Women in crypto: Raise your hands (so we can see you)
Boardrooms and banks have historically been dominated by men. But with a brand new industry like the cryptocurrency market — one that is built on the openness of the internet — are there more women at the virtual table?
After the 2008 financial collapse, Bitcoin was created as an alternative to traditional banking. But that promise of financial equity somehow did not translate into diversity. A recent report by consultancy Gemini titled “The State of US Crypto” revealed that 75 percent of crypto investors are men. Ladies, where you at?
Ola Doudin has established herself as a key player in the nascent crypto scene in the Middle East and North Africa. She is the CEO and co-founder of BitOasis, a bitcoin consumer wallet and instant exchange focused on cash-based emerging markets. BitOasis was established in the UAE in 2015 and is recognized as the largest and most-trusted crypto platform in the region today.
“There’s been a lot of talk about the crypto space being male dominated, but unfortunately that’s been the case with traditional financial services and technology industries too,” said Doudin.
“At BitOasis, our team makes a conscious effort to keep the workplace balanced. It’s good to see that the skewed gender ratios are slowly improving as we’re seeing more women in crypto and fintech, with an increasing number of them taking on high-impact roles.”
As more crypto companies and startups open in the region, we are gradually seeing more women taking on senior roles. “I do think that hiring decisions in the crypto industry are driven by sexism or other stereotyping,” said Alina Parfilava, compliance manager at Midchains, a crypto startup based in Abu Dhabi that is one of the first regulated crypto exchanges in the UAE.
“There are no barriers for women to become active in crypto and other tech related startups. In fact, I am evidence of the crest of a wave for more female representation in the technology sector. Daily, we are doing business with women from crypto related startups, regulators and consultancies.” Zina Ashour was approached about her role as marketing co-founder of iOWN Group, a tech company that invests in developing fintech solutions built on blockchain in the region.
“I don’t see many women active in the space, perhaps because everyone is underestimating the value of blockchain and the future of crypto,” she said, adding: “Financial education, particularly for women, is key.”
The Gemini research report details an interesting split on this point: There may be more men actively investing in crypto, but women expressed just as much interest. Fifty-three percent of women — compared to 47 percent of men — identified as “crypto curious,” meaning they want to learn more about the market. So the interest and appetite from women is there.
Nagham Hassan, a crypto content creator, is trailblazing in this space with her educational YouTube videos in Arabic discussing all things crypto. She started the YouTube channel after trying to find Arabic videos that would explain the new digital asset class to her father and discovering no good ones existed.
She took crypto seriously when her native Lebanon’s centralized banking system began to crumble. Unable to withdraw large amounts of her own money from the bank and struggling with inflation, the Dubai-based creator became “mesmerized by the underlying blockchain technology and the concept of decentralization.”
Her videos now have tens of thousands of views and are a perfect gateway for financial education in a new industry.
“I was shocked to find that only 4.4 percent of my viewers are female and 95.6 percent are male,” she said. “This variance concerned me because it meant women are less exposed to crypto and they are missing out on a huge opportunity. That’s why I address this topic in live chats and I urge women to learn about it. It’s not a techie guy thing, it is the future and it will impact our day to day lives.”
Hassan will be a speaker at Blockchain World, part of DSC in Dec. 15-17 in ADNEC alongside industry heavyweights. Natalie Brunnell, who hosts a popular video podcast on cryptocurrencies, will be flying in from Los Angeles for the event.
“While the tide is turning, and we are noticing an increasing number of women entering the industry, there is still a lot of work to be done to speed up the process of achieving a more equal and inclusive industry,” said Brunell, CEO of American Dreams Media. “Bitcoin not only has the power to transform global financial systems, but it can also disrupt gender inequality.”
This is how a community is built, through real and virtual conversations that feature more female faces in the crowd. We will see more NFT launches, new coins launched, and new funds led by women. Investment follows education, and the more diversity we see in this space, the better it will be for all.
• Sara Hamdan is a former Merrill Lynch banker, NYT journalist and editor at Google. She writes on startups, women in business, and post-COVID-19 work trends.