Cryptocurrency may be sexist, but it is for women, too

Bianca Tan
In this infographic on ICOs, we learn from the past to invest in the future

Even as we continue to participate in the crypto investment and development, the narrative stays the same: Cryptocurrency is a man’s world

Cryptocurrency was meant to be a democratising domain. Free from the limitations of any central authority, it was supposed to be an asset that anyone could acquire and trade within its defined conditions. However, as the technology evolved, so has the industry.

Over the years, the cryptocurrency scene has grown steadily worldwide. But unlike its decentralised roots, crypto is now dominated by one demographic — the male of the species. Yet again, much like the rest of the technology industry, women are the minority. Even as we continue to participate in the crypto investment and development, the narrative stays the same — cryptocurrency is a man’s world.

The gender divide is a known and well-documented problem in the tech industry. A report by Square revealed that only 18.8% of tech employees are women. But the issue isn’t confined to tech. It is a dawning obstacle in the whole of corporate America.

According to Women in the Workplace 2016, companies promote men at a 30% higher rate than women. The latter are also more likely to spend five or more years in the same role.

2017 follow up to the McKinsey & Company study also revealed that the representation of women declines at every step of the corporate pipeline. Only 29% of vice-presidential positions are filled by women, 22% for SVP positions, and only 1 in 5 C-suite leaders is a woman. The competition is even more rigid for women of color, as fewer than 1 in 30 hold C-suite positions.

The cryptocurrency sector is no different. More than 70% of Bitcoin owners are male, and only 5 to 7% of all cryptocurrency users are women. A digital wallet company also revealed that only 5.7% of its website visitors are women, while Coin.Dance noted that only 8.8% of all Bitcoin community engagement are from females.

Aside from the unequal opportunities, these also mean that should the cryptocurrency world succeed as an accepted form of money, and Bitcoin’s value soars to even more incredible heights, men will benefit from it the most. Men will once again take the bigger piece of the prosperity pie.

The “Blockchain Bro” Culture

It’s hard to pinpoint when and where this gender disparity started, but it continues to this day. And one of the reasons why it stands strong is because men — which we have established are atop corporate America — don’t see the state of inequality in the workplace. That, or they would rather turn a blind eye to it.

Also read: With the crypto and blockchain hype in Asia, how well-informed are investors?

McKinsey’s Women in the Workplace 2017 report noted that men are more likely to think that their workplace is equitable; even if women actually feel the total opposite. Sixty-three percent (63%) of men feel their company is doing what it takes to improve gender diversity, while only 49% of women feel the same.

Similarly, 37% of women believe their gender plays a role in missing out on work promotions or salary raise. Only 8% of males agree. Add to this, only 47% of men feel that gender diversity is a top priority in the office, while 58% of women do.

“Given the persistent lag in women’s advancement, women have the more accurate view,” the report noted.

This insensitivity has also led to the “bro culture” and hyper-masculinity in America. Men feel gratified and more macho when they sexualise women, without realizing that those from the opposite sex are offended. This environment is toxic in the workplace, but a Bitcoin conference is doing a pretty good job at bringing the culture to the cryptos.

Earlier this year, the North American Bitcoin Conference was slammed for its under representation. The summit held in Miami and attended by over 5,000 professionals had 88 speakers — 85 men and only three woman.

But that wasn’t the only mistake Moe Levin, CEO of Keynote and organizer of the event, had. The conference’s after party was held at a 20,000-square-foot strip club. Levin called it “the ideal layout for networking.” Needless to say, the few women that attended the event felt uncomfortable and even objectified.

“There was a message being sent to women, that, ‘OK, this isn’t really your place,’” Zineb Belmkaddem, a cryptocurrency trader in Washington, told Bloomberg.

Levin would later apologize, calling the networking party at E11even a “misstep.” It would be easier to accept his statement if not for the fact that he did a similar thing in 2017. The event’s kickoff party featured female models in their underwear, painted in gold, and covered with Bitcoin logos.

“Moe does something just as sexist every year,” Rose Chan, founder of World Bank’s blockchain working group, noted. “He switches it up, which actually means that he thinks about it.”

DateCoin, a token designed for an international dating service, had a similar take on selling its ICO to investors. Earlier this year it ran an advertisement that showed a woman in a skimpy swimsuit with the text “Touch my I.C.O.” written over her body.

It seems the entire dating service is focused on men. In one of its posts, DateCoin wrote, “As you already know, our project DateCoin is a day-out service with the target audience in the face of successful men who know exactly what they need.” This probably explains why it uses photos of beautiful women in their promo materials.

This ICO, much like the rest of the tech and crypto world, screams sexist again.

Women are Firing Back at “Crypto Bros”

The narrative may be lopsided, but women in the crypto-sphere are already firing back and taking their rightful place in the equation. A new research published by the London Block Exchange found that more women are now considering cryptocurrency investment. One in eight women, or close to 13%, would invest on the digital currency — an impressive rise from 6% last year.

Interestingly, there was no significant growth in interest among men. Moreover, the study also suggests that women are more strategic in approaching crypto investment, and are twice likely to consult friends and family before making a decision. Men, the study described, are more likely to have the “going at it alone” approach.

Also read: How to evaluate blockchain projects and why the industry needs more women: Women in blockchain panel

Groups like Collective Future have also been established to help promote diversity in the cryptocurrency and blockchain sectors. There was also a panel at South by Southwest (SXSW) 2018 on “Empowering Women Within the Cryptocurrency Space.” It featured women who are early adaptors and innovators of the technology.

“Everyone in this space gets to be on the frontline of creating something new. And we are all learning together, regardless of gender,” Tina Hui, CEO and founder of Follow The Coin, said during the panel.

It might be a hard climb up the ladder, but women in the cryptocurrency scene are slowly getting there. After all, this budding technology shouldn’t be about gender, but rather of development and how it will impact society as a whole. And with the leaps taken by women leaders and men who advocate for equality, cryptocurrency could potentially be the first tech sector that is all inclusive.

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