifiable ledger of transactions which can be applied to transparent and secure uses in varied contexts. With its distributive and open model of operating, the technology essentially was directed at increasing access and lowering the retention of ownership in a few hands.
However, the nascent industry hasn’t been able to be as inclusive in terms of equalising the gender divide, with a very minor percentage of women participants in the cryptocurrency gold rush. One study by coin.dance brings up the following figures:
The evidence of gender bias is not merely anecdotal because of largely male headliners but also observed by studies such as one by Bloomberg, which points out that bitcoins are overwhelmingly owned by a white male between the ages of 18-34 years.
Greater inclusion is essential for the improvement of the blockchain system, which thrives on diversified talent and acceptance in creating a coherent network. Digital currency and the underlying technology of blockchain are based fundamentally on the claim of egalitarianism, i.e. decentralisation of power by removing the governing intermediaries and establishing a new commercial order. Women continue to be underrepresented, sometimes due to structural and other times due to deliberate causes by a male-dominated technocrat industry, including the hosting of a bitcoin conference organised by the North American Bitcoin Conference at a strip club in Miami. Yet, many who have taken up the field have performed outstandingly as role models for a more inclusive community.
The value in promoting a non-discriminatory space for crypto development has been acknowledged by individuals and institutions alike in attempting to increase the awareness around crypto participation by women interested in technology, and even those outside that demographic. Brit Morin, a female entrepreneur who was dissatisfied with the state of women investors in cryptocurrency (less than 30%) organised Decrypting Crypto: A Primer for Women Investing in Digital Currencies in February 2018 to create a platform for female investors to discuss crypto investments and speak out against “bro culture” in the field.
Women at the Decrypting Crypto Conference
Moinworld, for instance, which started off as a chapter of Google Women’s Techmakers, now operates as a non-profit enterprise focussing on making the technology world more inclusive, specifically with the help of workshops designed to increase contribution and awareness. Collective Future is a similar group that was constituted by some of the leading female names in cryptocurrency investment such as CoinDesk Advisory Board member Maja Vujinovic, venture capitalist Jalak Jobanputra and community-based developer Sandra Ro amongst others, who have been engaged in the organisation of conferences and talks to advocate for a diverse environment in the blockchain industry. Jobanpatra compared cryptocurrency to Netscape, the music sharing platform, whose IPO she was involved in 1995: “There was a sense of – That’s a different way of looking at the organization of information and providing access to information to people who haven’t had access before.”
Many enthusiasts and investors point to the lack of qualification required to take up crypto investment, which should encourage women who believe themselves to be under qualified to take up the job. The nature of cryptocurrency allows a uniform vantage point to all interested participants with its underlying logic of universal regulation and its functioning being independent from other power systems. Naturally, it’s an imperative clarion call for women investors who would take the initiative to be early investors in a program such as this.
The website Coincrunch.in lists out personal accounts of women in India who have taken up investing in cryptocurrencies as a serious vocation. The website runs a Telegram support group where women (and others) can share experiences and opinions on being a crypto investor and generally keeping up to date about new developments in the field.
Elizabeth McCauley, Global Business Development Head at Coinsecure and part of the board of directors of the Bitcoin Foundation is regarded as one of the core lobbyists in the United States for the adoption of bitcoin and has been involved in attempts to promote and standardise the bitcoin movement in India as well. She has been working on facilitating the seamless transfer of funds across Indian borders to open doors for international companies to invest in the country via digital assets. As per McCauley, digital currency is a primary solution in a country facing demonetisation and a falling value against the dollar. Given that Indian depends largely on foreign remittances and has a large system of brick and mortar groups that lack the infrastructure for banked credit payments, bitcoin offers a revolutionary commercial opportunity to change the way in which businesses operate in the country.
A Panel on Women: Blockchain and Cryptocurrency at the Nexus Embassy Conference, 2017 at Aspen Institute
Tiffany Madison, a founding partner of DecentraNet which is a block chain advisory firm and a woman at the forefront of the bitcoin industry, points to the significance of industry events which promote women entrepreneurship in cryptocurrencies and discuss inclusivity as a norm are catalytic in creating a holistic environment with female investors and leaders in the digital space. With women feeling more empowered to discuss digital assets with authorities and thought leaders, they would gain greater visibility in a male-dominated industry and act as influencers for more women to take up investing. Secondly, the greater adoption of the block chain technology in varied industries which are common to users such as currency and data storage import a higher involvement by women in the field. As more cryptocurrency platforms develop, more persons who would consider themselves technologically uninformed would have a closer interaction with the manner in which it functions and feels confident about making an investment decision in a crypto project.
As discussed earlier, cryptocurrencies do not require an immense amount of pre-requisite knowledge, and it depends upon the initiative of enthusiasts to understand the application of the technology to be able to adapt to it. McCauley says that once the technology becomes more consistently accepted and eventually invades industries which aren’t dominated white male leaders, it is bound to create these newer opportunities for a larger community base.
Since cryptocurrency is a very new market, it is important to maintain its neutral position and oppose its commodification by its usage in commercialised and non-inclusive ventures. Such a perspective would be antithetical to the very essence of a decentralised system. The technology conceptualises decentralised networks of implementing transactions and a similar reorganisation of power, information, data and value from the dominant spheres of the world to lesser-known, lesser-controlled spaces.