In 2021, we’ve witnessed many women-led NFT projects emerge. This comes as a breath of fresh air given observations that 74% of cryptocurrency investors (registration required) are male. Zooming out, only 7% of women invest in cryptocurrency. This figure is staggering even compared to the already disproportional demographics in more traditional investment vehicles, such as foreign exchange trading, stocks, bonds and real estate. In the NFT space, where market capitalization skyrocketed from $100 million in 2020 to $22 billion in 2021, one thing is sure: there’s enough opportunity to go around.
As the founder of a company that seeks to empower female-centric communities and also integrate with Web3, my hope is that the spike of female-centric mints isn’t merely something trendy but a reflection of a deeper shift in attitudes demanding diversity, equity and inclusivity. The question we now have to ask ourselves is, what would it take for women to be represented in the NFT space for the long haul?
For those versed in NFT speak, #HODL and #GMI, shorthand for “Hold on For Dear Life” and “Gonna Make It,” have been the battle cry when the market experiences serious dips just like we’ve witnessed this past month. Fortune reported that roughly $205 billion of value was wiped out in 24 hours. As they say, Web3 isn’t a place for the faint-hearted.
Men are generally characterized as exhibiting more risk-taking behavior than women. At the risk of sounding simplistic or even sexist, this might play a factor in the gender problem with NFTs. One particular study from UC San Diego showed that, in uncertainty, women believe that negative and severe consequences are more likely to occur compared to what men perceive. Women also tend to downplay the rewards involved in taking such risks. Explanations for these differences include the physical (i.e., hormones or brain structure) and evolutionary hardwiring. Meanwhile, the study found that risk perceptions are reduced through familiarity and exposure.
Nature Vs. Nurture
In separate research conducted by the University of Essex and IZA, experiments revealed that environment and upbringing have a tremendous impact on risk-taking behaviors. The researchers came to very interesting conclusions:
• “Single-sex environments are likely to modify students’ risk-taking preferences in economically important ways … with girls being more likely to choose risky outcomes when assigned to all-girl groups.”
• “Girls from single-sex schools are as likely to choose the real-stakes gamble as boys from either coed or single-sex schools, and more likely than coed girls.”
Under certain conditions, women are not more risk-averse compared to men. The long and short of it, I believe risk appetite — what you need to thrive in the NFT space — is a function of confidence-building and social conditioning.
The Case For Female Guilds In NFTs
If we want more women to flourish with NFTs, we need to build spaces where they can gain assurance to learn and hone their craft. That way, when opportunities arise, they can take big swings even if it doesn’t come as naturally at first.
It’s ironic that, in pursuit of diversity for the industry as a whole, the solution may lie in creating homogeneous groups. The great thing I’ve noticed about the NFT space is that you aren’t limited to a single community. The all-female group can serve as your support system while assimilating into a larger, more diverse crowd.
Here are some features that these female-centric training communities and organizations could include:
• Educational resources and community support made for women, made by women: I’ve noticed that SheFi has taken huge strides in this by curating a cohort-based learning course designed to be more relatable with less “cryptobro” speak. Meanwhile, WomenofFuture NFT releases content shedding light on microaggression that women encounter, with a portion of its art proceeds donated to victims of abuse to help end violence against women.
• Forums normalizing discussions on finance and investments: As someone who’s invested in WowPixies, I’ve observed that this project does this well. It helps women gain NFT exposure through fractionalized ownership and helps them dip their toes in the NFT space with less capital outlay and familiarize themselves with NFTs they may not have been able to get exposed to. Being involved in decentralized autonomous organizations can show holders their opinions, voice and contribution matters. Holders can discuss how they want to shape and make a difference in the web3 landscape, further building their confidence in the space.
• Sandbox environment: In a survey conducted by Zenger Folkman, it revealed that only a little over 30% of women under 25 consider themselves confident versus nearly 50% men. The natural result of low confidence is inaction, and inaction equates to less exposure to opportunities. In a sandbox environment, women can take action, experiment, make mistakes and learn that it’s ok to fail and get back up. Women learn from their mistakes and make changes to their strategies. The confidence gap is bridged.
• Mentorship programs: The importance of a mentor/role model shouldn’t be overlooked here. Many of our limiting beliefs govern our thoughts and actions. A feedback loop established in a mentorship relationship can fast-track experience and help rewrite belief systems. Some may feel reaching financial independence is not in their cards. With a mentor who can help break through that mental barrier of what is possible, women can gain assurance and take risks they weren’t originally willing to take. When women see other women succeed, they are shown how doors are opened up.
For Web3 to truly be an inclusive, participatory economy, it’s time we level the playing field for women or any underrepresented pocket of society for that matter. We need to get to a point where stereotypes — like women not being interested in finance or tech — are a thing of the past.
With projects that empower women, the future’s looking bright. Our job is to create and support initiatives like these. That way, everyone can reap the benefits of diversity, equity and inclusion, more innovative products generating more economic value and non-hostile environments that are downright nice to be in.