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.
Women of the Middle East have made significant strides in the past decade in a number of sectors, but huge gaps remain within the labor market, especially in leadership roles.
A huge number of institutions have researched and quantified trends of and obstacles to the full utilization of females in the marketplace. Gabriela Ramos, is the Chief-of-Staff to The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), an alliance of thirty-six governments seeking to improve economic growth and world trade. The OECD reports that increasing participation in the women's labor force could easily result in a $12 trillion jump in the global GDP by the year 2025.
To realize the possibilities, attention needs to be directed toward the most significantly underutilized resource: the women of MENA—the Middle East and North African countries. Educating the men of MENA on the importance of women working and holding leadership roles will improve the economies of those nations and lead to both national and global rewards, such as dissolving cultural stereotypes.
The OECD reports that increasing participation in the women's labor force could easily result in a $12 trillion jump in the global GDP by the year 2025.
In order to put this issue in perspective, the MENA region has the second highest unemployment rate in the world. According to the World Bank, more women than men go to universities, but for many in this region the journey ends with a degree. After graduating, women tend to stay at home due to social and cultural pressures. In 2017, the OECD estimated that unemployment among women is costing some $575 billion annually.
Forbes and Arabian Business have each published lists of the 100 most powerful Arab businesswomen, yet most female entrepreneurs in the Middle East run family businesses. When it comes to managerial positions, the MENA region ranks last with only 13 percent women among the total number of CEOs according to the Swiss-based International Labor Organization (ILO.org publication "Women Business Management – Gaining Momentum in the Middle East and Africa.")
The lopsided tendency that keeps women in family business—remaining tethered to the home even if they are prepared and capable of moving "into the world"—is noted in a report prepared by OECD. The survey provides factual support for the intuitive concern of cultural and political imbalance impeding the progression of women into the workplace who are otherwise fully capable. The nations of Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Libya, Jordan and Egypt all prohibit gender discrimination and legislate equal pay for men and women, but the progressive-sounding checklist of their rights fails to impact on "hiring, wages or women's labor force participation." In fact, the report continues, "Women in the six countries receive inferior wages for equal work… and in the private sector women rarely hold management positions or sit on the boards of companies."
This is more than a feminist mantra; MENA's males must learn that they, too, will benefit from accelerating the entry of women into the workforce on all levels. Some projections of value lost because women are unable to work; or conversely the amount of potential revenue are significant.
Elissa Freiha, founder of Womena, the leading empowerment platform in the Middle East, emphasizes the financial benefit of having women in high positions when communicating with men's groups. From a business perspective it has been proven through the market Index provider MSCI.com that companies with more women on their boards deliver 36% better equity than those lacking board diversity.
She challenges companies with the knowledge that, "From a business level, you can have a potential of 63% by incorporating the female perspective on the executive team and the boards of companies."
Freiha agrees that educating MENA's men will turn the tide. "It is difficult to argue culturally that a woman can disconnect herself from the household and community." Her own father, a United Arab Emirates native of Lebanese descent, preferred she get a job in the government, but after one month she quit and went on to create Womena. The fact that this win-lose situation was supported by an open-minded father, further propelled Freiha to start her own business.
"From a business level, you can have a potential of 63% by incorporating the female perspective on the executive team and the boards of companies." - Elissa Frei
While not all men share the open-mindedness of Freiha's dad, a striking number of MENA's women have convincingly demonstrated that the talent pool is skilled, capable and all-around impressive. One such woman is the prominent Sheikha Lubna bint Khalid bin Sultan Al-Qasimi, who is currently serving as a cabinet minister in the United Arab Emirates and previously headed a successful IT strategy company.
Al-Qasimi exemplifies the potential for MENA women in leadership, but how can one example become a cultural norm? Marcello Bonatto, who runs Re: Coded, a program that teaches young people in Turkey, Iraq and Yemen to become technology leaders, believes that multigenerational education is the key. He believes in the importance of educating the parent along with their offspring, "particularly when it comes to women." Bonatto notes the number of conflict-affected youth who have succeeded through his program—a boot camp training in technology.
The United Nations Women alongside Promundo—a Brazil-based NGO that promotes gender-equality and non-violence—sponsored a study titled, "International Men and Gender Equality Survey of the Middle East and North Africa in 2017."
This study surveyed ten thousand men and women between the ages of 18 and 59 across both rural and urban areas in Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco and the Palestinian Authority. It reports that, "Men expected to control their wives' personal freedoms from what they wear to when the couple has sex." Additionally, a mere one-tenth to one-third of men reported having recently carried out a more conventionally "female task" in their home.
Although the MENA region is steeped in historical tribal culture, the current conflict of gender roles is at a crucial turning point. Masculine power structures still play a huge role in these countries, and despite this obstacle, women are on the rise. But without the support of their nations' men this will continue to be an uphill battle. And if change won't come from the culture, maybe it can come from money. By educating MENA's men about these issues, the estimated $27 trillion that women could bring to their economies might not be a dream. Women have been empowering themselves for years, but it's time for MENA's men to empower its women.