According to a recent survey by the Bitcoin Marketing Team, the digital currency is still largely dominated by men in their early 20s to their late 40s, with a few under the age of 18.
Cointelegraph caught up with Charlene Chen, BitPesa Chief Operating Officer, Stephanie Kent, founder of Krypton, and Susanne Tempelhof, BitNation founder and CEO, to find out what their views are on women in Bitcoin.
The Bitcoin community has a diversity problem
Here’s one striking figure: 91.8 percent of respondents are male. To paint a demographic picture of the community, the team has surveyed 770 digital currency users from 68 countries. Only 5.7 percent of responses came from women with 2.5 percent choosing not to specify their sex.
It shows that more needs to be done to attract women into the niche community of Bitcoin users. While the survey may have only attracted a small number of female respondents that’s not to say there aren’t women in Bitcoin making their mark on the community.
You only have to look at the likes of Elizabeth Rossiello of BitPesa, Ola Doudin of BitOasis, Stephanie Kent of Krypton and Susanne Tempelhof of Bitnation, to name a few, to see that positive changes are taking place to bridge the gender imbalance in Bitcoin.
Female participation in computer science declines
A report by NPR in 2014 demonstrated that in 1984 the percentage of women in computer science plunged despite the number of women in technical and professional fields such as medicine, law, and physical sciences continued to rise.
According to the report, one of the reasons behind this was that computers began appearing in U.S. homes and were being marketed as ‘toys for boys,’ leading to a generation of men who gained more exposure and experience with computers at an early age.
Charlene Chen, COO at BitPesa, says that she was lucky to get involved with computer science. With no brothers to contend with, her dad encouraged her to play around with computers at an early age.
“I was one of only five women out of 140 classmates (3.6 percent) who graduated with a Computer Science degree in 2003.”
She adds, though, that it’s only human nature to be attracted to what people are familiar with:
“I’m confident that if a group of men and women had equal exposure to/familiarity with a particular technology, they would be equally successful in implementing/managing that technology.”
Attracting more women to Bitcoin
With a steady decline in female participation in the coding arts and many of the early adopters being male, there may be the assumption that women won’t have an impact in the Bitcoin community.
Susanne Tempelhof, Founder and CEO of BitNation, disagrees. She says:
“Women stand for a significant part of day-to-day expenditures. I believe more women using Bitcoin for daily spending would help stabilize the price.”
Stephanie Kent, Krypton founder and CEO, agrees underlining that “women have more purchasing power than ever before.” Steps, however, need to be taken to attract more women to the Bitcoin community.
One way of doing this, Chen explains, is by featuring more women who are already leading Bitcoin and blockchain companies which will help to attract more women to Bitcoin.
“The Bitcoin community will attract more people, not just women, but men too, if we show how Bitcoin and Blockchain is relevant in both developed and developing countries.”
She states that there have been plenty of people she has met who aren’t involved with Bitcoin simply because they don’t understand why they would ever use it.
Tempelhof explains that user-friendly and aesthetically attractive frontend applications would increase adoption as most wallets and exchanges are designed for a male tech audience.
However, while women are involved in the Bitcoin community, the reception they receive is not always welcoming.
This amusing, but insightful post by Arianna Simpson, who writes a blog about her Bitcoin experiences and is an active advocate for women in cryptocurrency highlights what it’s like for women who attend Bitcoin meetups.
What struggles do women face in Bitcoin?
As with many areas of gender inequality, a need for change on a small scale demonstrates that more needs to be done for change at a higher level. Until the privileged role of early adopters is questioned, many women already making their mark on the Bitcoin community will continue to face struggles based on their gender.
Interestingly enough, some women make their gender a key part of their identities in Bitcoin such as the Bitcoin wife; however, not all women think their gender should come into it.
“One of the things that upsets me as a woman in the Bitcoin industry is when people ask things like, ‘we want you to be on this panel because we want more women present. So people want me for my gender, not for my ideas, knowledge or achievements?”
In Tempelhof’s view, this so-called ‘positive discrimination’ is just as offensive as plain and simple gender discrimination.
Krypton’s Stephanie Kent explained that she was recently trolled by a man on BitcoinTalk after he found her personal phone number and home address.
“He continued to post these, obviously butthurt by Krypton’s decision to protect other investors and move away from the Ethereum-based chain to a Bitcoin-based chain as a temp solution.”
After suffering a 51 percent hack, Krypton, an Ethereum-based blockchain, announced that it was moving its token coin KR from an Ethereum-based proof-of-work blockchain to a Bitcoin-based proof-of-stake blockchain to prevent more KR from being stolen through a double spend.
“I finally had to close the thread or spend the entire day deleting his posts,” Kent added.
Bridging the gender gap
There are many reasons why the women who are involved in Bitcoin decided they wanted to be a part of its community.
It could be because of its decentralized nature, its ability to open doors for the unbanked, its super cool nature, or simply because of the curiosity it holds and how it will impact our financial systems.
Whatever the reason, though, it’s important that women have a stake in the future of Bitcoin. As Chen concludes, those interested in Bitcoin shouldn’t be intimidated by the underlying technology behind Bitcoin.
“If you want to dive deep into hash algorithms and cryptography, then great, but you don’t need a perfect understanding of the Bitcoin protocol to be able to leverage its power.”