There’s a rumbling in the crypto world. Long perceived — not unjustly — as a boys’ club, 2020 has seen more women entering Bitcoin (BTC) and other cryptocurrencies than ever before. If the trend continues, we’ll see a welcome influx of women in the space.
A recent survey by Gemini reports that women’s investment in cryptocurrency has surged 20% over the past year among a nationally representative sampling of United Kingdom investors. Among those planning to invest in crypto, 40% are women. Crypto trading platform eToro also reported a sharp rise in the rate at which women signed up to the site during 2020, with women’s sign-ups rising by 366% compared with a 248% rise for men.
While the figures suggest a heartening diversification of the crypto space, we are far from gender parity. Data from eToro reveals that women comprise only 15% of Bitcoin traders, and progress in the space remains largely marginal. Ether (ETH) investment activity among women grew a mere 1% during 2020, from 11% to 12%.
Bitcoin is the world’s leading decentralized digital currency. It democratizes finance and allows those historically disempowered by traditional banking to have equal access to capital, unmediated by a gatekeeping institution. By cutting out financial middlemen like banks that control the flow of capital, owning Bitcoin can enable one to wholly control one’s own finances, enjoy greater security, and avoid inflationary pressures and fees imposed by traditional financial institutions.
In emerging markets, and particularly since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Bitcoin has been embraced by users cautious of economic instability in their own countries, falling national currencies and strict limitations on international money transfers. Demand for Bitcoin has surged as a safe-haven asset for users to send international payments — either as remittances to family abroad or for daily transactions — and to protect their assets against economic decline in their own countries.
Has financial inclusion been approached?
The usefulness of cryptocurrency for women across the world cannot be overstated. Women around the world continue to struggle with financial disempowerment and constitute the majority of the world’s impoverished population.
The disproportionate effect of poverty on women is a result of a network of complex factors, including a lack of financial literacy education among women and relationship dynamics that deprive women of access to family money. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence reports that at least 94% of female victims of domestic abuse also experienced economic abuse, in which one partner controls access to the other’s financial resources. The decentralization of currency creates monumental opportunities for groups historically disadvantaged by traditional banking, disrupting an age-old cycle of financial disempowerment.
Toward mainstream adoption
This year’s Bitcoin bull market has drawn Bitcoin onto the world stage unlike ever before. The influx of big-name investors like Tesla, growing acceptance of Bitcoin on Wall Street, surging prices, instability of the traditional economy, and even the recent GameStop saga have all added up to an increasing mainstream awareness of Bitcoin.
These combined factors have facilitated notable demographic shifts, but if Bitcoin is to achieve mass adoption — high rates of holding with widespread use for payments of goods and services — everyone needs to participate. As long as it’s not embraced by half the population, a currency can’t reach its full potential.
According to Coinbase, 39% of millennial women say that they would be more interested in crypto if they knew it could make finance more accessible. Communities of women in crypto can play a formidable role in spreading knowledge. Groups of women in the space have already sprung up worldwide — at conferences, on college campuses and across social media channels. More women’s voices will amplify our ideas, create a powerful basis of role models for future generations and strengthen our presence in boardrooms and C-suites.
Recent innovations in technology are making investing in Bitcoin user-friendly for growing populations, thereby transforming the profile of the Bitcoin investor and drawing crypto into the mainstream. A growing crop of crypto-back rewards programs have given rise to a new generation of investors — simply by shopping online, users become passive investors in Bitcoin. Visa and Mastercard have also recently set their sights on crypto, with Mastercard launching a pilot program that will let users transact with digital assets. PayPal announced its own crypto compatibility in 2020.
When we talk about the need for breaking down barriers to entry and fostering greater diversity, we are talking about a movement to benefit all Bitcoin investors. Unlike traditional financial institutions, Bitcoin doesn’t care about gender, what you look like or who you are. The implications of mass adoption go far beyond financial freedom. Mass adoption means socioeconomic mobility, material opportunities and a holistic reevaluation of the role of the institutions that stand between the individual and her wealth.