I remember being 13 years old and being told to buy Bitcoin and Ethereum; it was a quick way to earn a lot of money — yet the idea of cryptocurrency back then was laughable. The idea that our currency could become digitized, thus wiping out our economy and our banking system, was seen as a comedy skit – and yet here we are in 2022, and cryptocurrencies have become mainstream. Almost everyone owns or knows someone who has crypto coins; from Bitcoin, Ethereum, Polkadot, Axis, Audius, Chainlink – cryptocurrency has become infinitely popular and has taken over the world.
Recently, aside from cryptocurrency, the metaverse has blown up with NFTs. NFT’s are non-fungible tokens. With owning an NFT you become an owner of what that content represents, whether it’s art, music, houses, creatures and more. This term doesn’t exactly explain what this means, but essentially “non-fungible” means that it is unique and cannot be replaced with something else. Look at it this way. Bitcoin is fungible. You trade in one Bitcoin for another and you will have the same thing. But an NFT is like a one-of-a-kind trading card. If you trade it for a different card, you will have something completely different. It is non-fungible.
Most of the NFTs that exist run on the Ethereum blockchain. To a crypto geek like myself, this makes sense, but to others, it may not. Think of it like software: It’s a way of recording information, and it makes it impossible––almost near difficult––to change, hack or cheat the system. NFTs can now be seen everywhere. From celebrities like Grimes, Justin Bieber, Post Malone and Future promoting NFT Bored Apes to social media apps such as Twitter getting involved in the NFT marketplace – NFTs have become a mainstream thing to have, and a way to earn quick money. And I, too, recently navigated the metaverse and bought my first NFT.
One thing about NFTs is there are a lot of scams out there. It takes some research to find reliable NFTs that aren’t a legit scam. Whether it be Bored Apes, CryptoKitties, Ghost Project, Axie Infinity, the list goes on and on. I decided to buy Axie Infinity, and it is a play-to-earn style NFT game. To play, you need to buy little creatures – called Axies – and use them to battle, explore and breed with other Axies. There are two main ways of playing the game that involve seeking out two different assets. One of which is SLP, or Smooth Love Potion, which you earn by playing adventure games or area matches and completing daily questions. SLP is the source you need to breed Axies. The other resource is AXS token, and players who hold these tokens can make decisions about the future of the game. Essentially, the game requires you to take care of these little creatures as if they are your own pets and send them off to PVP battles, breeding, selling, and collecting rare Axies. In the end, you can trade or sell your Axies for crypto or real-world money.
In order to play, you must buy three Axie creatures in total. They can be a bit pricey and go up to 250 dollars each, and the cheapest Axie available can go for about 25 dollars or so. The cheaper ones always seem to go fast on the marketplace, as people buy them, level them up and then sell them off for profit. My three Axie creatures cost me about 200 Canadian dollars. When I first began playing, I was watching a lot of tutorials and YouTube videos on how the game works and how to play it smart, which helped in my benefit in understanding the game better and knowing what to do, overall. As a first-time buyer of an NFT, it is one that I find extremely worthwhile and interesting. It is not only fun to play, I also learned how NFTs work without the fear of losing a large amount of money, considering I spent around 200 dollars. There are many NFTs out there that cost thousands upon thousands of dollars, and Axie felt safe to play. Of course, like any other NFT, there is the possibility of losing money, but I liked that Axie offered cheap creatures to play with instead of them being hundreds or thousands of dollars.
As I was earning coins and investing in crypto, what I learned is that cryptocurrency – a 21st-century financial instrument – has a very 20th-century problem; there are not enough women. Even as I told friends to get involved in crypto and informed them on what coins to buy, none of them took me seriously – especially the men. They thought I was hilarious, assuming I know nothing and have not done my proper research. “How could a girl know anything about cryptocurrency?” It was assumed – and yet I have earned more than they have, thanks to my research.
Overall, it is said that about 10 to 15 percent of the investors in Bitcoin are women. This is an issue that is persisting throughout the investing world which is a male-dominated “old boys club,” and with the release of Bitcoin in 2009, the issue branched out into the crypto-world. Women in the investing environment often face gender discrimination. With crypto’s influence on the technological industry, the discrimination against women only increased, especially when it came to recruiting, retaining, paying and promoting women.
But it does not end there. When cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin first came out, the blockchain technology was seen as something nerdy. Full of mathematics and computer science, the gender gap was extreme because of the lack of women in these fields. And so with that, the problem of lack of women representation is embedded in the fields of IT and finance – crypto being just an example.
Phu Styles, founder of the Women in Blockchain Foundation once said, “men are the target demographic for crypto,” – and I found this true when it came to my own experience navigating the metaverse. I found it extremely difficult to feel connected and comfortable with it. Many of the financial YouTubers recommended to me were men, and subreddits and Discord chats were male opinionated. It was hard to have a voice, share knowledge and ask questions without being seen as less-than or a joke. Even if I had a good idea or thought something was right for me and would provide me profit, I was not taken seriously. Even male friends of mine who were in crypto were telling me what to hold, what to sell, what coins to buy, and did not think I could make smart decisions for myself when it came to cryptocurrency; but I did, and I can.
But cryptocurrency and NFT’s are not just a “boys club.” In order to have a financial revolution, like the one we are currently in, there needs to be diverse perspectives and participation. Half of the world’s population is women, after all. Participation among women needs to be higher. Rule number one about being a woman in crypto: Do not talk about being a woman in crypto. We do not want to talk about being female because of the perception that comes along with it: Women do not know what they are talking about, and do not belong in the tech or financial industry, which has always been dominated by men. Crypto is just another industry that is male-dominated and discourages women. The best way to increase women’s participation in crypto is talking about all the amazing things women have done in the industry; making it known that women can be crypto geeks. Whether it’s innovators, like BlockCypher founder Catheryne Nicholson, BitPesa founder, Elizabeth Rossiello, or coin creators – women in crypto need to be seen for their accomplishments rather than just their gender.