The cryptocurrency space is in danger of becoming even more male-dominated than finance and tech.
As the price of Bitcoin soared to record highs this week—$10,000, $15,000, then $17,000—the meteoric rise that turned early investors into paper billionaires fueled talk of how the cryptocurrency and its underlying technology, blockchain, could wholly remake the banking system. As MIT researchers argued in a Harvard Business Review article earlier this year: “Blockchain will do to the banking system what the Internet did to media.”
Among the many questions about the future of Bitcoin and its peers—Is it a bubble? Will it pop?—is whether the cryptocurrency industry, like its traditional predecessor, will be molded mainly by men.
Like so many other aspects of the relatively new and purposefully cryptic assets, an answer is difficult to pin down. There’s little data on the gender makeup of investors and entrepreneurs, but to women already in the field, it feels like cryptocurrency is following in banking’s loafer-shaped footsteps.
The Bitcoin investment gender gap
Cryptocurrency transactions are anonymized, meaning the identity (and therefore gender) of owners is hard to pin down. But two informal industry surveys provide at least a peek into who’s buying and selling such assets. The first, a survey distributed in September via EthTrader, an online investment community of Ethereum traders, found that just 4% of traders are women. The second, conducted by MyEtherWaller, an open-source interface for creating Ethereum wallets (a digital currency trader must have a wallet to trade currency and monitor his or her balance) found in October that the number of women traders is closer to 16%.
Among institutional investors, women seem to be scarce, too. After years of attending industry dinners and events—where she says women “automatically gravitate toward each other” because they’re such a minority—Linda Xie, co-founder of cryptoasset fund Scalar Capital, estimates that the number of female investors in the space is about 10%.
Why are women so absent from this space? One factor could be that at their core, investments in Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are just that: investments. And in every asset class that’s been studied so far, men take riskier bets than women—and cryptocurrency investing is nothing if not risky.