"To the moon." "HODL" (hold on for dear life). "Buy the dip." By now, you will have seen one or more of these catchphrases while scrolling through Twitter. Probably accompanied by the rocket emoji. And you'll fall into one of two camps: you'll know exactly what people are talking about or you will have absolutely no idea what's going on. Either you are witnessing and participating in the cryptocurrency boom or you are unaware and opting out.
Long gone are the days when Bitcoin was the only cryptocurrency in town and people had doubts about investing their cash in a purely digital currency system. In the last year, perhaps fuelled by the boredom of lockdown after lockdown, playing with crypto has become a legitimate and possibly lucrative pastime for younger people.
There is now a wide range of crypto coins to choose from, including the popular digital token Ethereum, the meme-friendly Dogecoin and the less volatile Tether. Research shows that more people are looking to acquire these digital currencies than ever before, and of the growing number of crypto buyers, over 94% are members of Gen Z and millennials.
The conception that this growing market is largely male-dominated is rapidly changing, too. As crypto pushes further into the mainstream and prices of currencies like Bitcoin continue to skyrocket, more young women are gaining awareness of the benefits of shrewdly buying and selling coins. Several crypto trading apps have reported an increase in the number of women who invest via their platform, including the social trading company eToro, which said that the number of female crypto traders on its platform has increased by half over the last two years to about 20% of all users.
"When I started investing in the cryptocurrency space, my initial goal was to achieve financial independence," says Kimberly Phan, a 28-year-old who entered the market in 2020. "This meant putting enough money into crypto and cashing out to reinvest in other stocks." She explains that Bitcoin was her 'serious' investment, while her investment in the meme cryptocurrency Dogecoin was really just a bit of fun.
When I started investing in the cryptocurrency space, my initial goal was to achieve financial independence. This meant putting enough money into crypto and cashing out to reinvest in other stocks. Kimberly
"I decided to invest in Doge anyway, since you could still trade and send it instantly to anyone on the internet, without a bank having to facilitate the transaction," she continues. In just a few months of investing, Kimberly reports that she has earned over 2,000% crypto margins on crypto so far. Because of this she has been able to pay off a solid portion of her student loans with her profits from trading.
Twenty-five-year-old Jessica Martins also got into the market in 2020, a move she made due to crypto FOMO. Hearing everyone else talk about it meant that there was finally critical mass to convince her to dive in. She now wishes she had started back in 2017 when she heard about it because her investments have turned out to be so financially rewarding. "Although I'm not yet channelling a lot of money towards it, investing in crypto helps me save more," she says. "It's much better than saving in a currency that's unstable and likely to lose value."
Unlike traditional financial markets, the crypto market is designed to be inherently open, diverse and accessible. Anyone with an internet-enabled device can set up a digital wallet and get started, and many people all over the world are making good profit on their own initiative. But despite the steady surge in the number of female crypto users, numerous surveys reveal a stark reality: there are still far fewer women than men involved in the market. While the number of female investors increased at the beginning of 2021, eToro reports that only 15% of Bitcoin traders are women. The story in the Ethereum market is similar - the percentage of women investing has risen only slightly, from 11% to 12%, since the beginning of 2020.
These low figures are rooted in factors that point back to the larger issue of how women have been historically marginalised in the finance and tech industries. It also speaks to the gaping hole in financial education for women which enables them to feel that these spheres are as much for them as they are for men.
On Twitter, where crypto trends are now widely discussed, it's common to see young women expressing their wish to stay out of the conversation. "I've experienced more peer pressure to buy crypto than to do drugs, tbh," reads one tweet with more than 3,000 retweets and 25,000 likes. "I don't want to put money onto something I neither believe in, or feel like I fully understand," another user replied to a tweet about not investing in crypto.
While the number of female investors increased at the beginning of 2021, eToro reports that only 15% of Bitcoin traders are women.
There are legitimate reasons to question joining in on the crypto frenzy. Some worry that the market is a bubble and involves a lot of risk-taking, while others express concern about its potential to attract fraudsters. Added to that, many people rightly point out how bad the processes involved in mining crypto are for the environment. The servers which keep the market going consume huge amounts of power.
The crypto market has also been rocked with instability, leading many people to question how safe it is to invest. Billionaire businessman Elon Musk's favourite digital currency, Dogecoin, soared 'to the moon' in anticipation of his Saturday Night Live appearance but dropped by a third after he called it "a hustle" during his guest host spot. And last week he shook the market again when he announced that Tesla would no longer accept Bitcoin because of concerns about its environmental impact. This gives you some idea of how reactive and volatile these markets are. Additionally, experts in several countries, including the UK and US, increasingly see crypto asset markets as a potential threat to the stability of existing financial systems, and this has encouraged conversations about regulatory policies.
Rebekah Keida, crypto expert and VP of talent and product marketing at Ethernity Chain, a blockchain-based platform, says that anyone - especially young women who want to invest - should do so with caution and always have savings in place before participating. She explains that it's wise to invest in projects which are at least working toward compliance and to keep in mind that any investment can go sideways.
"Since cryptocurrency is such a speculative market and unregulated, like the early days of the stock market, it's important to become familiar with the projects behind certain digital currencies," says Rebekah. "Investing in the currency is like investing in the company, so it's similar to buying stocks, but without the regulations and protections of the stock market."
Apart from trading digital currencies, young creatives are also cashing in on the crypto wave by selling their work as non-fungible tokens, more commonly known as NFTs. These are unique units of data that can be attached to valuable digital items to protect them from duplicate versions, allowing the owner to sell to collectors on a digital marketplace. In this new marketplace, anyone can buy or sell anything, including art, music, digital trading cards, designer items and even real estate.
Although the market is still in its early stages, several communities are working to create a safe space for women to participate and promote their work on NFT platforms, to ensure that this new ecosystem becomes a level playing field for female creatives. One such group is Women of Crypto Art (WOCA), a community founded in 2020 by digital artists from all over the world who identify as women. WOCA welcomes female artists to share ideas on NFTs and other forms of crypto art, and encourages collectors to join the group, regardless of their gender or background. In the eight months since it was formed, WOCA has held several digital exhibitions to promote art by their members. Their most recent project, the launch of the first functional NFT tarot cards - titled The Arcana Crypto Tarot - was created by 22 artists from the group.
"As women in this industry, we tend to feel the urge to fight more to be seen and valued as artists in the eye of our peers and collectors," says Maalavidaa, a digital artist and founder of Heal The Deal, a support group for young people in the crypto industry. "Indeed, the behavioural interactions from male to female in the industry can be quite triggering sometimes, whether it's being talked about in an inappropriate or ignorant manner, or making puns regarding the pieces being created by a woman." By creating an emotional support group, she hopes to "help female crypto artists deal with the impact of these issues on their mental health."
In the fast-paced world of crypto, there's an option for everyone. "With cryptocurrency on the rise, the industry is increasingly opening up to women," says Kimberly. "We could see numbers increase significantly if crypto was made more digestible and mentorship programmes on inclusion were more readily available."
The future of cryptocurrencies is uncertain. We find ourselves in uncharted waters here. But one thing is for sure: young women want in on the action and when they are able to create safe spaces, they stand to reap the benefits of this emerging market as much as anyone else, while shaping it for the better.
*Contributors have asked to be identified by their first names only