Bitcoin under Female Thumb: Global Study of Women in the Cryptosphere
- Key Insights
- About the Research: Context, Purpose, Methods, and Acknowledgments
- Results: Women's Story in the Cryptosphere
- Conclusions: How to Get More Women Involved in Crypto
- Every third woman (36.7%) admits that the main event pushing for interaction with cryptocurrencies was the appearance of someone from personal networks to “inspire” or inform them about the topic (friends, husbands, colleagues, etc.). The second place is occupied by the abundance of news about crypto (17.7%), the third includes getting the main job in crypto (15.7%).
- The most popular reason to engage with the cryptosphere is to increase wealth (57%). The second and third places are held by the wish to try something new (50%) and the desire to gain financial independence (44.2%).
- Most women prefer to invest in cryptocurrency (49%) or to store (‘hodl’) it (26.5%). At the same time, 19.7% of female respondents are involved in trading.
- Freedom is one of the most attractive features the cryptosphere could offer to women. It is expressed in the opportunity to be responsible for their own decisions and manage their own finances, the absence of restrictions for citizens of certain countries, a wide selection of assets for investment/trading, many ways to make money, etc.
- Most popular criteria for selecting an asset/project in a portfolio are the current capitalization of the asset (59.2%) and the ability of the project to solve practical issues (52.4%).
- The most common problem that women face when trading/investing is the fear of missing (FOMO). This is true for 40.8% of the respondents.
- Among non-obvious issues preventing women from entering the cryptosphere are joint family accounts and online communities where male users could verbally harass women.
- At the beginning of their journey in the cryptosphere, most women would like to have more educational materials (72.8%).
About the Research
The study aims to help startups, media, and other organizations attract more women to the crypto space.
Gender imbalance in the cryptosphere has long been discussed by the media, speakers at professional events, and research reports of various organizations. But this is still not enough, because men and women significantly differ in getting benefits from the crypto economy.
Most of the user research conducted highlights the difference in numbers between women and men in the cryptosphere.
— According to our research, in 2019, women accounted for about 8% of all crypto users.
— Research from Financial Conduct Authority (the UK, data compiled at the end of 2019) showed that 21% of UK crypto users were women.
— PureProfile research Australia also highlighted the gender gap: in 2020, 10.6% of women and 26.8% of men owned cryptocurrencies.
— In the same year in the United States, women accounted for about 26% of crypto users, according to the crypto exchange Gemini.
— The poll by Binance 2021 (data collected in October 2020 across 178 countries) indicated that women are only 5% of the total number of crypto users worldwide.
At the same time, more and more companies claim that the number of women among their users is growing.
— CoinMarketCap: During the first quarter of 2020, the number of female users grew by 43.24% over the previous quarter.
— Cardify: In January 2021, women made 15% of cryptocurrency deposits, up from 5.6% a year earlier.
— Robinhood: In 2021, the number of female crypto traders increased by 7 times.
However, very little attention is paid to why women come to crypto sphere and what is important for them in cryptocurrencies (no stereotyping). Some information can be found in the article describing the study Grayscale Investments (2019), but the original text of the report is no longer available.
The female audience is still ‘terra incognita’ for most crypto projects, that’s why startups prioritize men during the engagement phase. Our research has been done to fill this gap.
The goal of the study 'Bitcoin under Female Thumb' is to find out how women users make decisions about cryptocurrencies and what are the influencing factors.
The research was conducted to show startups, the media, and the community, how to involve more women in the crypto economy. And at the same time challenge several gender-based stereotypes.
The study was carried out in two stages.
Stage 1: Group Interviews.
To gain in-depth information, as well as develop the basis for a follow-up survey, two group interviews with experienced female crypto users (focus groups) were conducted. We talked to them during April 7 – 9, 2021.
The Russian language was used to talk to respondents from Russia and Ukraine; English for respondents from the USA, Great Britain, Greece, and Thailand.
The women to take part in the group interviews were influencers, employees of international crypto companies, as well as users having more than 2 years of crypto trading and investment experience.
Stage 2: Questionnaire Survey.
The survey was conducted from 13 to 26 April 2021 using online questionnaire.
It involved 441 women from 28 countries, including the United States, Great Britain, Germany, Nigeria, Israel, India, the Philippines, and Indonesia.
This study could not have been possible without the group interview participants who readily shared invaluable insights. We sincerely thank Yulia Zakharchenko, Elizabeth Kukka, Valeriya Minaeva, Julia Bulakh, Catherine Pavlou, Anne Somanas, Ekaterina Lyakh, as well as other participants who wished to remain anonymous!
Women’s Story in the Cryptosphere
After combining focus group materials with the survey data, we developed a narrative to describe the path of a female crypto user in the field.
Each pivot shows the results of group interviews first and then demonstrates how these responses resonate with the opinions of other women around the world.
The largest number of women crypto users who took part in the survey are individuals aged from 25 to 34, with a slightly broader basis from 18 to 44.
Many of them work in the cryptosphere, but the majority do not.
Most of them (41%) have average knowledge of cryptocurrencies and some have above-average knowledge (37%).
1. Circumstances That Pushed Women to Engage with Cryptocurrencies
What should happen to motivate a woman to deal with cryptocurrencies? Throughout the focus groups interaction, six categories of such situations were identified:
Here are some of the statements:
- "The news [about cryptocurrencies] was everywhere, and I was very enthusiastic about joining the crypto community." (Ukraine)
- “And he showed an hour-long video with Herman Gref. "Bitcoin is digital gold" or something like that... The film is very interesting. And I thought: “If Herman Gref buys Bitcoin, then I should consider doing that myself.” (Russia)
- “I was introduced to cryptocurrencies by accident through Facebook. A friend said, “Do you want me to send you a coin?” He went on and explained what sort of coin. And I said, “Well, this must be the future, and I don’t want to be left behind!” (Greece)
According to the survey results, the appearance of an “inspirer” or informant from a personal environment (a friend, a husband, a colleague, etc.) most often brings women into crypto. This is true for every third respondent (36.7%).
The importance of personal networks influencing gender imbalance is often underestimated by men, but women admit how important it is for them. In sociology, this is called homophily – a tendency to communicate with people like yourself.
“Men often ask me why more women aren’t interested in Bitcoin and digital assets. I tend to ask them this question in response: who first told you about Bitcoin, and, in your daily life, who do you find yourself discussing crypto with? Answers often reveal that men tend to raise this subject matter with other men, far more than they do with women, and I believe that this tendency makes a significant difference to the gender balance at community meetups, in online forums, and to the shape of the industry as a whole.”
– Chloe White, National Blockchain Roadmap Lead
The second most important factor is the abundance of news about cryptocurrencies (17.7%). It is not surprising: after such high-profile media stories as Bitcoin overcoming several historical records and saga about Tesla, Musk and Bitcoin, many people want to invest in cryptocurrencies themselves.
Conclusion. If you want to get more women involved in the crypto sphere, try the following tools:
- interact with women interested in financial literacy;
- activate women's personal networks and use homophily: for example, create a female community on Telegram or a referral program for women;
- if you are a man, then share your thoughts on cryptocurrencies with women you know. Many of them may be interested in it, even if you don't think so.
2. Reasons Why Women Decided to Take Up Cryptocurrencies
What motivates women who learn about cryptocurrencies, get involved in the field, and acquire their first assets? The interviews revealed five groups of reasons:
Here's what the participants of focus groups say:
- “I just want to make money as a trader but it's also a good way to monetize the time I spend online because I'm a bit of a nerd and I like reading about stuff and that works in my favor because I research a lot about trading and crypto projects. So I think it made me a good trader." (Thailand)
- “Initially it was how I can monetize my own data and choose to keep it private. It was financial reasons too and making sure to put my money in investments and then trading behind teams that I believe in...” (USA)
The survey allowed us to build the following rating of reasons from different groups to start or continue (once bumped into) interaction with cryptocurrencies:
Advice for Media and Startups. To attract women, emphasize in your promotional campaigns, that cryptocurrencies are:
- a way to increase financial well-being,
- an opportunity to try something new,
- a means of gaining financial independence.
Moreover, most women prefer to invest in cryptocurrency, rather than trade it: 49% versus 19.7%. This fact is consistent with the data from Fidelity Investments research (2017), which found that men are 35% more likely to trade than women. It is noteworthy that a little more than a quarter of our respondents (26.5%) just store cryptocurrency.
How long have the survey participants been trading and/or investing? We received the following distribution of answers:
It is noteworthy that the majority (69.2%) of the women who have been investing in (or trading) cryptocurrency for more than three years now work in the cryptosphere. For those who entered the exchange 5 months ago or less, the situation is reversed.
In our opinion, this is an indication that the cryptosphere has become open to a larger circle of women compared to the situation in 2017/18.
In addition, 9 out of 10 women whose main work is related to the cryptosphere interact with cryptocurrencies:
For example, women working in the cryptosphere are more likely to trade or invest in crypto.
Important: having the main job connected to the cryptosphere could motivate women to invest, as well as the knowledge of cryptocurrencies could lead them to get the main job in this sphere.
Conclusion. When designing content for women, keep in mind that women are more likely to be investors rather than traders.
3. Features of the Cryptosphere and Cryptocurrencies Important for Women
Plunging into the cryptosphere, women start to appreciate such aspects as:
- “This is a completely new concept of money and concept of democracy or governance. In my opinion, it is freer than the other financial systems existing in the world.” (Ukraine)
- “It’s the ability to manage your money within the concept of freedom and anonymity. I understood that if I go to any country (I still understand this), then I have my wallet online, and I can exchange the money into the local currency. I don't want to be answerable to anyone. And it's cool and awesome." (Russia)
- "In addition to freedom, I think the privacy side is quite attractive. I also like that it is borderless. It’s like the future of money I imagined when I was travelling around the world.” (Great Britain)
During group interviews, the participants mentioned the word “freedom” in one way or another. This concept is quite abstract, so we traced its content:
The survey made it possible to rank the most important features of cryptocurrencies. Freedom traits resonate with the largest number of women:
Conclusion and Advice. It is important to convey to women the benefits of crypto economy. To convince women to join the crypto community, focus on such features of crypto as:
- ability to independently manage finances,
- gaining financial freedom.
Freedom is highly valued by women in crypto. However, when you try to involve new users, it is worth mentioning some specific aspects of this concept. Only 27.2% of respondents put the desire to ‘feel free’ as the main reason to enter the cryptosphere. For example, if you say: ‘being able to take full control of your finances’ or ‘being independent of your family or work budget’ you may gain a greater effect rather than mentioning the abstract concept of ‘freedom’ only.
4. Selection Criteria for Portfolio Assets
This point in particular highlights how easy it is for men to succumb to stereotypes. Is it true that women are guided by irrational factors when deciding which asset to take in?
Group interviews made it possible to identify the following criteria for the selection of assets/projects:
- “I do more traditional due diligence and know: that's the team, that's the product, that's the future, and what's the funding of the project looks like.” (USA)
Some women apply different criteria and their combinations depending on how long they are planning to interact with the asset. For example, one of the study participants shared her combination:
Short-term assets (e.g. DeFi):
- the practical use of the project right now,
- short-term price dynamics.
Long-term assets (BTC, BNB, ETH, etc.):
- the presence of large investors,
According to the survey results, the capitalization and the project’s ability to solve specific practical problems are the leading criteria for female crypto users:
Conclusion. Like men, women are influenced by irrational factors. However, to attract more women, it is worth abandoning stereotypes and looking at the real criteria that women use when selecting an asset for a portfolio.
5. Typical Problems Women Face When Trading/Investing
According to focus groups, there are four groups of typical problems:
Here's how group interview participants interpret them:
“The only thing, these were emotional purchases, driven by emotions. You don’t think this will happen to you. It’s funny for me to analyze it – you like the logo, or you’re talking with friends about it and you end up buying quite spontaneously. Then you think ‘how could I act like this?’. It’s a nuisance in the background, otherwise, there have been no problems yet." (Ukraine)
“Feelings of indecisiveness and the inability to do something as abruptly as my male colleagues. The trait – ‘I need it and I take it’ – I’ve learned from them because I keep thinking – “well, you have to weigh all the pros and cons” and it could be too late... ”(Russia)
“Participation in current ICOs, IPOs (and this is most likely an industry problem, not my personal issue). Although I didn’t surf much in this bustle, it’s quite stressful for me... It’s more interesting for me to find a project and enter it at an early stage. And some psychological problems - I bought less, sold more... Usually someone new to crypto: ‘Oh, I didn't manage to buy!' Oh my God, every day you can buy something, you just need to understand and that's it. This problem is no longer there, before – yes, I had it, but now not anymore.” (Russia)
Fear of missed opportunities – the notorious FOMO has become the most common problem while working with cryptocurrencies. It is relevant for 40.8% of respondents:
It is noteworthy that the fact that ‘others do not take me seriously’ is a problem only for a small proportion of respondents (13.6%). This underlines that the community is in many ways ready to accept women.
Conclusion. By discussing issues with women such as fear of missed opportunities, insecurity, indecisiveness, etc., media and startups can not only increase the conversion of their content but also help women overcome these difficulties.
6. What Prevents Women From Getting Into the Cryptosphere, and How to Overcome These Barriers
The barriers preventing women from engaging with cryptocurrencies fall into 2 groups: systematic, deep, and superficial, which are easy to fix. The following was discussed by experienced female crypto users, some of them are influencers and managers of large projects. They shared their ideas during the group interviews:
1. The cryptosphere in general and crypto projects, in particular, are difficult to comprehend, and they are presented mostly in the way easily understood by men
Several things related to the communication of ideas make the cryptosphere less inclusive for newbies in general, which affects women in the first place.
First, it is a complex presentation of ideas:
- “I think there is one big thing that prevents women from joining cryptocurrencies – the way cryptocurrency is being communicated and has been portrayed, not only within the press, but also within the companies that enable women to buy/sell crypto, and how they portray themselves. Because tech is a male-dominated industry anyway. I think that the communication has just not been accessible.”. (Great Britain)
Secondly, there is an abundance of jargon:
“Spots”, “nodes”, “day trading”, “mining”, “hodl”, and many other words can confuse any beginner, and the technical connotation easily repels many women (stereotypical: “techies are boys").
Thirdly, it is the website design, the products themselves, and advertisements:
As an example below is a part of the main screen of the Trust Wallet website:
All illustrations feature men and it subconsciously signals to many women that the product is not for them.
2. Crypto community events are made by men for men
It is manifested in the fact that:
- the dominant part of the audience is men;
- the overwhelming majority of speakers are also men: for example, on the forum Blockchain Life in April 2021 (we here there) out of 49 speakers, only 5 were women;
- the entertainment taking place after such events is also aimed at men:
“When it came to the blockchain and crypto space, I heard some really interesting stories (I didn’t come across them myself) that a lot of women share with me that actually some of these crypto conferences, the way they have entertainment after the conference when they bring in just a bunch of female strippers or dancers, and a lot of women didn’t find that entertaining.” (Thailand)
3. Telegram chats are not always friendly towards women
In many of them, women feel like objects of male ‘pickup’ activity.
- “Lots of women actually get pictures sent them by men if they put female pictures on their avatars. Then they would get hit on by some men in the chat rooms, they hit them up or tried to send them pictures, like dick pics. And so for that reason, I also noticed that if I put a picture of myself as a female on Telegram, people responded to me very differently. Or they commented like “Oh babe”, or “Cutie” which I didn’t like. This is why I made my profile completely anonymous. And people just call me “bro” or “man”. They can’t handle that I am a woman in chatrooms.. (Thailand)
Obviously, this is predominantly a cultural issue. Community owners should take this into account and warn against harassment. For example, indicate in the community rules that users can complain to the administrator about inappropriate behavior of other community members, also introduce sanctions.
Fortunately, this does not happen in all countries:
- “In our community, because women are considered to be not so savvy about technology, when they see a woman talking about blockchain, they feel respect!” (Greece)
4. Lack of time
It takes time and effort to figure out how cryptocurrencies work before they start bringing income and satisfaction to the people working with them.
- “I think that it’s not because they consider women incompetent. It’s because women do not have the time... In Greece, all the women who are dealing with cryptocurrencies are older women who have finished with their families, whose kids are away. And the young ones – they have their studies, their families, jobs… This is what I think. It’s not men who do not want us there. It is women, at least in my part of the world, who do not find the time. ” (Greece)
- “And one’s willingness to put it towards learning new technologies or diving into a community. I think it’s very true. I think I see the opposite that it’s mostly really young people, younger than me (like 10 years usually) who are really into crypto. I know some folks from my age group and above. But folks whom I see are diving and excited – university students are willing to join chat groups who want to learn something new and be a part of something that takes quite a bit of learning. I actually have an opposite experience, but it’s the same idea that it takes quite a bit of time and effort to really diving in and to get to know it’. (USA)
Many women may not have the time, for example, in some countries, due to the abundance of housework.
5. Lack of financial freedom
Sometimes the systemic barriers that keep women out of crypto can be subtle. For example, in some European countries these are joint accounts:
- “Another thing is financial independence. When you have a joint account, it is whoever: your husband, your boyfriend or your father, you have to at least explain why you want the money, what do you want to do with it. Either, you are shut down, you have no say in these things or you explain and you teach your partner, your husband, your boyfriend - whoever it is - “Listen, I am not going to buy clothes or makeup, I am going to invest in bitcoin or whatever else I have and it is going to be good for us for our future”. (Greece)
6. Women are becoming victims of scams more often, therefore they are more suspicious and careful in their actions
At the same time, the cryptosphere is rich in unfolding projects, most of which have not managed to earn a solid reputation yet.
7. Uncertainty in their abilities
For example, women are likely to ask others for help instead of seeking information independently. Sometimes they miss knowledge about the technology itself.
- “I think that, firstly, women need to change themselves to be more confident. They can do it and they don't need to ask anybody's permission to start managing their own money to start investing.”. (Thailand)
8. Less willingness to take risks
Cryptocurrencies have traditionally been associated with significant risks, but women are less willing to take risks compared to men.
9. Small financial literacy
“Financial literacy is a challenge in general and women tend to invest less than men across the board and also tend to take fewer risks”. (USA)
10. Tech & Startup being a traditionally more ‘masculine’ sphere leaves its mark on crypto
The problem of gender imbalance in technology, in general, has long been a buzzword. That’s why the participants of the group interviews immediately pointed to this barrier.
- “It’s an issue that is already embedded in the startup industry and tech industry as well”. (Thailand)
- “Additionally, I thought that blockchain and crypto were hip. I recently found out from somebody that crypto is a nerdy thing. I thought it was like being cool all the time. You know, I am and my community is. I didn’t realize that for a general audience that it’s kinda nerdy. You are diving into the deepest parts of tech which tend to be more male-driven as has already been mentioned. Men tend to be more into gadgets, being first adopters in tech, so I can conceive why it just makes more sense. "... (USA)
Intermediate Conclusion. To identify such subtle barriers as lack of financial freedom and inappropriate treatment in Telegram chats in-depth studies of women in a particular country should be carried out before running campaigns.
What could help women befriend the cryptosphere?
According to the narration of focus group participants, the following actions will help to attract more women to the crypto sphere. (For BDC Consulting recommendations, see the conclusions.)
1. Create training courses and educational materials tailored to the women’s needs:
highlighting bonuses that interaction with cryptocurrencies can bring them,
focusing on the low entry threshold,
indicating the possibility of investing small amounts of money,
showing ways to make money with low risks,
providing clear examples (‘take by the hand and show’)
“I think it is related to education. Education on the specific subject, not general education. I think if they open their ears and eyes to listen and see how easy it can be because it’s not quantum physics. It is difficult, it is complicated, it is something new but it is doable’. (Greece)
2. Talk more about ‘ordinary’ women working with crypto, and not just about the outstanding ones, the so-called “Wonder Women”. To give women the idea: "She could have done it and I can!"
3. Involve women in product design.
4. Involve more women to speak at conferences.
5. Support female influencers.
- “I bring up the points [about crypto] that are of concern to them and they said it’s so much easier for them to understand. And for men, when they communicate the things they highlight are different. ”... (Thailand)
For example, a male blogger is unlikely to raise the issue of a joint account.
There are far more male influencers than women in the field. Based on materials from our previous research, among the top 30 opinion leaders on Twitter writing about cryptocurrencies, only 4 are women, i.e. 13.3%.
6. Include more expert comments from women in the media.
7. Increase the inclusiveness of the sphere as a whole: not only for women but eventually, it will affect women as well.
8. Demonstrate the transparency and security of the cryptosphere.
According to the survey, women feel the shortage of educational materials most acutely:
How to Get More Women Involved in Crypto
Should Women Get Involved at All?
Let's look at the audience of crypto companies from the sandbox perspective, where men occupy about 90% of the space, and women take the rest.
This will not only be profitable but will also make the industry more inclusive and allow women to get as many bonuses from the crypto economy as men do.
How can this be achieved?
If you are a representative of a startup/company:
1. Include women in your target audience and work with this group of crypto users: go where others are afraid to go.
2. Before starting a marketing campaign in a specific country, conduct qualitative research on female crypto users (for example, through interviews or focus groups) to identify hidden socio-cultural barriers that can prevent women from becoming active users of your product.
3. During promotional campaigns emphasize that cryptocurrencies are:
- a way to increase financial well-being,
- an opportunity to try something new,
- a means of gaining financial independence.
4. When developing and conducting promotional campaigns, abandon stereotypes and focus on the practical benefits of your project, the reliability of its team, and a well-developed roadmap that will show how serious your plans are.
5. Involve women in the development, design, and promotion of products: they will be able to point out the aspects that men do not always pay attention to.
6. Create training courses and educational materials tailored according to women’s needs:
- explain the bonuses interaction with cryptocurrencies can bring them,
- talk about the specific manifestations of freedom that the cryptosphere gives: easier money transfers, absence of intermediaries and borders, etc.,
- focus on the low entry threshold,
- indicate the possibility of investing small amounts of money,
- show ways to make money with low risks,
- give specific examples.
7. Interact with women interested in financial literacy.
8. Activate women's personal networks: create a Telegram community for women using your products or a referral program for women.
9. If your company has a community, highlight in the community the rules allowing users to complain to the administrator about inappropriate behavior of other community members, mentioning the sanctions as well. Make women feel secure.
10. If your company is participating in the conference as a speaker, try to nominate a woman, not a man: you have some bright candidates for sure
11. Pay attention to female influencers. If you involve them in your promotional campaigns, more women will want to become influencers.
12. Discuss in your content the problems women face in crypto: for example, lack of financial freedom or lack of time. You will notice that this will resonate with your users.
13. Share your thoughts on cryptocurrencies with women you know. Many of them may be interested in it, even if you don't think so yet.
If you are a media representative:
1. Include more expert comments from women in the media.
2. Increase the total inclusiveness of the field: aim it at everyone, understanding that women will be affected as well.
3. Discuss issues with women such as fear of missed opportunities, insecurity, indecisiveness, etc.
4. To attract readers, emphasize in your promotional campaigns the ideas that cryptocurrencies are:
- a way to increase financial well-being,
- an opportunity to try something new,
- a means of gaining financial independence.