Exclusive, Divisive, Unwelcoming: Yes, This Is Crypto for Women

The narrative that cryptocurrency is any different than traditional finance is just plain wrong


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This is part three of our three part series on communication in cryptocurrency, touching on what Web3 does well — and what Web3 does not so well — in communicating its messages to the wider world.

You can find part one on Web3 language barriers here, and part two on communication crises here.

I’m relatively new to cryptoland, I will admit that at the top. 

In some respects, my newness would be a disservice to my ability to volley valid opinions. But in others, I would argue that my fresh eyes provide the opportunity for unbiased perspective. 

When I departed traditional finance, I thought I was heading to the land of decentralization for the greater good, a land with an undeterrable focus on equality, an unbreakable vow to shatter the system that was burdened with centuries of cultural tech debt and flaws. Huzzah! I said.

I write today to express my disappointment. It’s exceedingly difficult to argue that there has been any legitimate attempt to break the system, when the foundation of cryptoland is so clearly colonial. It was a house with good bones for keeping people out, and we moved in and changed the wallpaper.

I lived in the traditional finance house for long enough to get the size of it. I wore neutral nail polish and sensible heels; I have tried on roughly 400 pairs of black dress pants (half of which fit too poorly and half of which fit too nicely). I have owned (gasp) a logo-emblazoned vest. I know what it means to require that everyone fit neatly into a box that’s shaped like a man, and I know what it feels like when no one is really trying to fix it.

Crypto’s mission was so wholesome: Free ourselves from the shackles of archaic technology and geopolitical agendas and all of the history and bad blood that comes with it. 

Unfortunately, the shackles were just moved from one wrist to the other.

A history of boys’ clubs

I believe you when you say you didn’t realize that the fabric of society paved the way for you to become a part of the problem. 

But history shows us that the issues I find in crypto have already been around for a long, long time.

If you can bear with me back to World War II, the deployment of our nation’s male youth meant non-traditional roles for women — like computer science tasks. But while the ladies’ willingness to help with the button pushing was applauded, when the men went home after the war, so did the women. 

By 1970, clamoring for social change was bearing real fruit and 14% of all computer science degrees were held by women. But women didn’t have the privilege of exhibiting behavior that may have been conceived as “weird” or “rude,” meaning that a generation of female computer geniuses may have run away from discrimination at computer science programs and jobs as fast as they could.

The 90’s ushered in the era of big personalities with big ambitions (ahem, Peter Thiel) creating a new profile that sticks: what a genius tech founder should be like. And what’s the only thing that’s worse than a woman being rude? A woman being confident. That paired with the fact women are broadly more risk averse, a funded female founder was then (and still is) very hard to come by. But if it helps you sleep, the percentage of women with computer science degrees was up to 35%. 

Cruising right along, the dot com bubble burst in 2001-ish and instead of saying, “Hey maybe an entire industry fueled by male narcissism was a problem, where are the ladies at?” we said “yo bring the bro nerds back.” 

May I introduce you all to Silicon Valley. An ego was certainly still a prerequisite, but you got bonus points if you exuded the brand of awkward that’s often contrived as male genius. The pitch decks for women seeking funding were campfire fodder for lavish VC work retreats. 

Oh by the way, the percentage of computer science degrees held by women was down to 18% by 2022. Oops.

At every single acceleration point for technological advancement, we have witnessed a relabeling and repackaging of the underlying culture we are supposed to be grateful to for such successes. Time and time again, the underlying message is clear: technology is a toy for boys. Crypto is no different.

Where to go from here

It is clear to see how we got to where we are today, and the resulting lack of women in cryptoland is frankly understandable; you can’t build a diverse team if the talent doesn’t exist. But what is unacceptable is continuing to use traditional finance’s gatekeeping playbook. 

Traditional finance is exceptional at making sure only the select few understand how it all works; they never tried to include women, and it’s the cornerstone of wealth inequality. Let’s be different. 

Can we also have the tenacity to say our failings out loud?

If I said to someone: “Well, crypto is not really that different from traditional finance, is it?” 

The initial bad reaction I’d get is likely a defense of decentralized finance’s values, but a secondary reaction may very well be about the allegedly superior culture. 

We’re not content to accept slow passive evolution on the back of reinvesting stable corporate profits! We’re changing the world! Okay. Let’s change it for everyone. 

It’s time to stop playing dead and dumb when it comes to the lack of diversity in talent pipelines. Not to be hyperbolic, but our society still doesn’t think women can do STEM. It permeates our entire existence, starting with children’s toys and the infection only spreads from there. It’s a seemingly impossible problem, but we are a powerful community and that comes with responsibility. Let’s rise to the occasion.    

It is from experience when I tell you: Cryptoland will embody hypocrisy for as long as we pretend like inclusion is a core tenet of the community. 

If you say you want this community to be different from traditional finance, prove it.

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