“Whenever I share a tech post about NFTs on LinkedIn, I get disparaging remarks from men under my posts. On this network, when a woman talks about Web 3, the criticism is measured but you can see the mansplaining, describes Léa C., a Web 3 consultant and crypto investor.
On Twitter where the clash is law, for women, it’s sometimes worse. It quickly goes from arrogant commentary to public humiliation. As a result, they don’t really want to express themselves anymore. Normal. “Twitter is a distorting magnifying glass. It is a digital public space by default very agonistic, if only because of language constraints, observes Laurence Allard, sociologist of digital uses. We are more in the interpellation, the language which jousts, the clash ”. Does this mean that the crypto world treats women badly? It’s not that obvious.
But what is certain is that they are fairly absent from the world of Web 3. Whether in discord – that of 20 Mint is unfortunately no exception – or events such as Paris NFT Day organized at the Palais Brongniart on April 12, it is difficult to come across a woman and, more broadly, minorities, in the midst of a fauna of young white males.
Why are women such a rare breed in the blockchain universe? “The world of cryptos presupposes computer science, mathematical knowledge, cryptography, which are fields that are not very feminine. From this point of view, we are dependent on the sociology of professions, analyzes Laurence Allard. These are disciplines known for their lack of women”.
Women make up 5% of all NFT art sales
Rare are those who overcome the technical blockage, it must be said that the technical jargon does not always make you want. And when some women try timidly to make their way, they are not always very well received. “During Twitter Spaces [des espaces de conversation audio en direct sur le réseau social] for ethereum blockchain and PFP projects [des NFT en forme d’avatars qui servent de photo de profil sur les réseaux sociaux], what often comes up are women being cut off, rude remarks, observes Cabline*, curator for the Objkt platform hosted on Tezos, another blockchain which notably allows the creation of NFTs. We see it especially on Ethereum, but it doesn’t really make women want to continue participating in Twitter Spaces. »
If Tezos seems more open, Cabline however observes that female artists are struggling to find their audience in the crypto-arts world. Men know how to sell themselves better and buy the works of other men. “When artists refuse to participate or feel uncomfortable presenting their work on Twitter Spaces, most of the time it is women. And the most valued works on the market are mostly those of men,” she notes. Results : the works of male artists are highlighted and better sold.
According to a study published by ArtTactic in November 2021, female artists accounted for just 5% of all NFT art sales in the previous 21 months. However, in terms of sexism, Web 3 is not the worst. “I worked in banking, then I moved on to fintechs and start-ups… Web 3 is in its infancy, now is the time to take the step and get into this subject to avoid repeating the biases (which are now documented) of web2,” shares Camille Lambert, Web 3 consultant and Business Angel.
“In all very masculine circles, we see this kind of behavior. I have seen as much sexism if not more in traditional companies, in financial departments composed mainly of men, confirms Claire Balva, director Blockchains and crypto at KPMG France. I saw these actions in the media where I was taken for the assistant of the speaker who was expected on the set… I do not have the impression that the crypto community is more sexist”.
For this pioneer, the face of the industry has changed a lot since her arrival in 2015 and the two bull runs (period of time during which the cryptocurrency markets experience a strong bull moment). “2015 was the nuclear winter of cryptos, those who were there were geeks, they believed in it thoroughly. They were there out of ideology or out of a technical love of the subject,” recalls Claire Balva. And at that time, they were quite happy to welcome new faces, especially women. They weren’t necessarily business oriented. Since then, the ecosystem has diversified.
A policy of pseudonyms
Let’s not forget that at the base, the crypto movement was a political movement that advocated the idea of an independent cyberspace. “He was fighting for privacy, for encryption. The community is defensive by default, it feels attacked by journalists who harp on clichés about money laundering, and by regulations with the feeling of not being understood in France, underlines sociologist Laurence Allard. If it had remained a technopolitical project, we would not talk about it, but it turns out that it is worth a lot of money. On this original technopolitical basis, there is a defensive public that feels quite quickly attacked when we talk about it or about regulation. »
Yet, to listen to them, they don’t care about the gender of people. They don’t care about the real identity that hides behind the avatar and the nickname. “It’s a cypherpunk world [mot-valise composé du mot anglais cipher, chiffrement, et punk sur le modèle de cyberpunk]. Basically they are cyborgs, they campaign for pseudonymity within the crypto community, the encryption of transactions, but this technopolitical utopia is sociologically embodied by men, it is combined with the masculine, describes Laurence Allard.
From their point of view, they are purely digital subjectivities, so to order a genre, a “digital sex”, is almost a performative contradiction. And at the same time, in co-presence relationships, we keep repeating: “It’s great there are women”, we have the impression of being reduced to our gender, “smiles the sociologist.
Communities supporting women
But all is not screwed up. Web 3 relies on communities and this may be the salvation of minorities and lay people. Most crypto projects like that of 20 Mint, for example, are attached to a Discord, a messaging platform originally designed for video games, where all the people who support it (financially or not) interact.
Some Discords like that of Crypto Chicksof Women Riseof Sad Girls Baror of World of Women, which aims to build an inclusive Web 3 through its NFTs and community, are helping to transform the crypto world. World of Women is one of the first NFT projects to have offered a PFP (Profile Picture NFTs) project with female avatars. And it helps women navigate the hermetic world of cryptos.
“If in Web 2 you can get heckled for example on Twitter, the Web 3 ecosystem seems more supportive to me, in particular thanks to the emergence of strong communities of women where you can find support and answers or communities of experts on specific subjects”, rejoices Camille Lambert.
Because it is not always easy to understand crypto gibberish or to seize technical tools (use a Discord, open a wallet, buy an NFT…). Being able to rely on caring people to answer all our questions, especially in a world that tends to see women as intruders, is no luxury. The more pro-women pedagogy and communities there are, the more they will feel comfortable finding a place. The genre revolution has yet to be made in the crypto community, but it’s not too late.
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Why do women struggle to establish themselves in the world of Web 3?
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