Why do so few women seem to show any interest in this asset space? I’ve been thinking about this more and more over the last year or so. I’m not sure I have a definitive answer, only a few thoughts:
Recently, as our (modest) crypto assets suddenly rose in value, my wife started to take an interest and wanted to know how to buy and sell Bitcoin and Ethereum in case I fell under a bus. She decided the best way to get to grips with the crypto world would be to buy some and put them in a wallet.
Evening one: after much frustration (and poor coaching from me) she had managed to move a Bitcoin from an online wallet to an exchange, and thence to a paper wallet. She was exhausted, stressed, and didn’t feel she had a grip on it at all. A couple of days later we did the same thing with an Ether.
After two evenings of struggle, she declared the idea of Blockchain assets dead — “This will fail if it’s so hard and complicated.” And this from a woman who went to Berkeley and MIT. She’s a scientist — one of the smartest people I’ve ever met.
And she’s absolutely right.
The procedures and systems for navigating blockchain assets are hopeless from the point of view of mass adoption. Why? Because although the principles of blockchain are not so hard to grasp, nor the software impossible to master, we are dealing with value, and thus emotion, and even clever people get worried about money. It has to be simpler and easier, because people need to feel safe when dealing with money. And Blockchain is Money 2.0 or it is nothing.
Back in 1992 I decided to build a computer and put it online through a modem, as a way of learning about computers and this strange new thing called “The Internet”. Building the computer was the easy part — much easier than learning about the Internet. When I was first online, there were no browsers — there was no World-Wide-Web. The tools for sending email and finding information were clunky and primitive. You had to learn through failure, and the space was populated almost exclusively by obsessive young men. Looking back, I’m amazed I stuck with it.
The tools for working with blockchains today seem very similar: it’s easy to make mistakes (which could lose you money!), the tools require some expertise, and the space is again populated almost exclusively by obsessive young men.
As John Coates shows us in his excellent text The Hour Between Dog and Wolf, those of us who take the biggest risks, who are the most reckless, and who are the most obsessive, are men. Almost every prisoner in the world is a man. Testosterone is probably responsible for all these traits to some degree. This does not describe every man, obviously, only some. But it describes almost no women, who are generally much more cautious when the stakes are high.
Remember AOL? The company came to prominence (and bought Time Warner!) for the sole reason that it made “The Internet” easy, even if its functionality was dumbed down absurdly. Blockchain urgently needs a similar invention. The Internet only became the phenomenon we know because it became possible for ordinary people — including women — to take part without spending hundreds of hours in training and education.
Doubtless some of the best engineers and designers working on Blockchain tech today are women, but they appear to be a small minority, and when it comes to users of this tech, women are almost completely absent. This is as much an opportunity as it is a cause for concern, because the absence of women from blockchain is also a measure of how many men are avoiding the space too, and for the same reasons: FUD, or fear uncertainty and doubt. We need to make the benefits of blockchain super clear, and the systems to navigate it friendly and safe. Then it will take off.