I have been interested in and working in the field of cryptocurrencies for a few years now and I have noticed that fellow women enthusiasts are scarce. But why is this? I will investigate and try to shed some light onto this. I am also going to do a short interview with Dea Oja – director of Ignite, an Estonian software development company.
It’s a Man’s Cryptoworld
It is thought that about 95% of people interested in the field of cryptocurrencies are men. If you look around in different Bitcoin or cryptocurrency groups you get a similar result. You could say that women simply aren’t interested or wired up this way. This huge male dominance in the field causes many issues. Not just the gender equality problem but also it will cause a wider adoption problem for cryptocurrencies. Why, you might ask ? Because approximately 50% of the human population is female. At birth there are more males born however that rate starts to deteriorate with age. If we are talking about an adult consumer, professional or a labourer, more than half of them are be women. Women also consume considerably more than men. So firstly, looking at just from an economical point of view if we want Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies to go global and succeed we need to get women on board. There’s simply more of us. So how can it be that the industry is still almost totally dominated by the male presence?
When discussing this I have heard different speculations. Some of them – Women just aren’t interested in this sort of thing. Some even say that women aren’t as good in technology. Now this simply isn’t true. To be able to be proficient in blockchain-tech or cryptocurrencies you would need to do some research and educate yourself. It is true that at first glance this technology might seem immensely complicated. But there are no differences in the brains of females or males. Both sexes have an equal level of intelligence and capability to educate themselves. So why is it that women aren’t as active in the cryptoworld? Is it that they do just choose other areas of interest or is there more to it? There are also significantly less women in the tech field than men.
Male and Female Brain
A study led by Daphna Joel at Tel Aviv university has shown that there’s really not much in the way of difference between male brains and female brains. This is great as before it was seen as a “male brain” is something that gave attention to detail and was more calculative and logical and a “woman’s brain” is more creative, looking at the big picture and more emotional. Yes, the different brain characteristics are still there. That used to be called “left brain and right brain”(this has now been disproved). However calling one a “male brain” and the other a “female brain” is just sexist. In this study the scientists analysed over 1400 brain scans of men and women. Some features were common in one sex more than the other however they also found that each person has a unique “mosaic” of these different features. So we are not different in the sense of being male or female. We are just all different.
So if there’s is no actual difference in the brains of the sexes, why do males almost completely dominate the Bitcoin and cryptocurrency scene?
People Need to Belong
We’ve established that there’s no difference in the male and female brains. There’s also no difference in the abilities and intelligence between the two sexes, yet there are still not as many women in the tech field as men. Deborah Orr makes a great point in her article about the study of the male and female brains: As we are all so different and unique. The thought that there is no one else in the world just like you can make you really lonely. This is why we tend to want to stick with people who are similar to ourselves. Be it the music we enjoy, sharing a passion for the same football team or if everything else fails, form a group with people sharing the same gender. Although I agree with all of the above, to me this still doesn’t explain the lack of women in the cryptocurrency world.
In my opinion the answer must lie here. There are still different cultural expectations for women and men. You’ve all probably heard statements like: Men are insensitive. All men are interested in sports. Women are bad drivers. Women love shopping. Are these statements true because all men and women truly behave this way? Or do they behave this way that they are told that this is true? Statistically women cause less accidents than men – so that’s one statement crushed. I hate shopping and my partner doesn’t care about football. This doesn’t really prove anything, perhaps we’re the exceptions that prove the rule.
I happened to listen to an interesting program on this topic on BBC Radio 4 some time ago. There was a discussion about why there is such a small amount of women in the tech, IT and finance industries. One hypothesis was that boys are generally told that they are better at science and maths and girls are told they are more creative at school. That then becomes a self fulfilling prophecy – girls focus more on other topics because they believe they are not good enough at it. They also talked about an experiment conducted. A group of men were given some mathematical equations to solve and told that they would be competing with women, a group of women were given the exact same equations and told that they were competing against men. That group of women produced a lower overall score. The next group of men were told that they were competing against women, however these women are from Asia. The score of the group of men solving the equations dropped massively. The last group of men and women were not told who they were competing against – their scores were pretty much even. So maybe it comes down to what people are told they can and cannot do and whether they believe it or not.
A huge part in who a person becomes is formed by their upbringing and environment. From birth we start to groom people with gender stereotypes in mind. I have two kids. A two year old girl and a baby boy. My little toddler loves princesses and ponies. They boy is probably not sure yet. My question is – does Isabella want to be a princess because she is a girl or because I’ve shown her films about princesses and got her pretty dresses? Oliver hasn’t yet shown any interest into princesses, however I also for some reason don’t dress him in pink as that is, you know, a girl’s colour. So the strange thing is – even though I do not approve of these set gender roles, I still seem to be projecting these onto my children.
What do Women in the Cryptoworld think about this ?
I contacted Dea Oja, a highly intelligent businesswoman and the CEO of Ignite. Ignite is a software development company that offers a more personal approach to things. Their previous experience lies in various finance and business systems, cryptocurrency technologies, mobile apps, public healthcare services and many more.
A very small proportion of women are currently interested or active in Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. Why do you think this is ? And how could this be changed ?
- Why ? Overall there are less women in the financial industry. By this I mean financial management rather that accounting. I would also draw a parallel with the IT sector – both are very heavily science based specialities. During the studies you will need to take several mathematics and physics classes and somehow this seems very daunting to women. Why? Because society has portrayed women this way and they are seen as a target group for more creative and so-called softer specialities, they would be guided towards educational or arts subjects. A big part in this plays the family and the parents’ influence on their children. How they see the gender roles and how outdated their principles and perceptions.
Cryptocurrencies are even a step further from finance. In this case the educational system cannot be blamed though as cryptocurrencies have not reached it yet. So why is it still a male dominated field ? To understand cryptocurrencies you would benefit from having a background in IT. To understand how they work, it would help if you know what private keys, hashing and cryptographic algorithms are and how the equations are calculated. As most people in IT are men (i mean specifically programmers) then logically when looking at the percentage interested in cryptocurrencies, we will find a similar proportion.
How to change this ? A great question. I see the need for strategical work, firstly by creating visibility and educating people by other enthusiasts of this field. For this a group of enthusiasts need to set the goals of why such work is needed and what should the strategy be. As in any emerging field, it takes time to reach the public and to spread the trend. At first to reach the general public and then start apporaching different segments one at a time. There needs to be daily strategic work done to engage more women in this field. The Estonian Cryptocurrency Association would be a perfect place to start.
What obstacles and difficulties have you come across as a woman in charge of a business in the IT and cryptocurrency field ?
Self Fulfilling Prophecy?
Even though we are in the 21st century and the whole equal rights thing is getting better, we’re nowhere near where we should be yet. Sexism still has a huge presence in the world, more in some countries as others, of course. But even in the developed world women in the tech industry are still hugely discriminated against. I don’t want to generalise, but a lot of men still do look down on women because this is how they have seen their previous generations behave – back in the fifties and sixties a women was still seen as the housewife. She was expected to stay home and “do as the man says”. Not saying that this was okay, just stating that this is how things were. A lot of people grew up seeing their parents think of this as the norm and have also taken on this opinion. This is why as a women in the world of cryptocurrencies you might feel unwelcome.
I am a member of the Estonian Cryptocurrency Association and a former member of the board. We organized Coinfest Estonia back in February 2015. Awesome event, lots of great talks and opportunities to network with different knowledgeable people. However – very few ladies about. I personally haven’t felt discriminated against or treated differently when taking part of events and meetups or attending the association’s board meetings. But it does strike a bit odd to the eye to to have a conference full of men and only a few women. Victoria Turk, a journalist writing on science and technology experienced the same thing at the London Bitcoin Expo in 2013.
Bitcoin Needs More Women
For Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies to really go global, we need women to take part and feel welcome in this field. Why you might ask ? Because women are responsible for $20 trillion worth in annual consumer spending. This figure is estimated to rise another 40% in the next five years. If we truly want this industry to thrive it needs to start taking a piece of that pie. Yes, you might say that Bitcoin and cryptos are a thing for geeks and techy people. Firstly the same thing was said about the Internet back in 1995. By 2000 there were over 361 million internet users – both men and women. So yes, the geek argument would maybe have been valid 5 years ago.
We need to make this field more attractive to women. Whether making it easier to understand or make the ones already into it more welcome in the community. There are already some awesome initiations like Cryptomoms and Bitcoin Women’s Day. In my perfect world I wouldn’t need to be writing about this topic as it shouldn’t be a thing happening. I encourage all the men in the crypto community to welcome ladies to take part and all the ladies already active – spread the word to your friends. Let’s make cryptocurrencies a field that doesn’t care about the gender stereotypes and makes the world a better place.
HitBTC welcomes all women to trade on our exchange. If you have any thoughts on how to promote this better, please do get in touch!