Cryptocurrency is often viewed as a man’s world. Only eight percent of crypto investors are women and fewer than seven percent of people working in the space are female. Maria Prusakova hopes to change that trend and encourage more women to invest, to learn, and to take part in the world of crypto-finance.
A former Olympic snowboarder turned crypto advisor, Prusakova has never shirked from a challenge. She went straight from snowboarding at an Olympic level to studying law and finance. Her time working in wealth management for some of Switzerland’s most elite private banks opened her eyes to the value of cryptocurrency, particularly for large cash transfers. It was then that Prusakova started her work in PR for blockchain and crypto startups. The experience helped her co-found the first all-female founded advisory firm in the space, Crypto PR Lab and Advisory. We spoke with Prusakova to discover how she’s working to make crypto an equal opportunity industry.
Innovation & Tech Today: How are you working to bring more women into the cryptocurrency space?
Maria Prusakova: Cryptocurrency, it all started male and white. These were all the miners, the cyber banks, the Silk Road people who started crypto, and they were all basically cryptographers and blockchain developers. Initially, in this industry, the women were not that advanced with coding and cryptography, especially 10 years ago. So all the men who started the crypto movements, such as Nick Szabo, Hal Finney, Satoshi Nakamoto, or Roger Ver, tended to hire men and enroll more men in this community. Given that men started it, they continued it.
Another reason is that fewer women invest in crypto, given that they are perceived by society as more risk averse. Women might invest in bonds or put money in their savings accounts, but they’re not that interested in taking big risks, while men invest in equities, in derivatives, auctions, and more high-risk products. Because cryptocurrencies are exceptionally volatile and risky, women tend to invest less. Another reason is that the developers, the coders, and the IT people are mostly men.
So, how do we solve this problem, and how do we engage more women to work in crypto? There is an organization, Code.org, which encourages people to learn computer science and promotes computer science in high schools; there are a lot of women involved. Girls Who Code is another community which encourages women to learn computer science.
There is also a community called Crypto Queens. There are almost 3,000 people in this community on Telegram and on Facebook. They try to unite women and make them more interested in supporting each other, being part of the community, and getting interested in cryptocurrencies.
One of the solutions is to build those female-focused communities and also encourage people to talk more about successful women in crypto. Very often when you read about successful crypto people, the interviews are with men. Why don’t they find women founders of startups? Even if they’re not in leadership roles, but product management or marketing, interview them, write articles about them. Once you put more women out there in the press, then other women will read about them and say, “Oh, there’s an interview with a woman. She could learn cryptocurrencies. She’s now an investor. She made five times her return. That’s amazing. She can do it, I can do it.”
So you need to build more role models. You should write about them, create more exposure about women working in crypto. There should be more workshops to educate the population on crypto, and also master degrees in blockchain. For instance, Colorado had a senate bill recently which encouraged colleges to insert blockchain into the curriculum. The more educational initiative you have, the more the general public will get involved, and more women and girls will get interested in participating in the cryptocurrency industry.
I&T Today: What advice would you offer women who are looking to get involved in the industry?
Maria Prusakova: I would give three pieces of advice. First of all, you shouldn’t be scared. If there are only men and you think it’s not a place for you, don’t be scared of it. Still go for it, get interested, educate yourself, and read about blockchain. Second of all, you need to join the Telegram communities of women in crypto and blockchain in general. And third of all, you need to find your strongest skills, your expertise, and apply this expertise to the blockchain.
Regarding the first point, reading about crypto: go on Cointelegraph, BTCManager, and CoinDesk. Read as much as you can. Just Google things. “What is blockchain?” “What are smart contracts?” “How to invest in crypto.” “What’s the difference between Ethereum and Bitcoin?” Watch tutorials, read about it, and get really interested and enthusiastic. Also, get your friends so you can learn together.
Then, second of all, there are so many communities on Telegram which are especially dedicated to women. They can range from 100 members to communities of 3,000 members where women help other women and talk about blockchain, place job opportunities, and post interesting articles.
Then, the third point: what is your expertise? Is it marketing, business development, finance, or maybe you’re a lawyer just like me? How can you apply it to blockchain? If you’re a people person, become a community manager for a blockchain company. If you like finances, there are so many crypto funds these days and they all look for people who are interested in sourcing good startups. There are also crypto traders, which is a really popular profession if you’re into finance. Or, if you’re a lawyer, you can be one of the first people to get into this niche industry as a blockchain lawyer.