A breakdown on gender diversity in the digital currency industry

> Posted by Jeffrey Riecke, Senior Specialist, Center for Financial Inclusion at Accion

Embed from Getty Images

Is cryptocurrency a household word now? How about blockchain or Bitcoin? You don’t have to be immersed in financial services to regularly hear about the soaring values of digital currencies, the launch of new products and systems, and other industry developments. Just last week, for example, the Government of Venezuela announced that it was launching a national cryptocurrency backed by its petrol supply. Switzerland is doing the same. And they’re only two of a growing list of countries actively exploring alternative digital currencies.

This week I came across an article that punctuated the flow of hype, an eye-opening piece from Nellie Bowles for The New York Times on what probably won’t come as much of a surprise: the cryptocurrency industry is incredibly male-dominated.

Bowles shares a collection of industry statistics and anecdotes that range from the vanishingly small representation of women in the industry to sexist marketing tactics. For example, studies indicate that only roughly 5 percent of investors in blockchain are women. And at the North American Bitcoin Conference held in January, there were only three female speakers to 84 that were male. Even harder to believe, the official conference party was held at a Miami strip club. I wish I was kidding.

Given how new cryptocurrencies and blockchain are, it’s not surprising that beyond what’s shared in Bowles’ article, there aren’t many statistics on gender diversity in the sector. Through heavy Googling I was able to dig up the following:

  • Figures on women cryptocurrency users vary across surveys, though they hover at roughly 5 percent of all users.
  • In 2017, those who invested in Bitcoin experienced wealth creation of roughly $85 billion, and only $5 billion of that went to women.
  • Four out of the 30 largest ICOs (Initial Coin Offerings) in 2017 were organizations with women founders or co-founders.
  • Digital Currency Group, a venture capital company focused on digital currencies, has an investment portfolio of 67 companies. Women make up only 17 percent of those companies’ staff. One-third of these investees have no women staff at all.

It’s no secret that today’s tech industry is far from gender-balanced. AmazonAppleGoogle, and Facebook have all come under fire for lack of gender diversity in recent years. Why should the nascent world of cryptocurrency be any different, especially in considering that it hasn’t yet rose to the level of scrutiny of the “Big Four” tech companies?

Regardless of how we got to this point, it doesn’t have to be this way. In fact, it hasn’t always been this way. In 1984, nearly 40 percent of computer science majors were women. Nowadays, about one-quarter of computing jobs are held by women.

However, there are bright spots. Collective Future was recently formed by two venture capitalists, with the goal of advocating for gender diversity in the blockchain industry and creating a diversity pledge for companies to sign as a gesture of commitment. One of the U.S. industry’s largest digital currency exchanges, Coinbase, reports that 46 percent of its hires in 2017 were women or racially diverse. And lastly, perhaps most encouragingly, cryptocurrencies and blockchain are becoming increasingly popular class topics at graduate schools throughout the United States.

Stay tuned for International Women’s Day next week when we’ll spotlight some of the ways in which financial services are becoming more inclusive for women.

Featured image credit: Casino Lobby 

Have you read?

ICICI Bank and Stellar: Using Blockchain to Reach the Base of the Pyramid in India

What Happens If the Blockchain Breaks?

How Technology Is Propelling Inclusive Insurance