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Perfume won’t fix the crypto industry’s failure to attract women

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The world’s biggest cryptocurrency exchange, Binance, went viral this week for posting about a new product in its offering. It wasn’t a token. It wasn’t a structured product. It wasn’t equity. It was … perfume.

“Crypto by Binance” has a ring to it, but not in the fragrance market. To be fair, the new scent—billed as “Affordable Affluence” and sold at pop-up stores in Bahrain, is to promote an “Academy” or a learning course and associated credit for women who want to learn more about cryptocurrencies.

“If only women knew more about cryptocurrencies, then surely they would participate” is a common hope among blockchain believers.

Here’s the thing, though: Crypto is a multi-trillion-dollar industry that’s earned the attention of the mainstream media and some of the largest financial institutions in the world. To suggest the paucity of women is due to their lack of knowledge is, at this point, patronizing. Women know very well that cryptocurrencies exist and, thanks to the unprecedented number of offerings today from credible companies, it’s never been easier to jump in.

So, if the matter of women’s participation in “crypto” isn’t a function of education, then what is it? As the kids say, it’s about vibes.

The vibes are why so many women don’t want to participate in the cryptocurrency industry—not because crypto is difficult to understand. It’s not a question of education or money but a question of culture. In other words, Binance, it’s not us – it’s you.

The crypto industry is a gruesome place to spend time, mired in rhetoric that repels polite people from any gender. My observation is that there are simply more men than women willing to tolerate it. When women do convene in the cryptocurrency space, they tend to do so in pockets. Look at the World of Women Discord and the curatorial leadership of NFT sites like Objkt.com for examples of positivity and outsize female representation. They create islands, but also host vocal participants through active community management.

In order to attract more women to the industry, I would drop the masquerade that crypto is a technical arms race. It isn’t. Cryptocurrencies are digital assets that thrive or die, not in the face of technical adversity or because of engineering prowess, but by how they fare in web-based popularity contests. The illusion that crypto projects’ success is determined by technical merit went away with the first half-dozen Solana outages. Or maybe it was before that—during the years-long marketing campaign of the Ethereum merge that was perennially delayed. Ultimately, these projects came out on top not due to a technical triumph, but because had a compelling narrative. In other words, it’s not a matter of educating people. It’s a matter of storytelling.

The best cryptocurrency stories involve a positive call to action. Crypto’s origins are, above all, a grassroots effort to empower individuals. It’s the same story that has made Instagram pages, Weight Watchers, and Etsy blockbuster successes when it comes to building female-dominated communities. Positivity, self-improvement, and self-expression are the hallmarks of the most popular factions of the female-web. This arc is entirely compatible with the philosophy of cryptocurrencies. The origins of bitcoin are entirely in line with a sense of self-determination and empowerment. The way to attract more women is to lean into this rhetoric and cultivate narratives around it.

The most popular sites where women convene on the web have an entirely different tone than “Crypto Twitter” or Crypto Reddit subs. Unsurprisingly, there is a large delta between the percentage of women as a fraction of those who own cryptocurrencies in the US (~27%) and who participate in its online discourse (<5%, by my estimation).

If the problem of women’s participation in crypto were an easy problem to solve, it would have been done already. The cryptocurrency industry has everything to gain from solving the gender gap issue and representation. Creating a credible alternative to incumbent rails for value transfer won’t happen if its culture continues to repel large segments of the population. It’ll take a powerful perfume to fix that stinking reality. A massive shift in tone and language is the bigger, harder ask.

Kathleen Breitman is a cofounder of Tezos. The opinions expressed in Fortune.com commentary pieces are solely the views of their authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and beliefs of Fortune.



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