I hope you all had a lovely Valentine’s Day. I’m thrilled to share a little bit about a research report I’ve contributed to, along with researcher Paulina Rodriguez and entrepreneur Marina Spindler (featured below).
A lot of people ask us about women working in the cryptocurrency ecosystem. Inspired by the World Bank’s “Women, Business and the Law” report, Spindler and Rodriguez interviewed 60 women from around the world, many of whom have worked for a crypto startup at some point. Others, like Turkish influencer Ece Belgin, are independent creators producing crypto-themed content for their local community.
Overall, women represent a lucrative, and largely underserved, market for fintech service providers. These women are ideal consumers, often highly engaged regarding user feedback and volunteer contributions. More than half of the respondents identified themselves as “active and engaged” with community projects, both local and virtual. They are also especially keen to learn about high yield investment opportunities and products like hardware wallets.
(I built a bitcoin node and hardware wallet this month. It was tricky!)
Belgin first heard about bitcoin in 2016, from her boyfriend at the time. Then this Turkish concert pianist and chemical engineering student started a Youtube channel to broadcast her journey as she learned about cryptocurrencies.
“Here, men are deciding how to spend your family money. And we are a democratic country. And even when a woman's wage is way better than her husband’s, the father figure is the one who decides how to spend it. Even in the politics in Turkey, husbands decide for whom they should vote. This is a really very bad situation. But it is changing with my generation,” Belgin said. “Turkish women are always interested in investments. My grandparents are making their investments in gold, their jewelries… I always try to save at least 70% of my wage, and try to spend maximum 30% of my earnings from my YouTube channel.”
In total, these respondents hail from more than 25 countries, including the United States, Canada, Australia, South Africa, Nigeria, Thailand, Brazil, Mexico, Argentina and Bolivia, just to name a few more. When asked how confident these women felt holding and managing their own cryptocurrency, almost all respondents answered only 4.5 on a scale of 1-10. This indicated a moderate level of interest and proficiency, but not confidence.
Clearly, these users want more opportunities and tools that help them manage their own money.
“Nowadays, about 10% of my savings are in crypto, but I want to grow that. So I told [my employer] to pay me in DAI. It's intimidating the first go-round, but then - we got used to it,” said one anonymous stablecoin user. “I've been in quarantine in Thailand for many months, but I feel like I'm working internationally. That's something really cool... I'm getting paid as a developer for a company in New York. And I have never lived in New York.”
Although most of this research was done for a private report, we wanted to share some of it with you. Here are a few quick insights we learned from their responses.
Many women we interviewed use cryptocurrencies for remittances to Latin America.
One such anonymous user, a Colombian immigrant to the United States, said her family used to rely on Western Union. This was expensive and cumbersome, so she followed experts like journalist Laura Shin to learn about cryptocurrency.
“We hear so much about scams and how many people lose so much money in that [cryptocurrency], and I always try to be cautious and responsible when it comes to how to invest my money,” she said. “My first investment in crypto was in 2016, when I bought $5 in crypto through the Coinbase platform.”
Now she says roughly 5% of her savings are held via cryptocurrencies, including dollar-denominated stablecoins like DAI.
In addition to educational needs and concerns about risk management, we found another commonality across survey respondents. Unless they are developers, many people struggle to get job opportunities beyond the entry level despite ample experience in adjacent fields.
As Canadian business consultant Magdalena Gronowska put it, the problem is many startups in the crypto space “can’t afford” to hire experienced talent. At least, those funds are generally reserved for expensive developer talent. Just like in the broader tech industry, women in crypto have to hustle hard when they negotiate for salaries and benefits.
Magdalena has expertise in both the energy industry and bitcoin mining. But getting work in the crypto industry was far from easy.
“I think a lot of women tend to do more volunteering activities because they care and want to participate, but it is also a challenge,” Gronowska said. “I don't expect to get paid six figures right now, but I do expect equity.”
And that leads to the above-mentioned insight we garnered about women who use cryptocurrency. They are often eager to get paid in cryptocurrency, despite the volatility risks. Earning cryptocurrency is often perceived as less risky than spending fiat on it.
If any of you would like to support Spindler’s research, please fill out and share this survey with women who use cryptocurrency. Spindler will share the results with officials from the World Bank and the World Economic Forum this spring.
All things considered, many women described their experience with cryptocurrency as “empowering,” and sometimes “flexible,” the holy grail of any financial product.
“Everything that allows us to have control over money and the value of our work is important,” one anonymous woman in Venezuela said. “It is the possibility of having money saved without passing through the hands of the husband and without having to go to the bank to sign.”
The volatility risks don’t hinder users that rely on cryptocurrency for specific, underserved needs.
“For the first time in my life I’m not worried. I can buy clothes and a whole pizza for myself. For the first time, with cryptocurrencies, I am able to make a decent living instead of remaining at a precarious job with no future,” said Argentinian community manager and law student Romina Sejas, who believes strict regulations are not the answer.
“The [financial] risk is always there,” Sejas said. “You have to respect my free will and not underestimate me because I can study and have access to the internet. I can benefit from this a lot and I can help a lot of people.”
These women often approach cryptocurrency education as a social activity. They surround themselves with experienced friends through communities like Meta Gamma Delta, Women in Blockchain or SheFi as they navigate the complex technical and regulatory landscape.
What do you think? Leave your questions in the comments and I’ll follow up when the researchers make their survey public.
In the meantime, I’m still working as a freelance journalist. For example, I recently wrote a piece for Vice about digital art. Several more pieces are coming soon. In the meantime, feel free to let me know if you have any questions that you want me to answer in upcoming editions.
Until next time, take care everybody!