The market for nonfungible token, or NFT, digital artwork is taking on the traditional art industry. Within the first six months of 2021, analytics firm DappRadar recorded $2.5 billion in NFT sales, showing a major increase from the $13.7 million in sales during the same time period in 2020. Christie's auction house reported $93.2 million in NFT sales during the first half of 2021. In addition to impressive sales, the NFT marketplace OpenSea, which reportedly hosts 98% of the entire market’s transactions, registered $4 billion in NFT trading volume during August this year.
While the rise of blockchain-based digital artwork is notable, many of the artists responsible for creating today’s most sought after NFTs are men. For instance, digital artist Mike Winkelmann — better known as “Beeple” — made NFT history after selling “Everydays: The First 5000 Days” for over $69 million on Christies. The platinum-selling musician “Two Feet” and acclaimed 18-year-old visual artist FEWOCiOUS also made headlines after selling four collaborative NFT artworks for more than $1 million. It was also momentous to see that the Argentinian designer Andrés Reisinger sold ten pieces of virtual furniture for almost $70,000 in an NFT online auction.
Women aim to change the "crypto bro" culture through NFTs
While the ratio of male to female NFT artists remains unclear, statistics show that there are considerably less women than men involved in the overall crypto sector. For example, a recent survey conducted by cryptocurrency exchange Gemini found that just 26% of females hold crypto. Although this is the case, the report also noted that more women than men indicated a willingness to get involved in crypto in the near future.
As such, it’s important to point out that a number of women artists have begun creating NFT projects to show growing female participation, while also aiming to drive more women to the crypto sector.
Lavinia Osbourne, founder of the community “Women in Blockchain Talks,” told Cointelegraph that the NFT sector may be more appealing to different genders given the fact that it focuses on creativity:
“Learning new words such as DeFi, blockchain and crypto wallets, much less understanding these terms, takes up a lot of energy and time. Art, on the other hand, is a lot more engaging. Many people may not understand what an NFT is and how it works, but they know art and they know how to be creative.”
To Osbourne’s point, Maliha Abidi, a female artist, author and activist, told Cointelegrah that her passion for digital media initially attracted her to the NFT world. Abidi explained that she has been campaigning for women’s rights through her artwork since 2012, but, after learning about NFTs, she created a project called “Women Rise.”
According to Abidi, Women Rise is a unique collection of 10,000 NFTs featuring female activists, artists, scientists, coders and more. The project’s mission statement is to “watch women rise on the blockchain.” Abidi added:
“I wanted to make sure that I was starting my journey in NFTs by celebrating real world women around the world. This project isn't just about ethnic diversity, but it's also about cultural diversity, religious diversity and diversity in terms of fields where women are breaking the glass ceiling. It’s also an extension of the work I’ve been doing over the last nine years.”
Abidi plans to officially launch the Women Rise project at the end of November this year, around the same time as the United Nations’ 16 Days of Activism against gender-based violence campaign scheduled for November 25. “Art is a huge part of this project, but it’s also about activism and shining a light on the role women play in real life,” said Abidi.
Abidi further remarked that she is most excited about the project’s plan to give back to a number of organizations she has worked with over the years. For example, she shared that 25% of proceeds will go to the Malala Fund, while another 10% will be donated across organizations supporting gender equality, girls education and mental health in marginalized societies.
According to Abidi: “Traditional artists aren’t just limited to women, but also includes men and non-binary people. We need to redefine the roles here. The NFT space is for everyone who wants to showcase their creativity.
Unsurprisingly, there are many female artist who feel encouraged to enter the world of crypto due to the passion for women’s rights and digital media. Lisa Mayer, founder of the NFT project Boss Beauties, told Cointelegraph that the opportunities made possible from nonfungible tokens resonated with her goals to help empower women:
“Before launching Boss Beauties, I started a company called My Social Canvas. We created a number of products designed by women, where the proceeds would go back to women creators to fund their education. But, following the COVID-19 pandemic, we needed to think of other business models for alternative funding sources. This is why NFTs and digital artwork connected with me and My Social Canvas.”
Mayer explained that Boss Beauties was launched three months ago, featuring a collection of 10,000 unique portraits of strong independent women representing different career paths. “There are women astronauts, women in STEM, doctors, race car drivers and more. The promise here is that all these traits mixed together show that a woman can be anything she wants.”
Following the launch of Boss Beauties, Mayer shared that the entire collection sold out in just 90 minutes, demonstrating the financial impact NFTs can have for small business owners. “I was blown away by this because during the pandemic, I had been working hard to get My Social Canvas to survive. As a small business owner I was really emotional to see the collection sell out so quickly,” she said.
While the sale of the Boss Beauties collection marked a milestone, Mayer also mentioned that out of the 10,000 NFTs created one was saved to be displayed as a physical piece of artwork at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) to celebrate “International Day of the Girl,” which took place on Oct. 11.
According to Mayer, this is the first NFT known to be displayed at the NYSE. “It will be displayed outside the iconic Muriel Siebert Boardroom, which honors the first woman to own a seat on the New York Stock Exchange. Muriel joined the 1,365 male members of the exchange on December 28, 1967,” she said. The NFT is currently being auctioned off to fund scholarships and mentorship programs for women and girls in finance.
Efforts to help women overcome a “fear of crypto”
Although the NFT space appears to be resonating with more women in comparison to other crypto-related sectors, educational awareness is still needed to drive participation.
For instance, Mayer explained that many of the technology savvy women in her network still don’t know about NFTs, given that the space is so new. As such, a steep learning curve must be overcome, which Mayer believes will be conquered once women understand the financial opportunities associated with NFTs. “This is an opportunity for a transfer of wealth,” she remarked.
Echoing Mayer, Athan Slotkin, an entrepreneur and investor commonly known as “The Shadow CEO,” told Cointelegraph that once more people are aware of the economics behind NFTs they will want to leverage them. “Boss Beauties raised about 5 million dollars in 90 minutes. People will see this as potential.”
Furthermore, Abidi mentioned that education is also needed to help prevent scams and gatekeepers from infiltrating the crypto space. Referencing the example of the “Fame Lady Squad,” Abidi explained that three men pretending to be a female-led NFT project was one of her first introductions to NFTs, adding: “It was sad to see that a lot of people supported Fame Ladies, but that it was really a scam. The challenge here is that we must have more education and less gatekeepers in crypto."
While education is still required in all aspects of crypto, it’s important to point out that female-led groups have recently been created to help increase awareness within non-intimidating environments.
For example, Osbourne explained that Women in Blockchain Talks plans to soon launch a female-centric NFT Marketplace called "Crypto Kweens.” According to Osbourne, the marketplace is being built on the Rarible protocol and will serve as a place for female artists, entrepreneurs, creatives and founders to come together to support one another:
“It will be a place where others can support them and be part of the movement to make the metaverse representative of women and marginalized groups. Male artists will also be welcomed as long as their work is in line with the theme of 'empowering, honouring and uplifting the female form.'”
In addition to Osbourne’s initiative, Hailey Lennon, partner at law firm Anderson Kill, told Cointelegraph that she recently formed Crypto Connect, which is a networking group for those involved or interested in crypto and blockchain. Lennon explained that the group’s board of directors is led by all women, noting that a strong female presence will help bring more women and men into the crypto sector.
In regards to NFTs, Lennon mentioned that Crypto Connect’s Nashville lead is Evie Phillips, chief marketing officer of the NFT platform NFT Glee. Given Phillips expertise, Lennon commented that educational awareness around NFTs will be discussed at upcoming networking events, along with the idea that Crypto Connect memberships could be tied to NFTs in the near future. In turn, both women and men who leverage NFTs for themselves will likely understand the space better.