The financial sector has been a traditionally male-dominated industry since the beginning, but the birth of the crypto craze has provided us with an opportunity to start from scratch. For many, crypto can be an intimidating space because just as people began to realize that it was not a passing fad, the learning curve became steep and the price of Bitcoin soared.
The gender gap in crypto is, in fact, already mounting. CNBC reported last summer that the crypto gender gap is already wider than it is within more traditional forms of investment, with more than twice the amount of men investing in crypto than women. What doesn’t help is that women don’t feel they know much about cryptocurrency anyway. In a recent study conducted by BlockFi, it was revealed that 94 percent of women have heard of crypto, but only nine percent feel they know a fair amount about the asset class. One of the most valuable aspects crypto brings to the table is its accessibility. The DeFi model allows anyone who has access to the internet and the ability to open a bank account to get involved in this decentralized field. So the question becomes, what is getting in the way of women seizing this opportunity?
Worth sat down with Alizé Marchand, head of crypto at The Strategic Funds, Flori Marquez, cofounder and SVP of operations at BlockFi, and Marieke Flament, CEO of the NEAR Foundation, to get their take on why there is such a large gender gap in crypto and what needs to be done to empower more women to get involved.
Marchand pointed out that “it is an issue of messaging and exposure.” In the crypto industry, only 15 percent of investors are women, but the reason for this could be cultural. Marchand says that gender-biased messaging starts at a very young age, and although it is likely unintentional, girls are traditionally encouraged to study things like art, language and communications, whereas boys are encouraged more toward math, science and economics. Additionally, media outlets can be extremely biased, limiting the financial topics covered for female audiences and expanding on financial topics for male audiences. Marchand also draws a connection between the gender gap and everyday exposure. “Men tend to talk about things like investments, salaries and negotiating more in friend circles, with colleagues and just in general,” Marchand says. “And each time they mention something like that, they’re being exposed to these words. Women are less likely to talk about these things.”
The good news is there are things that can be done to start to shift this narrative and encourage more women to be open about their financial health and goals.
In order for this to happen, though, women at large need to become more comfortable discussing their finances. “The majority of women rely on conversations with their family and friends to inform their financial decisions,” Marquez says. “And so if you’re in a demographic that is excluded from an industry, and you’re getting all your information from your friends and family, who are probably in the same demographic, it’s going to reinforce the exclusion.” In order to break the cycle of exclusion around more complex financial topics, the first step is to start asking questions, no matter how basic they might seem.
Because of how new the crypto industry is, and how complex the technology has become, very few people feel they have a strong understanding of this asset. So, the time is now for women to invest in themselves by learning about crypto. Marieke Flament, CEO of the NEAR Foundation, emphasizes that education about crypto and blockchain technology is the most important and effective way to invest in yourself because this technology is acting as an additional layer over the existing internet and will eventually transform everything. Marquez doubled down on this idea of investing in yourself, saying that the most effective way to learn about crypto is to work in crypto. “The reality is that if you’re thinking in the long term, giving up cash for a year to invest in yourself and your knowledge and how much you can learn, makes you more valuable and you can cash out on the other end of that at a much higher salary range and career projection than you would be if you just stayed in the big, corporate, safe company where you have to kind of claw your way up the ladder.”
Between 2020 and 2021, career opportunities in crypto rose by almost 400 percent. This is due to the massive amount of venture capital that has been invested in the space, and with that comes the ability for companies to move beyond the core tech, meaning the coding and engineering that powers Bitcoin mining and blockchain development. “When you move from the core tech, the skills that you need actually become, dare I say, more traditional skills,” Flament says. This means that Web 3.0 companies are expanding, and with that comes the need for all different kinds of skills, whether that be legal, marketing, headhunting, managing, etc. Additionally, the accessibility of crypto is only increasing. “There’s probably an intersection of whatever you like and crypto because there are so many ways that the technology can be applied,” Marquez says. So start looking for ways that your skills can be applied to this exploding industry, and invest in yourself.
The gender gap in crypto is inarguable and caused by a plethora of factors; however, by placing these factors under a microscope, we have an opportunity to change the statistics and empower women to help level the playing field in a major financial sector. Marchand says that the industry as a whole needs to tackle this problem head on and ensure that they are providing women with speaking opportunities, media appearances and interviews to increase exposure and allow other women to see themselves in roles like these. Education and experience are also key factors in equalizing the gender gap in crypto, and although it might seem intimidating, Marquez urges women to take that first step toward investing in themselves and their financial well-being because as this industry explodes, there is a place for everyone, as long as you are brave enough to take it.