It’s no secret that the cryptocurrency world is dominated by men. In fact, only about 5% to 7% of all cryptocurrency holders are women, according to Forbes — and some sources say it’s even less than that.
Mariza Monteiro, educator and speaker in the cryptosphere and founder of SheKnowsCrypto, is working hard to change that abysmal statistic and get more women involved in cryptocurrency. Mariza started SheKnowsCrypto so people — both men and women, but with a focus on women — have a place to get cryptocurrency information in plain, easy-to-understand English, not tech speak.
We talked to Mariza to find out what is going on with the immense gender gap in the crypto world, her own experiences as a female in the cryptosphere, and what we all can do to help close that gap.
What sparked your interest in cryptocurrencies? How did SheKnowsCrypto begin?
I’ve been involved in blockchain and cryptocurrencies as an investor and with different incubators and startups for the last few years, but I found that right around the summer of 2017, when [cryptocurrency] prices really started to pop, there was a lot of interest among colleagues — especially women colleagues that are business owners and entrepreneurs — asking me how do they get into the space, how they find an exchange, how they sign up and buy bitcoin, what these other types of coins were. The interest was just crazy.
So I decided to start SheKnowsCrypto. And the “she” isn’t necessarily me — I wanted to make it much more female-friendly. I was attending a lot of meetups in Europe and I spoke at a few, and I noticed that it was very male-dominated. A lot of women were just embarrassed to ask technical questions and a lot of the so-called basics of crypto are very technical and intimidating. So I wanted to create a space for women to come and be able to ask questions that speaks more to the things that interest women the most about financial independence, savings and investments.
I want to help people understand what this cryptocurrency thing is, why it’s gaining popularity recently, what’s the difference between this and other types of traditional investments that we’re used to. So instead of telling people what to buy, I would like people to understand what the risks are, what exactly they are buying, and allow them to be able to choose wisely for themselves. I want to make sure that people, and women especially, feel empowered to make these investment decisions and know exactly what they are getting into.
Only 5% to 7% of all cryptocurrency holders are women. Why do you think it’s so incredibly male-dominated?
I think it’s primarily male-dominated because it’s got two very technical aspects: one being financial and economic, and the second being technical with respect to emerging technologies having to do with the internet, blockchain, computer languages, and cryptography. These things are traditionally not female-dominated fields.
I have a background in finance and I’ve been working in investments for the last 20 years, so I came to this area with a background in one of the technical aspects. The reason I think it’s still so male-dominated is, historically, if you look at many emerging new technologies — whether it’s the internet, email, smartphones — women are historically lagging behind men in picking up new types of technologies.
I can remember when smartphones first came out and I had colleagues at work who didn’t know how to operate their iTunes because they said only their husbands were the ones that knew how to sync it. That’s just the way it’s been historically. We’re hoping to change that in the future and make women feel more empowered to learn about these technical aspects and understand how empowering that can be — just to overcome that learning curve and really understand it, because it doesn’t need to be so incredibly male-dominated.
What’s it like being a woman in the crypto world? Are there challenges?
Yeah, I’d have to say it’s hard. I’m actually going to a crypto meetup tonight in Medellin and I saw a photo of their last meetup and there’s not one girl in the picture. So that’s always kind of uncomfortable. So it’s definitely bro-dominated at this point.
There are challenges for women in any field that’s male-dominated. You can even walk into an Apple store and feel intimidated by all the guys that work there when you’re trying to get help with your Macbook. Those are the challenges and you just have to be confident and if you have questions or you want to have input, be assertive. Lean in and speak up. Ask questions. We definitely have a right to influence this space as well.
I also went to a conference last month called the Baltic Honey Badger, a Bitcoin conference, which had some of the Bitcoin core developers, Andreas Antonopoulos, Pamela Morgan, and a lot of big influencers in the crypto space. It was the first conference I’ve ever been to in my life — and I’ve been to so many in all kinds of industries — and this was the first one where there was a 15-minute wait for the bathroom for men, and there was no wait for women because there was like 5 of us, out of maybe 200.
There’s a sense when coming into this space as a woman as being, you know, why are you here? As if you have to justify your presence. Sometimes they’ll try to test your knowledge. I’ve seen a lot of guys that have been investors for a while, but they actually don’t know the finance and economics behind it, which is my field. And they don’t like being challenged on that. So you just gotta keep your head up high.
Is there anything that individuals already involved in the crypto world could do to help make the space feel more inclusive for women?
That’s a great question and that’s specifically what I’m trying to do.
Pamela Morgan from Third Key Solutions is an attorney from the US that works in the crypto space. She started a meetup that is family-friendly in Chicago that has grown quite large, and there’s a lot of women that participate there.
We just have to get out there and be more vocal. There are women in the crypto space, but a lot of them are in the startup space, not as much in the education, speaking, and influencing and in the direction of getting more people involved.
I believe right now that the challenge of mass adoption is education and perception. There’s not a lot of monetary incentive going into education. There’s more going into financial and investment management, people that are trying to start up ICO funds — that’s a lot sexier than trying to teach people what the blockchain is and how to think of cryptocurrency as actual money.
So I will do my part to create more meetups that are female-friendly and get out there and talk about education. That’s my primary goal for 2018: to try to get more women involved in cryptocurrency.
What do you think the future holds regarding females and the blockchain/cryptocurrencies? Do you think more and more women are going to get involved, or will it always be heavily male-dominated?
I believe there will be more women getting involved. I think the reason is very simple: there’s a lot of opportunities for female entrepreneurs in this space. The hurdle is trying to get into the boys’ club, but it’s not impossible.
The other piece that I think is really important is that cryptocurrency investments and other types of blockchain technologies — but specifically cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Ethereum — these cryptocurrency investments represent very strong investments for the future. They’re very good stores of value.
And what does that mean for women? That means more financial independence. It’s very easy to set up a wallet and to invest in cryptocurrency, as you would put away [money] in a savings account. But the returns and the potential for growth is a lot more, so a woman is able to create her own nest egg that she doesn’t need a partner to help her with, which is a very good thing, to feel financially independent.
So I’m hoping that more women will see cryptocurrencies as another way to store value, to generate wealth and financial independence.
What’s in store for the future of SheKnowsCrypto? Do you have any cool events or anything exciting coming up?
I just recently piloted a course in London that is cryptocurrency basics: what is cryptocurrency, talking about security — a lot of people ignore security and leave their money on exchanges, which is not a great thing to do — how wallets work, how to safeguard your information, how to tell the difference between the different types of coins, the truth about the risk behind ICOs.
ICOs can be potentially dangerous. At best it’s a crowdfunding mechanism, at worst it’s just a donation to a particular project. So I definitely want to do some more education about that space.
This will all become a series of online courses in order to reach more people so they can understand, again, what the types of coins are and how they can secure their investments for the years to come.
I’m also planning to start some events here in Medellin, including a women’s crypto group. In the spring, I’ll come back to Europe and do some more speaking events around education and perception [of cryptocurrency].
I’m feeling super positive about continuing to do education in cryptocurrency and specifically to empower women to create a better financial future for themselves, because that’s what will have the greatest positive impact as the cryptocurrency space evolves.
To get involved with SheKnowsCrypto, join the SheKnowsCrypto: Cryptocurrency Made Simple Facebook group, where you can join in the crypto conversation.