Welcome to the Boys’ Club
As news.Bitcoin.com reported earlier this week:
Twice as many men own or have owned bitcoin and are almost three times as likely as women to buy bitcoin in the next five years. Men also have a more positive view of bitcoin (17% versus 7%).
Why So Few Women in Bitcoin?
Tech industries are inherently male-dominated for reasons that include boys being introduced to gadgets at a younger age, leading to just 16% of computer science undergraduates being female. Despite initiatives designed to encourage more girls to code, the number of female computer science undergraduates in the UK has actually dropped in the last 10 years. Attributing other reasons to the absence of women in tech is highly contentious, as fired Google engineer James Damore discovered to his peril this year.
Boys and Bitcoin
In its earliest days, bitcoin was a wild west that evoked memories of the dawn of the internet – another piece of tech whose earliest innovators and adopters were predominantly male. A degree of technical knowledge was required to fully utilize the web back then, and the same holds true of bitcoin even today. While the UX of bitcoin has since improved thanks to development at the application layer, cautionary tales of lost private keys, coins sent to wrong addresses, and phishing attempts are still abound. And those are the sort of mishaps that can befall even experienced operators.
For newcomers, there’s a lot to learn, and that’s not including the dogma surrounding bitcoin and competing claims on which chain is “true”. If bitcoin’s earliest adopters are drawn from industries which are historically male-dominated, it follows that later adopters will be less tech-savvy. Newcomers of both sexes, then, find themselves with a mountain of knowledge to climb.
Why Does Bitcoin Need More Women?
It shouldn’t need stating that the more inclusive bitcoin is, the better. The cryptocurrency space doesn’t need diversity quotas, but if it is to attain mainstream adoption, it needs to attract support from all demographics. Bitcoin can hardly be labeled a global payment and wealth storage system if it excludes half of the population. While no one is stopping more women from getting involved with bitcoin, little is being done to encourage them either.
Credit must go to the likes of Rhian Lewis and Paige Freeman for organizing Women in Bitcoin events in London and San Francisco. These exceptions, unfortunately, only reiterate that bitcoin is largely a boys’ club.
Changing the status quo surely calls for action in the following areas:
Behavior. If Silicon Valley’s culture is overly macho, how to describe bitcoin with its brash, combative, and opinionated personalities? To misquote Hunter S Thompson:
Bitcoin is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There’s also a negative side.
The cryptocurrency community is awesome, but it’s also intimidating and filled with one-upmanship and braggadocio. Why would anyone want to join such a rabble?
Can’t we just all get along?
Issues such as off-chain scaling and Merkle roots might keep bitcoin’s most brilliant minds up at night, but it’s interface design, aesthetics, user-friendliness, and on-ramping that will open up bitcoin to the masses.
More can be done to reach out to women and raise awareness of bitcoin and how it can benefit them. This is something that everyone in the crypto community could do better. There are ways to educate people about bitcoin without succumbing to accusations of ‘mansplaining’.
Women Don’t Want Pink
Women don’t want things to be pink and fluffy (despite what the developers of Womencoin seem to think), but they do want products that appeal to their interests. There are dedicated insurance websites, retail stores, casinos, and social media apps for women. When bitcoin starts catering to the needs of women, providing products that add value to their lives, progress will be made. Gimmicky coins and female-focused tokens do little to help.
If egalitarian reasons don’t spur developers into catering for women, financial incentives certainly will. There’s a vast number of moms, sisters, girlfriends, and colleagues out there with high disposable income and a love for all things internet. This presents a huge business opportunity for whoever can figure out a way to get these women into bitcoin and to get bitcoin into their everyday lives.
Bitcoin is amazing. It removes monetary control from governments, enhances privacy, and gives individuals financial freedom. And that’s something that every man and woman on this planet deserves to experience.