Cryptocurrency and digital finance tools such as security tokens, non-fungible tokens (NFT) and central bank digital currencies (CBDC) are revolutionizing the financial industry, providing individuals with new and innovative ways to invest, transact and store value.
While these tools have garnered significant attention for their potential to disrupt traditional finance, their impact on women has been somewhat overlooked. However, as these technologies continue to gain traction, they could provide transformative benefits to women around the world and financial inclusion as a whole.
Maia Naor is chief product officer and Itai Avneri is deputy chief executive and chief operating officer of INX.
Digital finance tools have the potential to increase financial inclusion for women, who are often excluded from traditional financial systems. According to a report by the World Bank, women are nearly 10% less likely than men to have a bank account, and in some regions, the gender gap is even wider.
This lack of financial access can have significant consequences, limiting women’s ability to invest, save and participate in the economy.
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Women stand to benefit the most
Cryptocurrency and digital finance tools can help overcome some of these barriers. For example, they can facilitate cross-border transactions without the need for intermediaries or traditional banking systems. This can be especially beneficial for women in developing countries, who may not have access to traditional financial institutions.
Additionally, digital finance tools can enable micro-investing, democratizing finance and allowing women to invest small amounts of money in assets they believe in, without having to meet the high minimum investment requirements of traditional finance.
Security tokens, too, can provide women with new investment opportunities. These tools enable the fractional ownership of assets that were previously inaccessible, such as real estate, artwork and more.
By enabling women to invest, crypto is helping diversify both investment portfolios and finance itself.
Inclusion and autonomy for women in the digital age
Another potential benefit of cryptocurrency and digital finance tools is the ability to provide women with greater financial autonomy. Traditional financial systems are often patriarchal, and women may be subject to the financial conditions of their husbands and other male family members. By using digital finance tools, women can take control of their finances, invest in assets and participate in the economy on their own terms.
CBDCs, digital versions of traditional fiat currencies that are issued and backed by central banks, can also be an important tool for women’s financial inclusion. These currencies can be stored and transacted using digital wallets, and potentially be used to provide financial access to underserved communities.
Although CBDCs are mostly experimental at this stage, they have the potential to make financial services more accessible, affordable and secure for women in developing countries. These are places that Kristalina Georgieva, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, said face the greatest barriers to financial inclusion.
In addition to increasing financial inclusion, CBDCs can also improve financial security for women. Because they are digital, CBDCs can be easily stored and accessed using a mobile device, reducing the need for physical cash and thereby, potentially, making women less vulnerable to theft or violence.
There are plenty of examples of women already taking advantage of the digital economy the world over, including the following:
- Ukrainian women have turned to crypto to avoid the obvious problems with carrying large amounts of cash and/or trying to access bank accounts locally or abroad. Reports indicate that Ukrainian refugee women in particular are using crypto so they can convert it into fiat currency in a new country. Underscoring this widespread usage and need for a borderless digital currency, late last year the United Nations enabled an aid initiative for war-affected people in Ukraine, including millions of women, using stablecoins.
- Women-owned businesses often lack investment capital. According to a study by McKinsey, U.S. women received only 2.8% of venture capital funding in 2019 and 2.3% in 2020. Many women are now using cryptocurrencies to raise money quickly for their businesses, ventures and ideas. In addition, women are creating digital literacy communities to teach each other how to use this technology.
- Female entrepreneurs in Africa are leveraging cryptocurrency for broader financial access for their startups and businesses. For example, a platform called KureCoinHub provides a way for women to access loans and make cross-border payments using digital currencies like bitcoin. In addition to crypto, African countries like Ghana are aggressively pursuing CBDCs that could ultimately bolster the number of female entrepreneurs. Afua Adubea Koranteng, the co-founder and managing partner of Koranteng & Koranteng Legal Advisors, a corporate and commercial law firm in Accra, Ghana, said that “CBDCs could serve as a catalyst in bridging the digital and financial divide faced by women and young entrepreneurs.”
- The World of Women NFT project (WoW) is a collection that features 10,000 unique, diverse and powerful women avatars who take great pride in making a positive impact and helping people, especially women who are new NFTs
These are just a few examples of how cryptocurrency and digital finance tools are being used to support women. We know that these examples will explode in growth as more innovative use cases emerge.
Flattening digital gender divide
Still, the fact remains that too many people, both men and women, do not have access to the internet and the digital devices they need to benefit from a digitizing economy. Women, particularly in developing countries, may not have the same level of access to digital devices and the internet as men. According to a report by the International Telecommunication Union, the gender gap in internet use is highest in the least developed countries, where women are 33% less likely to use the internet than men.
There are no easy solutions to this issue, but it’s said only to show that the spread of digital technologies that flatten hierarchies and raise up the underserved is not always level. While there are a variety of challenges that still need to be addressed, one thing is clear: The impact of cryptocurrency and digital finance tools on women is real and worth the fight.