Welcome to our latest chapter of 'In Her Shoes' - a series motivated by driving positive change for all who identify as women through conversations covering the landscape of gender biases.

For this instalment we plunge into a world that has sparked the intrigue of many but remains largely undiscovered, and potentially largely misunderstood, mainly by women. In fact recent stats show this world is made up of 70% male investors who are 2.3 times more likely to invest in it than women.  It is the world of Cryptocurrency.

We speak to founder and CEO of fast growing New Zealand startup Easy Crypto, Janine Grainger as she shares some fascinating insights into the world of crypto and how she challenges gender bias in an industry that is heavily skewed to her male counterparts.

Grab yourself a hot drink and snuggle in. This one’s a goodie!

Hello Janine! Thank you so much for sitting down with us and sharing your insights into the world of Cryptocurrency and how we can improve the gender imbalance within the industry. Before we delve into that though, Crypto is fascinating because although it is becoming more mainstream, it is still in its infancy compared to other investment options meaning it could be quite misunderstood and daunting to many.  Can you give us an overview of just what Cryptocurrency is exactly?

Absolutely! In a nutshell, cryptocurrency is a way to transfer value that’s fully digital and doesn’t require any intermediaries. It allows you to send money instantly to anyone, anywhere in the world without the need for a bank or a credit card company to process a transaction for you.

At the moment, cryptocurrency exists a bit separately from the traditional world of money, but there are a lot of bridges being built between those worlds. Easy Crypto is one of those bridges – allowing you to buy and sell cryptocurrency easily.

With low to no fees and no barriers to entry, cryptocurrency is an incredibly powerful way to democratise financial services by making digital payments and other financial products and services easily accessible to more people.

Gender disparities have haunted the financial services industry for decades, but cryptocurrencies have been promoted as a way to democratise this field by welcoming new and diverse investors into the fold; and to some degree it has.  Evidence suggests that crypto has succeeded in breaking down barriers for younger adults and has evened the playing field across race inequalities.  However, it hasn’t enjoyed the same result for gender.  Recent research has cited that men are 2.3 times more likely to invest in crypto and the investors are 70% male and 30% female. 

Your journey with Cryptocurrency began in 2014, when the Crypto industry was just 5 years old.  In your experienced opinion, is Crypto male dominated?  If it is, why should women care?

Similar to traditional investment categories, Cryptocurrency is more used by men, likely because it became popular to begin with among the tech, finance and gaming industries which are in themselves, more male dominated. However as cryptocurrency becomes more mainstream we’re seeing that shift and at Easy Crypto our female investors are increasing steadily and now make up well over a third of our customer base. Interestingly, the skew is more pronounced in younger age groups.  For those over 40 years old it’s much more evenly split.

The good news is that because of the decentralised nature of cryptocurrency, there shouldn’t be any exclusion or discriminatory practices within this space. All have equal opportunity to participate. We need to make sure all groups have the education and advice they need to access this space, understand it and leverage the benefits it offers.

The crypto space is expanding at what feels like a phenomenal rate.  It’s easy to feel even more excluded with jargon terms like NFTs and Blockchain that many don’t understand the meaning of.  What can be done to bridge the gender gap and what does positive change towards gender bias in the crypto territory look like?

Education is vital. That means helping those who are not in the finance and tech spaces understand what cryptocurrency is and, importantly, that this space is open to them. Barring an internet connection there is nothing technically stopping people from participating other than understanding. At Easy Crypto we have a “Learn Centre” where people can go and read crypto 101’s and a customer support team who are always happy to help.

We’re really passionate about trying to remove barriers to entry and break down the confusion and jargon. In my view, blockchain should be like the internet - something that everyone can access and benefit from, without needing to understand the technical infrastructure it’s built on.

As an industry we still have a long way to go, to make cryptocurrency really simple and accessible for everyone (with no computer science degrees required!) but that’s what we’re working on.

We read a quote that Bitcoin is considered the “most inclusive asset the human race has ever seen.” What are the risks to the Crypto industry if gender bias is not addressed?

This is such a good question - I wholeheartedly agree with that concept of Bitcoin (and crypto more broadly) being incredibly inclusive. But, people need to opt in to be part of this new financial system.

In the early years of cryptocurrency, there was a definite skew in terms of those who opted in - with that skew being young, male, and in developed countries.

It’s still early days though and there’s plenty of time for us to realise the dream of cryptocurrency as a decentralised, open and democratic financial system. To get there though, we need to make sure that everyone can and does participate. To me, that comes down to education, access and encouragement - and having opportunities like this to talk to these issues is really helpful!

How do you think the gender gap in Crypto relates to the overall global gender pay gap?

I don’t have any data on this (apart from Easy Crypto and we have a very strong equality focus!) but I would hope that as a newer industry there is better recognition of bias and focus on removing it. That being said, the industry as a whole is still male-skewed, particularly at more senior management and board levels, which will result in a gender pay gap at a macro level, even if individual roles have equal pay.

What is Easy Crypto’s vision when it comes to women in the Crypto industry?

We highly value diversity and seek that through ensuring we have a range of perspectives, backgrounds, genders on our team.  I’ve been really intentional in building a board and a senior management team that have diversity in gender, as well as in other areas. We’re working on our Diversity Equality and Inclusion (DE&I) policy and processes at the moment to ensure that this intentionality is bedded in right across the organisation and guides how we hire, promote, and engage with our staff.

What actions has Easy Crypto taken to empower women in their knowledge and confidence around investing in Crypto currency?

I think it’s really important for women to have the access and the education to engage with crypto if they want to, but we also need to balance that with how strongly we promote our industry.  I don’t want to be seen to be “pushing” cryptocurrency on people, rather I want to give them the confidence to engage if they want to. We do a lot in terms of providing information and education, being present in women-focused crypto groups and speaking to female investor channels such as The Curve.

One thing that I personally have started doing is putting myself forward as a speaker for every conference and event I’m invited to. I was sick of going to industry events with all male line-ups, and figured that if I wanted to see more diversity I needed to do something about it. I was terrified the first time I got up to speak but I’ve definitely gotten better with practice and I’m now a confident public speaker and really glad I can help be part of the change that I want to see.

How do you balance any gender biases within your business?

Ensuring we embrace diversity, and consequently avoid any gender biases, is built into our DNA. Easy Crypto has been successful thanks to its ability to attract and retain great talent based on merit, which has meant we naturally have a diverse and inclusive organisation.

We currently apply a diversity lens to our internal activity and initiatives.  For example recruitment - ensuring we have an even split of female and male in any shortlist and ensuring we have females interviewing for every role. We're really proud that in the last 4 months we have been building out our tech team and in a male dominated industry, just over 40% of our hires in our tech team are female.

We recently developed and published a culture strategy which is based on 3 key pillars: we're Cryptonauts (always striving to level-up our crypto knowledge!), we care, and we're human.  ‘We're human’ is all about bringing our essence of "collaborative hustle" to life through diversity, equity and inclusion. As part of this we're in the process of developing a DE&I strategy (as mentioned above) which will explicitly articulate what we will do as a business to ensure we build on the diverse foundations we have currently, in all aspects of our employee journey.

Our culture is a key component of our competitive advantage; it's the reason people want to work for us which ultimately enables us to deliver to our customers. We know that to have the best culture requires us to retain focus on nurturing an environment where all our people feel valued.

How difficult have you found it to recruit women within your sector?

At Easy Crypto I think we have an unfair advantage with a female CEO! I’ve had staff members say to me that they wouldn’t have taken a role in crypto as they thought crypto “wasn’t for them”, but seeing that we had a woman running the company gave them the encouragement they needed to look into it further and not feel excluded.

One really important thing I’ve learnt around recruiting is the need to be proactive in showing people that this industry or this role is for them, and to meet them where they are - not expect them to come to us.

As an example of this, when we recruited for customer support staff, we would use our social channels to advertise the roles, as we wanted to recruit from our own customer base. The last recruitment round we had there were almost 100 applicants, most of whom were young males - which isn’t actually representative of our customer base at all!

We realised we weren’t getting through to our female customers, so we then decided to run some posts in the ‘women in crypto’ groups on Facebook. The response was amazing, and we managed to recruit some phenomenal people who also brought age and ethnicity diversity to our customer support team, which is also so important.

What challenges exist for you as a woman running a prominent company in a male dominated industry? What examples can you share?

We see a lot of amazing female role models across all industries, and I think that lulls people into a false sense of security that we’ve achieved equality when we haven’t. I also think a lot of people assume that because they wouldn’t discriminate against a woman, most others wouldn’t either.

I recently raised $17million in a Series A funding round for Easy Crypto. Off the top of my head, I can think of three examples of overt gender discrimination that I encountered during that process. One man told me: “I never thought I’d invest in a company run by a woman.” Another commented how it was really good of Easy Crypto to send a woman to represent them.

On more than one occasion I was asked if I plan to have children. What’s so disappointing about that is that it’s grounded in the assumption and cultural expectation that the burden falls on females to fulfil domestic duties and care for children and always will, when in fact stay-at-home dads are increasingly common. To face that kind of prejudice is unhelpful if you are a female founder and for society in general.

Those are just examples of people who are prejudiced enough to state their thoughts out loud. There’s no way I can prove that because I’m a woman it was harder for me to fundraise, but there are studies that show women are so much less likely to get funded for their ventures than men. It’s something I would love to change and bring awareness to by letting people know that these attitudes still exist and are not uncommon.

Your career has spanned from local government to finance at PWC as well as strategy for Westpac and Air NZ.  What significant differences are there, if any, between the Crypto industry and your work in previous industries, when it comes to gender biases?

Definitely some of those companies were worse than others, but I guess the key thing is that these challenges still exist. As we talked about just before, I think people assume we have moved past gender discrimination because it doesn’t happen to them, or because they wouldn’t knowingly do it themselves.

Sadly however, these issues are still very much alive and well. I think the most important thing we can each do here is to acknowledge this is the case, and to (gently) call it out when we see it.

Your brother Alan co-founded Easy Crypto with you.  When it comes to gender inequalities in the workplace, how do you feel males can be part of the solution to support change?

I believe everyone has equal responsibility to be part of the solution - it’s a business issue, not a women’s issue. Everyone, regardless of gender can educate themselves more on inherent biases and challenge those biases when they see them in themselves or others, and be allies for each other.

Alan has been my biggest supporter - I couldn’t have asked for a better co-founder!

What can women do to support themselves in learning more about investing in cryptocurrency?

Education, education, education! Know that investing time to learn more about the cryptocurrency space is investing in your future.

Start by learning what cryptocurrency is, then the different options how to get involved, what the benefits and risks are and if it’s something you're interested in. Talk to others who are in the space, and find online education sources that suit your style - whether that be blogs, podcasts, or YouTube.

It’s really important to understand your risk appetite and what style of investing suits you, and of course, talk to a financial advisor to help shape up your plans!

 

 

Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge and becoming a special part of our tribe! What pair of La Tribe shoes will you be reaching for this autumn season?

I’m quite excited for the cooler weather, as it’s a great excuse to wear the James Ankle Boots which I love - they just go with everything!

We trust you enjoyed the latest chapter of In Her Shoes. Our vision is to profile people instilling change for gender inequality, whether they are championing change within their industries, their communities or their homes.

Our hope is that by sharing their experiences with us we can open up conversation for our community.

You can read about where the series all started here.

xx La Tribe