Bitcoin’s gender divide could be a bad sign, experts say

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CBCnews | Anne Gaviola | Jan 1, 2018

Bitcoin, and the world of cryptocurrency, is a boys' club, say some experts, and that should be cause for concern.

Cryptocurrency is a form of digital currency traded between people or used to purchase goods outside of banks or government regulation — that's part of what makes it risky. Figuring out exactly who is putting money into this kind of asset is difficult because part of the attraction of investing in the crypto realm is the assurance of anonymity.

But survey after survey backs up what the anecdotal evidence suggests — women are underrepresented.

Google Analytics results put the divide at 96.57 percent men to 3.43 percent women.

See: How to Take Advantage of the New Trends in Blockchain, Cryptocurrency and Financial Technology

That's a huge red flag to Duncan Stewart, research director of Deloitte Canada's technology division.

"It isn't merely that the value has risen as far and as fast as it has; it's the fact that it's 97 percent men — that is, in and of itself, a potential danger sign," he says.

"There are studies out there that suggest men are predisposed towards bubbles in a way that women are not."

Stewart made his case in a recent online post on the subject. Stewart said he "cannot think of any security, currency or asset class in history that shows that extreme a gender divide and has been sustainable."

One reason is the well-documented lower risk tolerance of female investors. In other words, if women aren't getting involved, it's likely too risky, this line of thinking suggests.

The most comprehensive study on gender and the stock market shows that women who invest — whether their own money or on behalf of an organization — take a more cautious approach but tend to outperform their male peers in the long run.

'Role models are needed'

Stewart says he saw this in action during the dot-com boom and bust in the early 2000s.

Back then, he was an award-winning technology fund manager on Bay Street. Female fund managers represented about 20 percent of institutional investors at the time, but they shied away from the tech stocks the men were heavily invested in.

He recalls his female colleagues being mocked for not jumping in with as much fervor as the men — until the men began losing lots of money.

"Maybe they 'got' it better than the men did all along," Stewart said.

Iliana Oris Valiente is a rarity in the cryptocurrency world. She has emerged as a female leader in this space and was recently chosen to lead consulting firm Accenture's global blockchain innovation division (blockchain is the technology behind cryptocurrencies).

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A chartered accountant by training, she began her career in the world of auditing but got hooked on bitcoin as soon as she heard of it in 2012.

Oris Valiente says when she entered the world of cryptocurrencies it was a noticeably male-dominated industry.

"In 2014, when this started to become a core component of my day job, I was regularly the only female in the room, period," she said.

She says things are changing, albeit slowly. "We're starting to see really strong females in leadership roles," she said.

For instance, of the largest initial coin offerings (or ICOs, which are fundraising mechanisms for blockchain-related projects) currently underway, about 13 percent are headed by women.

"They're acting as very powerful role models, and these role models are needed to encourage other women to potentially looking at this field," said Oris Valiente.

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The National Crowdfunding Association of Canada (NCFA Canada) is a national non-profit actively engaged with social and investment crowdfunding, alternative finance, fintech, peer-to-peer (P2P), initial coin offerings (ICO), and online investing stakeholders across the country. NCFA Canada provides education, research, industry stewardship, networking opportunities and services to thousands of community members and works closely with industry, government, academia and eco-system partners and affiliates to create a vibrant and innovative fintech and online financing industry in Canada.  For more information, please visit:  www.ncfacanada.org

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