By Dr. Ruth Wandhöfer, Partner and Gauss Ventures
If cryptocurrencies today are anything like the early days of the Internet, it’s crucial that women become more involved in this new frontier. With women making up half the world’s working-age population, and crypto being the future of money and investment – they should play a role in shaping it.
Fortunately, progress is being made and women are steadily becoming more interested in this new asset class. In 2017, only 5% to 7% of all cryptocurrency users were women. Yet two years later, Bitcoin fund operator Grayscale revealed that 43% of survey respondents that were interested in bitcoin investments were women. In places like India, women even make up the majority of crypto investors.
Why the sudden interest? As more women hear about the potential upsides of cryptocurrencies, more are getting involved. An increasing number of women are learning how to trade digital money while others are getting involved in tackling wide-ranging topics: from education and financial inclusion and empowerment to the digital chamber of commerce, crypto and banking nexus. Women are also becoming developers and strategists across blockchain, AI and big data.
There’s been a notable increase in female staff in key crypto firms like Coinbase, as well as Binance and Banco. These latter two exchanges were established by women and have a workforce that is now 40-50% female.
As more women get into the crypto space, we are also seeing some standout stars rising the ranks and making inroads in their careers. One recent story is that of Amiti Uttarwar. After studying at Carnegie Mellon, majoring in Information Systems, Uttarwar worked at a few startups in the Bay Area before introducing herself to Bitcoin. She then worked at Coinbase before being accepted for the Chaincode Residency for 2019 through Chaincode Labs. She is now the first confirmed female developer of Bitcoin Core and ‘the face of the New American Dream‘.
Other female employees are going on to front industry initiatives, such as Amber Baldet. She was the blockchain lead at JP Morgan, and was responsible for exploring how financial institutions could use technologies like blockchain. She helped to spearhead the Blockchain Center of Excellence at J.P. Morgan and acted as the chair of the financial industry working group of the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance.
Baldet now sits on the board of the Zcash Foundation and leads her own blockchain startup. Clovyr helps consumers, developers, and enterprises explore the world of blockchain-based technologies – and advances the development of decentralised tools and products.
Women are also supporting the infrastructure for cryptocurrencies and using it to dominate their professions, notably the legal world, where female blockchain and cryptocurrency lawyers are taking on practice leadership roles at various major law firms in the United States, breaking the male-dominated leadership moulds in two fields at once.
A few years ago, law firms that practiced regulatory or securities work began fielding blockchain or cryptocurrency-related questions, but it wasn’t clear, inside the firms, as to who was best placed to answer such queries. These women had the foresight to assume that the position was open. They took the initiative to educate themselves, and eventually came to fill those roles.
As women become more comfortable in the crypto space we are seeing a steady birth of female founders stepping up to the plate and coming up with exciting business ideas that cater to women.
One such entrepreneur is Emmanuelle Collet, cofounder and chief marketing officer of Arianee. This French blockchain project is aimed at eliminating fraud and counterfeiting in the luxury market. She learned about cryptocurrency and blockchain while still working at the Swiss luxury watch brand Omega and completing an MBA. She could see this had the potential to change the customer experience, especially in the Asian market, and Arianee’s mission is to build a global standard for the digital certification of valuable objects.
We also see women helping at the philanthropic level. Connie Gallippi is the founder of BitGive, the first nonprofit in Bitcoin – which has also evolved into one of the most significant Bitcoin projects, in terms of its success and longevity. While at a Bitcoin conference in San Jose in 2013, Gallippi was struck by inspiration: she reasoned that the Bitcoin community needed a philanthropic arm, and that she would lead it. Now, BitGive is the top place to go if you have Bitcoin and are keen to give some of your digital cash to charitable causes.
So how do we get more women into the space? Education around blockchain and cryptocurrencies should be more readily available. Community building is also essential to bringing women into the world of crypto.
We are already seeing some excellent initiatives. Women blockchain pioneers and thought leaders banded together in 2017 to form Diversity in Blockchain – a nonprofit organisation committed to empowering people from all walks of life to engage with blockchain technology, through education, discussion, and engagement. There is also EWPN, which is dedicated to building a community for women in cards, fintech and payments in Europe.
Aside from community building, mentoring and profile-raising can go a long way to attracting more female talent and narrowing the gender gap. It’s also essential for each woman to establish a network of other women in the world of business, and in particular crypto: Wirex and myself are here and ready to help develop that network.
We know that it’s important that we recognise and celebrate the achievements of women in the new frontier. As the old saying goes, ‘you can’t be what you can’t see’ – and more female role models in this space will help to shepherd in the next generation. We know that diversity in teams improves decision-making, shapes strategy and helps focus on essentials.
When it comes to participating in this new form of wealth creation we must level the playing field and not leave it all to men. Crypto is the future of money, and money matters to everyone. Women should play a role in how it will transform the world we live in.