Senior Staff Writer
Alex Gailey is an experienced personal finance journalist covering trends, news, and ideas on money.…
Cryptocurrency has a problem: there are too many men.
Twice as many men as women invest in cryptocurrency: Roughly 19% of women ages 18 to 29 say they have invested in, traded or used a cryptocurrency, compared with 43% of men in the same age range, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey.
But this isn’t only where women are lagging behind men: there are also not as many women working in the blockchain and crypto industries. A 2019 report revealed the percentage of women in those sectors, including developers, investors, and casually interested individuals, hovers between 4% and 6%.
Here’s why this is a problem: The early days of an industry are often when the fortunes are made — and those big winners typically influence the direction the industry goes in the future, from whom to invest in to what to build next. So now is the time for women to make their mark on the crypto industry and its future, and their absence now could diminish their influence — and benefits — in the long run, experts say.
“It’s so important for women and people of color to be a part of crypto and blockchain right now because we’re building the next generation of the financial ecosystem,” says Charlene Fadirepo, founder and CEO of Guidefi, a fintech platform that she had built in 2019 to make it easier for women and professionals of color to find their ideal financial advisors. “Crypto and blockchain came from finance and tech, and those are the industries that don’t have a lot of women and people of color. This is why we have big gaps of diversity.”
But there is some good news: In an industry that innovates at the speed of light, there’s still plenty of opportunity for the women who are currently helping to shrink that gender and diversity gap.
A growing group of artists, coders, entrepreneurs, and investors is convinced that cryptocurrency is here to stay, and that women can’t afford to delay learning about it and deciding whether it fits into their financial strategy and risk tolerance. These women aren’t waiting for an invitation to make their mark on the industry, and they’re doing everything they can to bring more women along with them.
They are trying to shrink the gender gap in crypto by organizing events and communities, educating on social media platforms, launching companies, writing about crypto, crafting inclusive public policy, and sharing their experiences. Most of all, they want you to know that women belong in cryptocurrency.
Here’s how these six women are transforming the face of crypto, and why you might want to start following them if you’re interested in the future of cryptocurrency.
When Charlene Fadirepo first heard of Bitcoin a few years back, it sounded risky. But her work kept bringing her back to it.
It wasn’t until the start of the COVID-19 pandemic that she finally went down a “crypto rabbit hole” and became hooked on learning more. Communities of early adopters and enthusiasts are a big part of the learning curve for many crypto newbies, but Fadirepo couldn’t find one that felt welcoming to her. So she built her own.
“I spent a lot of time on Clubhouse and in Twitter spaces, and I saw the ugliness of crypto bro culture,” says Fadirepo, an ex-government regulator turned financial and crypto advisor.
That dilemma, as well the questions she started getting from her clients on crypto, led her to launch a crypto course and build on top of her existing community through Guidefi. Fadirepo started Guidefi after experiencing difficulty in finding the right financial advisor for her own family.
“It started out of necessity,” says Fadirepo. “I was looking for a financial advisor of color and unfortunately, women financial advisors and financial advisors of color are just very difficult to find in the United States. Once you start advising people on their wealth, you have to think of all sides of wealth, which includes digital wealth.”
Fadirepo says there’s a reason women investors might prefer their own spaces, like Guidefi’s digital community, to learn from one another. She says it’s not unheard of in many online crypto communities — theoretically open to all, but not so much in practice — to hear “crypto bros” mansplaining to others or making inappropriate comments. While spaces that are more conducive for women and people of color invested in crypto can be harder to find, they do exist, she says.
“I would just encourage folks that are encountering those spaces to find a space that works for you,” she says. “You don’t have to stay somewhere when you’re unwanted or unwelcome.”
It was the summer of 2021 when Maliha Abidi discovered that NFTs offer her a way to combine her passion for art and social justice for women.
Abidi, a Pakistani-American artist who was born and raised in Pakistan and migrated to California at the age of 14, is one of many artists who has recently taken their talents to the digital space by minting and selling non-fungible tokens, or NFTs, on digital marketplaces. She launched her first NFT collection Women Rise at the end of last year, which includes 10,000 unique NFT art pieces with the intention to “celebrate women in Web3 and bring more women into the space.” Web3 is typically described as the next iteration of the Internet based on blockchain technology, and emphasizes decentralization and greater utility.
Her first-ever NFT collection functions as an empowerment campaign to bring 100,000 girls and women into the worlds of Web3, blockchain, and crypto by the end of 2022. The NFTs she created represent women from around the world, “with traits that go beyond the diversity of just skin colors,” according to Abidi.
“The idea comes from the work that I’ve been doing for the past 10 years,” says Abidi. “It was not an experiment for us. It was more like this is what we want to do. We were very intentional with it.”
The NFT collection’s mission has a social justice component, too. Around 7.5% of proceeds made through Women Rise go to a mix of global organizations supporting gender equality, girls’ education, and mental health; 2.5% go to Malala Fund, an organization working to educate girls, especially in the most marginalized communities of the world; and 5% of royalties are used to support NFT communities on an ongoing basis.
Abidi says her experiences as an immigrant play a huge role in her artwork, which mainly focuses on women’s rights, mental health, and racial and societal issues. She’s also authored three books that focus on stories of women from all over the world.
One of Abidi’s goals is to create a first-of-its-kind school in the metaverse, which could serve as a kind of virtual school and education program for hundreds of millions of children across the world.
“We’re trying to use the innovation, technology, and resources of Web3 to advance women’s rights and by extension human rights,” says Abidi.
Crypto is about more than just making money for Cleve Medisor. It can offer a pathway to economic empowerment for women and people of color, says Mesidor, an expert at the intersection of public policy and crypto. That’s why she’s focused on rallying more women and people of color to participate.
Prior to her career in crypto, Mesidor was a Barack Obama presidential appointee, charged with promoting White House economic programs and national public-private partnerships to advance innovation and entrepreneurship. By 2016, Mesidor was disenchanted with politics and started learning about crypto. Within a year, she was working in the crypto industry full-time. She’s now executive director of the Blockchain Foundation and leads the National Policy Network of Women of Color in Blockchain.
While the gender and racial gaps are real, Mesidor says there is a lot of mainstream adoption being driven already by Black and Latino communities. “Right now, crypto may appear male dominated, but the future of crypto is gender and racially inclusive.”
She points to recent data, which shows that Black and Latinx communities are engaging in crypto at higher rates than white Americans. A Pew Research poll noted that while only 13% of white Americans report investing or trading cryptos, 18% of Black Americans and 21% of Hispanic Americans do.
According to Mesidor, part of the reason may be because of the historic barriers that Black and Latinx communities, particularly women in those communities, have faced in traditional financial markets like the stock market and the real estate market. She says the uptick is a positive sign, but it also signals a greater need for financial education around crypto and investing in general.
“As a person who’s been in the industry for almost six years now, we have not done enough to educate people and move past formal hype,” says Mesidor. “Yes, it’s important for people to do their research, to look beyond the noise, but as the industry, we need to do more to make sure people have trusted sources to go to when they are looking for information.”
Investing is one of the most powerful tools for building financial freedom and wealth, but Kiana Danial says it’s something not enough women are talking about. That’s especially true when it comes to cryptocurrency, she says.
“Women or men have equal rights to take control of their finances,” says Danial, a personal finance expert and the founder of Invest Diva, a company that teaches women how to invest. “And cryptocurrency is one aspect of financial literacy because it’s a method of diversification. If you want to educate people the right way in the cryptocurrency market, then you want to have more women.”
That’s why Danial has built a career around teaching other women how to invest. Through her books, courses, and social media content, a lot of her work focuses on financially empowering women and helping them understand all of the different ways they can start investing, from stocks and index funds to crypto. She says much of her motivation stems from her own prior experience working in a male-dominated field and not knowing enough about her own finances. Ten years ago, Danial says she was fired from her Wall Street job because her coworkers wouldn’t take her seriously. She says it was because she’s a woman.
“Compared to the traditional financial industry, I’m actually very pleased to see so many women involved in crypto,” says Danial. “I understand that there’s still an issue, but I think we were headed in the right direction.”
Kiana Danial heard about Bitcoin in 2011 and began tracking crypto markets in 2016, but didn’t actually start investing until the end of 2018. Danial says there’s a great opportunity for women to diversify their holdings with cryptocurrency, but as with any new investment, it’s important to do your research, and understand all of the risks. Over the last year, NextAdvisor has spoken to dozens of investing experts and most recommend following the 5% rule, as in not contributing more than 5% of your portfolio to risky assets like crypto.
“I’m very fortunate to be part of education,” says Danial. “The reason why I’m passionate about this and continuously push to educate and write books and get more involved is because I want women to see a role model.”
A former senior editor at Forbes, Laura Shin was among the first mainstream journalists to cover crypto full-time and recently published a book focused on the rise of Ethereum, called “The Cryptopians: Idealism, Greed, Lies, and the Making of the First Big Cryptocurrency Craze.” She’s also the host of the crypto podcast “Unchained,” which has over 15 million downloads and views.
Though Shin didn’t realize it initially, she says other women have told her that her work as a journalist has influenced them to pursue careers in crypto and learn more about the technology.
“I didn’t realize that I was having that effect. Many women over the years have said to me, ‘it means so much to us to see a woman out there,’” says Shin. “I’m really glad that it’s had that effect because a lot of women have said that it emboldened them to go on and do the work that they do in crypto.”
As someone who spends her days writing about all things blockchain and crypto, Shin knows the industry is still in its infancy and everyone is learning from each other.
That’s why it’s imperative to have more active discussions around the numerous factors that result in there being so few women in crypto sooner rather than later, she says.
“The problems are so deep rooted,” says Shin. “We can talk about it from the crypto lens, but I feel like it needs to go way back if we’re going to really fix things. I do think people are trying to tackle it, and a lot of the male leaders recognize that it would be great if we had more women.”
You don’t need a tech or science degree to learn about crypto or blockchain technology. Just look at Wendy O.
Wendy O began investing in crypto with no experience in 2017, but in five years, she has become a crypto expert and amassed a large following of crypto enthusiasts across several social media platforms. O has managed to draw in audiences of over 200,000 followers on TikTok, 260,000 on Twitter, and 157,000 subscribers on YouTube. She takes a balanced approach toward her commentary and coaching on crypto across her social media platforms, constantly reminding her online community, which she says is nearly 30% female and solely focused on crypto, to invest strategically based on their risk tolerances.
She’s been able to turn her massive social media following into a business where she’s paid to review crypto services, speak at live crypto events, consult businesses on crypto, and more. O, who used to work in the health care industry, says her new career path in crypto has given her the flexibility she wants as a mom to work from home while raising her young daughter.
“If you’re reading this, you’re smart enough to get into crypto. Doesn’t matter what gender you are. Just start dipping your toes into the water.”
O serves as living proof that women are perfectly capable of entering the crypto space with no prior knowledge and can thrive in it, but her journey hasn’t always been smooth sailing. She says she was bullied online for being a woman, which is why doesn’t share her full name on social media.
“From the end of 2018 to the middle of 2020, people would trash me and most of the people that trashed me were men,” says O. “My mere existence upsets people, especially on Twitter.”
But it didn’t deter her. If anything, it made her louder and more present in the crypto community, she says. And O encourages other women to carve out their own space in crypto like she did, whether it’s a blog, a TikTok, a discord group chat, or even a decentralized autonomous organization (DAO), which is an online member-owned community without centralized leadership.
“We should take action and create these places that make us feel safe and where we feel like we can get educated and learn,” she says. “There’s nobody in crypto saying you cannot create a space with people that are similar to you.”
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