Crypto’s reputation as a boys’ club comes as no surprise: it sits at the intersection of technology and finance, perpetuating the legacy of the “bro culture” encoded in Silicon Valley and Wall Street. It wasn’t until 2020 when Citigroup bank appointed the company’s first female CEO, Jane Fraser. This was a milestone in its 200-year history and in the history of Wall Street itself, when the first woman ran one of Wall Street’s largest banks.
Meanwhile, there are many cases of sexual harassment at pioneering technology companies, such as in the case of Riot Games, where the implicit that women just don’t belong. Just four years ago, the 2018 North American Bitcoin conference culminated in an infamous networking event at a Miami strip club. Although the organizers later expressed regret over their choice of location, the story is just one of many incidents in crypto history where the role of women in the industry was reduced.
The perception of crypto’s propensity towards men clearly needs rehabilitation, and the business case for this is clear. An inclusive crypto ecosystem will not only increase its appeal to a wider audience, but more importantly, help crypto become mainstream. While there is no lack of interest or talent in crypto among women, the most outspoken crypto traders and influencers appeal to a male audience simply because these influencers are men themselves. In fact, CryptoHead’s 2021 list of the world’s top 50 crypto figures features an all-male ensemble — a symptom of severe gender under-representation due to the complete absence of women.
Numbers speak louder than words
Women continue to suffer from the problematic legacy of the male-dominated financial ecosystem, whether it be existing barriers to personal finance or climbing the rungs of the corporate ladder. On Forbes’ 2021 billionaire list, all 12 crypto moguls are men. While this can be attributed to first-mover advantage, Amber Baldet, former blockchain program leader at JP Morgan Chase, believes that women are simply not publicly recognized for their industry-shaping work because of crooked media coverage.
At the same time, women-led projects are receiving less support across the board. 2021 was the second consecutive year in which the percentage of venture capital funding for women shrank despite total funding levels reaching record highs.
The reality is that crypto is still an emerging industry, so everything, including HR processes, is new, while the lack of diversity makes the industry unaware of the necessary workplace policies that best support women. As the discourse about gender inequality in crypto gains momentum, the solution must go beyond meeting diversity quotas for the sake of it and instead focus on ensuring that women have equal opportunities and a favorable work environment, right from the hiring stage.
Related: 10 Women Who Used Crypto to Make a Difference in 2021
Why empowerment is necessary at every stage
When female executives are appointed for their professional expertise and track record in the industry, it is undoubtedly an encouraging sign that the crypto industry’s efforts to narrow the gender gap are sincere. It’s high time the industry recognized and rewarded female talent instead of falling into lazy platitudes and cheap wins where we celebrate diversity for diversity’s sake. Women are moving into various leadership and entrepreneurial roles in the field, and more can be done to break the stigma that women in crypto are trapped in influencer stereotypes.
Representation creates representation – exposure to female figures in the industry will go a long way in encouraging young women to get into the industry. But to support women at every stage of their crypto careers, it’s important to consider broad entrenched gender inequalities that limit their capacity to succeed at work.
Worldwide, women appear to spend two to ten times more time on unpaid care work than men. This can include housework and care responsibilities aimed at children, the sick and the elderly – areas that many companies underestimate. Empowering women with more flexibility and control over their working hours, for example, is just one small step to success and the nature of crypto as a global and distributed industry certainly makes this flexibility possible.
Related: Is Crypto a Boys’ Club? The future of finance is not gender specific
However, the key to success in the crypto industry lies in realizing the promise of crypto as a social and financial tool for freedom. It has the potential to redefine the financial sector both economically and culturally, as it is a path to financial freedom that can do away with the age-old power structures of the traditional financial sector. Until there are more initiatives championing the underlying philosophy of crypto, as well as more women and many more communities represented in the field, it’s fair to say it’s men who “just don’t get it”.
Leveling the playing field for financial inclusion
Crypto has a lot to offer to the financially disadvantaged and, more often than not, women are more disadvantaged than men in this arena. Women to make up to 55 percent of the world’s unbanked population – meaning nearly a billion women worldwide have little to no financial security, and this is one problem crypto can help address.
Sure, the anonymity that blockchain technology provides and the autonomy that decentralized finance (DeFi) provides to make crypto a tempting solution to the lack of financial access that many women face. Do you want to earn a living, but social constraints limit financial autonomy, even after you’ve been paid? Crypto can allow you to get paid in Bitcoin (BTC), as activists Fereshteh Forough and Roya Mahboob helped hundreds of Afghan girls, who previously had little control over their finances, reclaim their desks. Do you want to set up a company? Accept payment in crypto – no spouse required.
Decentralized and free from discrimination
All technologies are inherently neutral by design and so is blockchain. It doesn’t matter your age, gender, race or socioeconomic status. The prospect of overcoming systemic challenges and the offering of crypto for greater financial freedom and independence couldn’t be more welcome and appropriate.
In fact, things are looking good as 2021 will be a defining year for female investors. From crypto trading app Robinhood reporting a 369% increase in its female users, to Cardify reporting that women accounted for more than 15% of total cryptocurrency deposits – a marked increase of 5.6 percent from their study the year before – it is clear that women are becoming increasingly aware of the potential of crypto as a tool for financial empowerment.
Everyone benefits when women have financial freedom in underserved communities or in boardrooms in need of greater diversity. Whether encouraging women to see crypto as a valid path to financial empowerment or promoting gender diversity in the crypto industry, the road ahead is still long as the industry collectively tackles the gender gap and proves that crypto is an integral part of the future everyone has been waiting for.
This article does not contain investment advice or recommendations. Every investment and trading move carries risks, and readers should do their own research when making a decision.
The views, thoughts and opinions expressed herein are those of the author only and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views and opinions of Coin-Crypto.
Annabelle Huang is a managing partner at Amber Group, a global digital asset platform that provides a full range of digital asset services for investment, financing and trading, serving more than 1,000 institutional clients and a growing number of individual investors worldwide. Before joining Amber Group, Annabelle was the Asia lead at AirSwap and was part of the FX Structuring desk at Deutsche Bank. Annabelle is an advocate for more women to be a part of the crypto conversation. She is a mentor to the Female Entrepreneurs Worldwide (FEW) Incubator, Asia DeFi Network and Brinc Accelerator.