Women, decentralization and the world’s economic drive: Experts answer

Here’s what crypto and blockchain industry experts think about the role of women in the fintech space and global economic development.

The economic recession of 2008 to 2009 resulted in the invention of Bitcoin (BTC), creating a brand new financial system that is now growing and developing rapidly. Back then, the Harvard Business Review published an article titled “The Female Economy” pointing out that about $20 trillion of the annual consumer spending in the world was controlled by women, and “That figure could climb as high as $28 trillion in the next five years.” 

Also in 2009, Claire Shipman and Katty Kay published the book Womenomics: Write Your Own Rules for Success. Though the term “womenomics,” and the concept itself, was first articulated in 1999 by Kathy Matsui, vice chair of Goldman Sachs Japan, Shipman and Kay introduced this concept to the U.S. audience in 2009, which clearly indicated the important paradigm shift in our societies.

Over two decades have passed since Matsui introduced womenomics, and it’s becoming more clear than ever that women now drive and play a crucial role in the development of the world economy. For example, China has produced the highest numbers of self-made female billionaires, and Japan has surpassed Europe and the United States in female labor participation.

Meanwhile, the situation is far from perfect. The gender imbalance is still enormously huge, especially within the economic industry. As indicated by the World Economic Forum’s “Global Gender Gap Report 2020,” financial disparities are increasing, “with a deteriorating situation forcing gender parity to a lowly 57.8%, which in time represents a massive 257 years before gender parity can be achieved.”

Related: Diversity and inclusion in blockchain and crypto: The gender aspect

Though there are indications of positive trends in bridging the gender gap within the crypto and blockchain space and moving toward diversity and inclusion, a critical gender imbalance in the crypto world has been revealed by new data from eToro, which shows that as of the beginning of 2021, only 12% of Ether (ETH) traders and 15% of Bitcoin traders are women.

Statistics and data are always impersonal, and they show only one side of the picture. It is more important to hear the voices of those people about whom this data speaks. That’s why Cointelegraph reached out to female experts in the crypto and blockchain space for their opinions on the following questions: What role will the crypto industry play in the global economic drive? What role do women play in the process of decentralizing and developing the world economy? And what opportunities and challenges for women are there within the ecosystem and in finance in general?

Anino Emuwa, founder and managing director of Avandis Consulting:

“The female economy is significant and fast-growing, representing a significant opportunity in terms of customer base and also talent. Hiring and promoting women to leadership positions drives returns and boosts the overall economy. With Deloitte estimating that 10% of global GDP will be built on blockchain applications by 2025, cryptocurrency and blockchain tech are expected to play a vital role in the future of the global economy, with the potential to enable social, inclusive and economic growth reaching the underserved segments of the financial sector, very often women, by offering easier access to capital and financial services.

Now is the time for women to influence the growth of this industry at its early stages so that diversity and inclusion are built into its very fabric and products and services are developed to be relevant for women’s needs. Importantly, women need to take advantage of the exciting possibilities in terms of careers and entrepreneurship and wealth creation that the industry offers. This means making women aware of the different ways that the industry provides opportunities, and for the incumbents to create a more inclusive environment.”

Anu Bhardwaj, founder of Sheqonomi:

“We have more than a billion people on Earth who are currently unbanked and more than two billion women of color currently underbanked — blockchain and decentralized finance, especially, have tremendous potential to disrupt the global fintech industry.

As tech becomes simpler to use, adoption will increase, especially in emerging markets where we will see a growth of digital asset adoption powering the economic empowerment of women worldwide.

Women have tremendous potential to bridge the gender gap if given access to low-cost high-value disruptive technologies powered by artificial intelligence and blockchain like the mobile apps we are currently building designed specifically for them.”

Arijana Koskarova, co-founder of Creative Hub:

“The financial world from my childhood was male and white. Cryptocurrency transactions disrupted this because they are processed and recorded by peer-to-peer networks — the opposite of the standard financial transactions that need approval by an individual, bank or government. The new system is relying on miners that solve cryptographic puzzles, not on people. The system doesn’t care if you are a woman or a man, white or black, as long as you can log on a computer and push the right buttons. So, indeed, we can summarize that the blockchain system is based on ‘gender equality,’ as the system is built gender-neutral in the first place.

How do women affect this? First, by embracing it. Women are launching their own cryptocurrencies, they are leading blockchain hubs, they are founding foreign exchange and payment platforms, forming fintech startups, topping Forbes fintech lists, etc. Women are in blockchain because the system gave them the opportunity to be part of something regardless of sex, race or anything else.

Look at the world today: Women are at the forefront of global finance, politics and regulatory bodies. Cryptocurrencies have managed to premiere the decentralized economy system as a free market outside of central banks and credit regulation. The decentralized economy, or the economy of the new world, is based solely on supply and demand — where private companies compete from all around the world in terms of quality and price.

Digital currencies are the perfect example of the decentralized economy, as they are outside of the ownership domain of governments and financial institutions. Will countries integrate into one international market? One thing is sure: There is no need to make roundtables of prime ministers to get the answer. Women can either support and engage with the development of a decentralized economy or go against it. However, I do not think this is a single question of the entire female nation, as we are all different in thoughts and actions.

I think that neither challenges nor opportunities have anything to do with gender, but with education. We need more people to get involved and educated in the new financial systems that are evolving. Only by being educated can we accept the ‘unknown’ and use the benefits of it, as there are many. Imagine what ‘free market’ would mean for us particularly. I am referring to the entrepreneurs reading this article. The world is evolving faster than ever, and more power is given to the individual. Aren’t we fighting against inequality and regulations that don’t necessarily lead to growth but often stop us from growth? The only challenge that women find is if they stay outside of the system and let men ‘run the show.’

Educate yourself. Then make an impact by helping educate others.”

Cristina Dolan, founder and CEO of InsideChains, vice-chair of MIT Enterprise Forum:

“While the numbers of women that are contributing code to crypto projects or investing as Bitcoin or crypto traders is still low, the figures are correlated with the percentage of women graduating with engineering degrees or working in venture capital firms. Cryptocurrencies have a high level of complexity and involve a number of factors that differentiate them from just executing a traditional financial transaction.

As the crypto landscape and crypto investment vehicles continue to mature, women will be playing a bigger role in crypto investments. Some momentum will come from the growth in institutional acceptance as infrastructure and traditional investment vehicles continue to evolve. The first ETF has launched in Canada, and corporate treasuries are now investing in Bitcoin. The COVID-19 crisis has triggered concerns about the value of the U.S. dollar and other currencies, as governments have been printing money at historic levels. This alone has captured the attention of many new investors.

There are many different ways to invest in cryptocurrencies today, and these investment vehicles don’t require the cumbersome task of managing keys. This makes investing in Bitcoin or cryptocurrencies less intimidating. Investment advisors are better educated on cryptocurrencies, and regulators have provided clearer guidelines, making it a less risky investment vehicle for those less knowledgeable about the crypto asset class.

There are a number of reports that talk about the use of digital payments as a critical driver to economic growth. The opportunity to use decentralized payments that enable full control of funds and the cost-effective execution of payments offers many benefits to communities and entrepreneurs. Yet crypto isn’t the most efficient digital payment. There are risks associated with transacting directly with crypto — for example, the receipt of stolen crypto associated with a hack. What is more interesting is the availability of decentralized business loans for small and medium businesses. Access to capital is one of the drivers for economies, and open banking and PSD2 have the ability to offer new sources of capital for small businesses. Open banking and PSD2 utilize data to assess risk and can be part of a decentralized financial ecosystem that enables access to capital.

As finance is being revolutionized by fintech, there is a requirement for innovators to understand both the underlying technology and finance, making it far more complex than gaining expertise in just one of these areas. Fintech is constantly evolving, which means that women that get involved today aren’t competing with many people that have decades of experience. It is a complex space, and it requires being a self-learner, but there are lots of opportunities for women who want to invest the time to gain the fundamental knowledge required to contribute to this quickly evolving space.”

Denelle Dixon, CEO and executive director of Stellar Development Foundation:

“First, I want to start by saying that women’s impact on the global economy shouldn’t be news to anyone. These numbers, while staggering, in practice are likely even larger depending on data models. Women are, and always have been, significant contributors, whether behind the scenes or in the open, to driving the world economy — and we are finally getting the credit for it.

And we’re getting more power to shape its future, especially as new technologies come into play. Over the next four years, women are expected to accumulate wealth at a 7.2% annual growth rate. Additionally, women are adding $5 trillion to the global wealth pool every year. Combine that with what blockchain offers — greater participation without the barriers in other male-dominated sectors, the real story of financial inclusion — and exciting new opportunities emerge for women to earn more income and impact the global economy through cryptocurrency trading, investments and virtual spending. Female entrepreneurs are also looking to ICOs to fund their startups rather than relying on venture capital investment.

As in everything we do, we hold a shared responsibility to promote inclusion and opportunity. It is important for women to empower other women to succeed in this industry and require inclusive representation in and beyond their organizations. Sometimes, it just takes all of us working together to create the right culture, values and mindsets in order to make inclusion truly possible.”

Diana Barrero Zalles, research associate at Bandman Advisors:

“Crypto offers the possibility of providing financial services to unbanked and underbanked communities around the world. According to the World Bank, 90% of all global businesses are small and medium enterprises, accounting for over 50% of jobs and taking up a crucial role for overall economic development. Statistics show that investing in women is highly correlated with poverty reduction, since they are more likely to invest in products and services that will lead to better outcomes for their children and families, such as nutrition and education, which ultimately benefit society as a whole. This is what the Nike Foundation calls the Girl Effect.

Data from the developing world shows that while women are more likely to remain in poverty, informal jobs, and lack a credit history, they are also more likely to pay back loans when given the opportunity. Financial services through alternative means like crypto could be crucial for women to access and leverage networks of productivity and growth, starting by entering three major life events in the order most likely to break the intergenerational poverty cycle: first getting a job to secure an income, then getting married (or entering into a stable relationship), and then having children. Eventually, a more inclusive world economy where women have more agency will benefit everyone.”

Efi Pylarinou, fintech and blockchain advisor:

“Several credible sources confirm that the global purchasing power of women is not only significant but rising. The devil, however, is in the details, as always. The distribution of this wealth (over $31 trillion, as per Catalyst) is extremely uneven between different countries. And even amongst the most developed economies, there are many gaps. For example, the percentage of women who are the higher earners in a household and the percentage of women who control most of the household spending decisions may differ substantially.

The crypto industry can empower women in a wide range of ‘financial inclusion’ services, from enabling cross-border micro-payments to designing tokens that reward women for their services to the community and the commons.

Women are being held back by the broad societal organizational structure that keeps a large part of the female population at a disadvantage, in several ways. A larger degree of decentralization can reduce these inequalities if such intention is built-in by design. Blockchain technology is what we all hope will power up Web 3.0, which will have more fairness built in and allow us to exchange peer-to-peer a variety of valuables. This will automatically benefit women. This is an opportunity that we have the choice and the responsibility to tap into, for a more fair and balanced society.”

Jane Thomason, co-founder of the British Blockchain & Frontier Technologies Association, CEO of Supernova Data:

“Blockchain has the power to remove barriers and increase access to financial services. Cryptocurrencies are being used as intermediary currencies in cross-border transfers and in the back end by Bloom for facilitating remittances in the Philippines, and BitPesa in Africa uses Bitcoin as an intermediary currency. In Venezuela, staggering inflation rates and a lack of alternative reserve currencies have led to people adopting cryptocurrencies as a store of value. Lebanese banks are increasing restrictions on foreign currency movements, and more people are turning to digital currencies to shift their money in and out of the country.

Projects like Little Phil, Impactio, The Giving Block and GoodDollar are using blockchain for philanthropy and universal basic income. Hiveonline is working to give unbanked communities access to financial services through Village Savings and Loans Associations, with 800,000 members in Niger — most of them women. By recording VSLA records on the blockchain during regular group meetings with VSLA Online, members grow their financial reputation and develop an alternative credit score that can then be shared with microfinance institutions.

Women are key to the global economy, and $12 trillion could be added to global GDP by 2025 by advancing women’s equality. Women in emerging markets invest 90 cents of every additional dollar of income into their families’ education, health and nutrition. Women farmers produce 60% to 80% of the food in developing countries, and women own 60% of all global microenterprises. Women entrepreneurs need support to establish connections with finance, legal support, suppliers, distributors and markets. By targeting women and the SHEconomy with capital and education, the blockchain community could activate the power of women to harness decentralisation globally.

Blockchain and fintech are behind on tackling gender equality. The data-driven Fintech Diversity Radar will help to identify gaps, obstacles and ultimately solutions to increasing investment in women-owned fintechs and fintech products for women. Invest in women and technology — a game changer for anyone who is thinking about transforming women’s lives.”

Jennifer Wines, vice president of Fidelity Private Wealth Management:

“What do women and blockchain have in common? I believe that they both contribute to the female economy, and both draw upon feminine attributes. Let’s unpack this observation.

According to the Harvard Business Review, women are contributing to the world economy by dominating annual consumer spending. Further, this trend is expected to continue over the coming years. In parallel, blockchain is contributing to the world economy by breaking down traditional economic gender barriers, by empowering women to participate in the economy.

This trend is also expected to continue over the coming years. Therefore, we can see that both women and blockchain are contributing to the female economy in a meaningful way, and we’re just getting started.

Another layer of commonality that both women and blockchain share is that they both draw upon feminine attributes. Generally speaking, women embody a portion of feminine characteristics, which fold into the way they earn and the way they spend. Similarly, blockchain embodies feminine attributes, primarily and fundamentally by creating consensus — regardless of gender. Blockchain is predicated on achieving consensus, which could be deemed a feminine attribute. I think it’s important that we recognize the power of distributed wealth across genders and building consensus, during a time when we need it most.”

Kristin Smith, executive director of the Blockchain Association

“The crypto industry, while still in its earliest growth stages, has an opportunity to avoid the same mistakes of access and opportunity as other industries, most notably the legacy finance and tech worlds. One of the central premises of blockchain technology is its decentralized nature, which, in theory, should lower the barriers to entry for anyone interested in working in this industry.

However, we must consider that while the tech may be blind and permissionless, the people themselves involved in the growth of this economy remain human, subject to all of the biases inherent to the broader world of business. To ensure that the crypto world does not simply mirror the rest of the economy in terms of gender bias, our entrepreneurs need to ensure anyone who is interested and qualified based on their merits has the chance to make it in this ecosystem. Crypto is young enough to arrest a slide into the status quo, but it will take a heightened awareness to achieve anything close to parity of opportunity.”

Sanja Kon, CEO of Utrust:

“We’re finally coming to a stage where companies understand the value of gender-inclusive organizations to drive more success and productivity. I definitely see more projects and companies in the space paying attention to inclusion, with more women in executive and leadership roles.

On the other hand, and especially in emerging countries, women still have limited access to finance or the capacity for building opportunities. We have a unique opportunity to bridge that gap through blockchain and decentralized finance, with the use of new technology that removes the need for traditional intermediaries like corporations and old financial services.

This will allow the industry to innovate faster, creating more inclusivity and a truly global economy offering equal opportunities.”

Sheila Warren, head of data, blockchain and digital assets at the World Economic Forum:

“There’s a lot of excitement around the idea that crypto could open doors for women (among other groups) in terms of inclusion, ownership and wealth creation, but this vision can only become a reality if we’re deliberate about bringing their voices and ideas into the room. Put another way, if the crypto industry is going to help create opportunities for women, then we need women to help create the crypto industry.

Part of building something new is the opportunity to examine what is and isn’t working within current systems, and for whom. We know that there are gender gaps in access to banking and financing around the world. We know that women invest less and retire with less money. So, we have the chance now to ask, ‘Why is that?’ and design systems that address the gaps.

How do we ensure that women play an important role within and across organizations in the crypto ecosystem? Hire them, support them and pay them well. Include them in your user-feedback processes. Elevate women leaders in the space (there are many, some of whom I know and admire!) We’re starting to see some of this happen, but I would love to see even more of it moving forward.”

These quotes have been edited and condensed.

The views, thoughts and opinions expressed here are the authors’ alone and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views and opinions of Cointelegraph.

This article does not contain investment advice or recommendations. Every investment and trading move involves risk, and readers should conduct their own research when making a decision.

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