Crypto: it's complicated. We’ve been talking about it for years now, and it still terrifies most of us. There’s a currency out there, many, in fact, living on the internet, breathing life into nefarious global arms dealings, underground and illegal money transfers, and many of us are very hesitant to approach it.
When you’re new to Bitcoin or cryptocurrencies or Blockchain (the technology that allows users to trade with one another without a centralized figure, like a bank, getting involved) and all of these absurd terms that just seem beyond the realm of comprehension, yes it is absolutely daunting. When you hear the Chinese government says no to crypto, that seems ridiculous. Why would anyone invest in crypto if governments are shutting it down? So yes indeed, it is to some extent ridiculous, but for the most part, it's ridiculous because nobody really knows what crypto is yet. It’s abstract, difficult to use and most folks out there (like the Chinese government) are still largely unsure and wary about its purpose.
When I first heard of the currency, I only had one question: can I go on my next absurd ASOS shopping spree with Bitcoin? And the simple answer is no. At least, not right now. So naturally, I was immediately put off. First off, one Bitcoin is worth about $8.3k currently (I’m an overspender, but not to this extent), and secondly, it remains to be seen when sites like ASOS or Nordstrom or Net-A-Porter will allow cryptocurrencies as forms of payment alongside credit/debit cards and Paypal.
For many of the experts I’ve chatted with below, this appears to be one of the fundamental reasons so few women are trading in crypto. The practical applications as such are few, and only promise to become more widely accessible and user-friendly in five, ten years down the line. It also doesn’t help that the Blockchain programmes used by crypto traders are a pain to use, and not aesthetically appealing in the slightest. When you look at websites and apps that attract a female audience and engagement, they are curated, easy-to-navigate, and only require a credit card entry should a purchase need to be made. Any websites connected to these currencies are annoying, often times confusing, and extremely ugly.
Below I've chatted to experts from trading to advising and beyond on why women have been slow to jump on the crypto wagon, and why we should be investing right now.
A screenshot of one of the typical crypto trading sites
"There are already Bitcoin ATM’s in bodegas across NYC, there are coffee shops and pizza places that accept cryptocurrency, (and) a potential Amazon cryptocurrency in the works. So yes I would say you will be able to buy almost anything with cryptocurrency in a few years."
-Barbara Soltysinska, CEO and Co-Founder of indaHash
Why we’re not investing
“Risk aversion.” It’s a term that’s been repeated to me over and over again throughout the course of my research on women and crypto. Women are typically more risk averse than their male counterparts because that’s just the way we are. When confronted with something completely off the wall, like a digital currency that you can't see or feel or understand without studying it, we've trained ourselves to steer clear. As an extension of this, it's estimated that only 4-6 percent of cryptocurrency users are women. At a recent conference on crypto, fintech expert Holly Glowaty's co-panellist shared a familiar stat we've seen across the internet. "She said a man will apply for a job if he has 60 percent of the required skills and experience; a woman will wait until she has 100 percent!" Glowaty remarks. "I think this stat applies also to most women when asked to raise their hands as experts on a topic or invest in something."
If there’s anything we’ve learned in our studies of women in business and the world of commerce from a female perspective, it’s that we’re raised traditionally to be cautious, to play it safe. Leave the risks to the men, let them take the big falls, make the big mistakes, and we’ll be fine.
That’s all well and good, and sure, studies say women are better investors for it because they will study and become extremely knowledgeable of prospective investments before diving in, but this also means that men will continue to be the ones who "make the big bucks." When you look at the big emerging industries of the past, the first investors in major stocks of Facebook, Google and Amazon, were all men! Notice a pattern emerging?
Aside from the psychological factors however, our lack of investment in this burgeoning industry also might be because women like to see their money. This Vogue article, while placing women in an inevitably shallow bucket, instructs on how better you might spend your prospective Bitcoin investment on 10 pairs of YSL sunglasses, or designer trench coats. Admittedly, the piece reads with an air of condescension, but also, how often do you find yourself justifying a major retail spend by calling it "an investment piece.""I think volatility [in crypto] is very much to be expected. You can't have an asset that appreciates 10x + in a given year and not see some downside volatility -- two sides of the same coin. As the markets grow and more stakeholders own cryptocurrencies, the volatility will decrease."
-Arianna Simpson, Founder and Managing Director of Autonomous Partners
Pretty much how we feel about crypto... Confused
Why it’s imperative women remain within the conversation
So while the point of this article is not to instruct you to immediately drop everything and put all of your savings into digital currency, it is important that we're at the very least talking about crypto and about both its benefits and follies.
To remain in the conversation right now is to form an opinion on this abstract and convoluted subject. Know what currencies might interest you in the future. Know what currencies are based upon operating businesses you're interested in (Amazon might be launching a coin soon).
indaHash, a global technology platform that automates content marketing campaigns via a mobile application, has created its own digital currency in order to help with payment between influencers and brands worldwide. CEO and Co-Founder of indaHash, Barbara Soltysinska, has lead the charge within the company to create the coin. "We are implementing a crypto-economic system into our app so that influencers, brands and fans can all work together via indaHash Coin," says Soltysinska."I believe the future of influencer marketing will be highly impacted by cryptocurrency which is why we decided to move to a blockchain based approach to achieve this goal. We want to develop our platform and give influencers and brands the possibility to run campaigns via smart contracts and use indaHash tokens as a remuneration and reward solution," she adds.
Practical applications like this abound in cryptocurrencies, but can often be difficult to find and require studying, the knowledge of which however will serve you in the long run.
Being apart of the conversation on this new, innovative way to trade money, make money and exchange money is to remain in touch with current affairs, as you would with the news or the latest DailyMail snapchat story (just with more numbers, and the possibility of a reward at the end). Even if you are unwilling to invest money, (which is totally fine), being able to keep up with the rhetoric and nuances of the industry will assure you won't be susceptible to mansplaining. Bro culture absolutely exists in crypto, and certainly isn't helping the percentage of crypto users that are women grow. Tiana Laurence, author of Blockchain for Dummies comments, "a lot of the [crypto] communities can be quite combative, and women like to be collaborative." Allowing the bro culture that pervades every other aspect of the tech industry into crypto means the low numbers of female crypto users will remain. Educating ourselves and being aware of what's in store for crypto users will mean an easier entry for women in the future and will give you an insight into trading that you might otherwise never have realized.
“The most important thing here is to (A) ensure you have not put in more than you are willing to lose and (B) always keep in mind the long term timescale,”
-Brianna MacNeil, Product Manager, Blockchain at RightMesh
Why experts believe it’s a good time to get in
Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies have been all over the news recently because they majorly decreased in value. The drop was due to some new regulation in China and a smattering of reports that said other governments were going to start legislating over the industry. Given the uncertainty, a lot of people "pulled out," i.e. they sold all their crypto money and made a mad dash for safer options, like their bank account, or the traditional stock exchange.
This is no different than people pulling out of their Netflix stock if say, they heard whispers that the next season of The Crown is going to stink because Claire Foy isn't in it. But because it's cryptocurrency, and people still don't really understand it, the whole world is in shock.
This is why, experts are saying - get in now. SWAAY isn't here to give you advice on your investment portfolio, but, as Laurence so cheekily states, "if we were shoe shopping, the shoes [being a metaphor for cryptocurrency] are on sale." Currencies like Bitcoin, Ethereum and Litecoin are dropping in price, making this a good time to get in on the game if you've been reluctant so far and have a spare bit of cash lying around. "Invest in one that won't break the bank," Glowaty recommends. "And has a foundation you are excited about. Each cryptocurrency has its own story. Find one that speaks to you; that encourages an ecosystem that excites you, or is backed by an industry you love. Just invest in one and you will be surprised by how quickly you start to understand it and begin to get nerdy about it."
Brianna McNeil of RightMesh says do not FOMO. "It can be tempting to purchase when the price seems like it will keep going up forever. When you feel this way, remember the Warren Buffet quote, 'Be Fearful When Others Are Greedy and Greedy When Others Are Fearful’. Prices can fluctuate wildly within a 24 hour window, it’s important to stay rational and try not to react emotionally to market fluctuations. That’s an easy way to end up losing money if you aren’t careful!"
Moral of the story is ladies, be informed. Know what's best for you and should you engage with the world of crypto, do us all a favor and share the knowledge. We're all listening.
I walk into a room full of men and I know exactly what they're thinking: "What does she know about whisky?"
I know this because many men have asked me that same question from the moment I started my career in spirits a decade ago.
In a male-dominated industry, I realized early on that I would always have to work harder than my male counterparts to prove my credibility, ability and knowledge in order to earn the trust of leadership stakeholders, coworkers, vendors and even consumers of our products. I am no stranger to hard work and appreciate that everyone needs to prove their worth when starting any career or role. What struck me however, was how the recognition and opportunities seemed to differ between genders. Women usually had to prove themselves before they were accepted and promoted ("do the work first and earn it"), whereas men often were more easily accepted and promoted on future potential. It seemed like their credibility was automatically and immediately assumed. Regardless of the challenges and adversity I faced, my focus was on proving my worth within the industry, and I know many other women were doing the same.
Thankfully, the industry has advanced in the last few years since those first uncomfortable meetings. The rooms I walk into are no longer filled with just men, and perceptions are starting to change significantly. There are more women than ever before making, educating, selling, marketing and conceptualizing whiskies and spirits of all kinds. Times are changing for the better and it's benefitting the industry overall, which is exciting to see.
For me, starting a career in the spirits business was a happy accident. Before spirits, I had worked in the hospitality industry and on the creative agency side. That background just happened to be what a spirits company was looking for at the time and thus began my journey in the industry. I was lucky that my gender did not play a deciding role in the hiring process, as I know that might not have been the case for everyone at that time.
Now, ten plus years later, I am fortunate to work for and lead one of the most renowned and prestigious Whisky brands in the world.. What was once an accident now feels like my destiny. The talent and skill that goes into the whisky-making process is what inspired me to come back and live and breathe those brands as if they were my own. It gave me a deep understanding and appreciation of an industry that although quite large, still has an incredible amount of handmade qualities and a specific and meticulous craft I have not seen in any other industry before. Of course, my journey has not been without challenges, but those obstacles have only continued to light my passion for the industry.
The good news is, we're on the right track. When you look at how many females hold roles in the spirits industry today compared to what it looked like 15 years ago, there has been a significant increase in both the number of women working and the types of roles women are hired for. From whisky makers and distillers to brand ambassadors and brand marketers, we're seeing more women in positions of influence and more spirits companies willing to stand up and provide a platform for women to make an impact. Many would likely be surprised to learn that one of our team's Whisky Makers is a woman. They might even be more surprised to learn that women, with a heightened sense of smell compared to our male counterparts, might actually be a better fit for the role! We're nowhere near equality, but the numbers are certainly improving.
It was recently reported by the Distilled Spirits Council that women today represent a large percentage of whisky drinkers and that has helped drive U.S. sales of distilled spirits to a record high in 2017. Today, women represent about 37% of the whisky drinkers in the United States, which is a large increase compared to the 1990s when a mere 15% of whisky drinkers were women. As for what's causing this change? I believe it's a mix of the acceptance of women to hold roles within the spirits industry partnered with thoughtful programs and initiatives to engage with female consumers.
While whisky was previously known for being a man's drink, reserved for after-dinner cigars behind closed doors, it is now out in the open and accessible for women to learn about and enjoy too.
What was once subculture is now becoming the norm and women are really breaking through and grabbing coveted roles in the spirits business. That said, it's up to the industry as a whole to continue to push it forward. When you work for a company that values diversity, you're afforded the opportunity to be who you are and let that benefit your business. Working under the model that the best brand initiatives come from passionate groups of people with diverse backgrounds, we are able to offer different points of view and challenge our full team to bring their best work forward, which in turn creates better experiences for our audience. We must continue to diversify the industry and break against the status quo if we really want to continue evolving.
While we've made great strides as an industry, there is still a lot of work to be done. To make a change and finally achieve gender equality in the workplace, both men and women need to stand behind the cause as we are better collectively as a balanced industry. We have proved that we have the ability to not only meet the bar, but to also raise it - now we just need everyone else to catch up.