Still too few women in crypto say top female investigators

• Updated

Leading female investigators agreed the crypto sector needs more women and more diversity

Woman in an office on her laptop                                 
Women in crypto – Photo: Shutterstock


There are still too few women in crypto, according to a panel of senior female figures in the industry – but overall, the panel, which included Kalin Matechik from JP Morgan’s Cybersecurity Intelligence Group and Kelsey Dean, senior investigator at Coinbase, said they felt supported and had been given opportunities to grow and develop.

The comments came during the latest in the Chainalysis monthly series ‘Women in Crypto’, when Chainalysis’s head manager of US investigation, Beth Bisbee, interviewed three other female investigators from the crypto ecosystem.

Even though crypto, tech and the financial services have all developed a reputation for being something of a boy’s club, the panellists said that overall they have had positive experiences in the industry.

While the investigators agreed that there were still too few women in cryptocurrency, overall, they felt supported and felt that they had been provided with ample opportunities to grow and develop.

Both Bisbee and Matechik did, however, raise the issue that they would sometimes be the only woman in a meeting. This, Bisbee said, was a striking difference upon entering into the private sector.

Gender discrepancy

According to data compiled by Acorn in 2021, twice as many men invest in cryptocurrency as women. Such gender discrepancy equals or indeed exceeds the imbalances which more traditional investment routes are plagued with.

Research undertaken by Quartz in 2018 showed that blockchain companies founded by all-male groups made up almost 85% of the total, while crypto firms founded by groups consisting solely of women accounted for just 0.3% of the total. Similarly, according to Quartz, between 2012 to 2018, 93% of professional investors in crypto were men. Research by Forbes listed the top 19 wealthiest people in crypto, all of them men.

This imbalance, however, does appear to be changing more recently. The bitcoin fund operator Grayscale, in a study undertaken at the end of 2019, found that 43% of interested bitcoin investors are women. Bithumb Global, a crypto exchange, also reported a 30% growth in the number of its female users in 2020.

But while the proportion of female crypto investors, female founders and female crypto employees is still too low, the panel agreed, the consensus among the panellists was that this pattern appears to be changing. Women, as highlighted by the existence of the roundtable in the first instance, are being recognised more for their work in the arena.

All the panellists cited the importance of having female mentors and role models in order to have something to aspire towards.

Bitcoins and $100 bills pegged on a line
Money laundering concept. Yellow clothes peg hold Bitcoin and one hundred dollar banknotes – Photo: Shutterstock

Diversity of background

The investigators agreed that when hiring in the crypto space, diversity is what makes a great investigative team.

With the meteoric rise of cryptocurrency, demand for investigators who understand the intricacies of blockchain technology has also surged.

Crypto is revolutionary in the way it has reimagined a financial space where there are no barriers to entry – and users, in a world of increasing surveillance – are given privacy around activities. Unfortunately, such features are both a blessing and a curse.

Such qualities, while no doubt attractive to law-abiding citizens, are doubly attractive to criminals. Be it money laundering, investment fraud or ransomware, crypto offers criminals a myriad of ways to commit crimes and escape detection.

However, the panellists agreed that an analytical mind and a tenacity for new information is of greater value than technical understanding. While the latter can be taught, the former cannot, they said.

Matechik highlighted the importance of ‘diverse experiences and perspectives’ while Melanie Lefebvre, a financial crime consultant, cited the importance of employees being from different backgrounds and cultures.

Changing landscape

Given the fact the crypto landscape is constantly changing, and new strategies are being employed by criminals to escape detection, individuals who are curious and open-minded are of immense value, the panel agreed.

As endlessly new types of coins emerge and constantly new tactics, such as ‘chainhopping’ and ‘tumbling’, are employed by criminals to escape detection from law enforcement agencies, the need for individuals who can track and trace suspicious activity and catch criminals, is more important than ever.

These investigators work with crypto exchanges, law enforcement agencies and other crypto businesses to track and trace suspicious transactions in both a proactive and reactive way. Because criminals are constantly finding new ways to ensure anonymity, investigators must also have their finger on the pulse of new tech innovations in the crypto space.

The panellists discussed the wealth of information available to anyone interested in understanding more about the technology.

Unlike the traditional finance sector, which is arguably extremely opaque, crypto, because it is at a comparably embryonic stage, and due to its naturally transparent nature, is much more accessible. While the actual holders of wallets are anonymous, the transactions and the way the money moves is public.

An illustration showing a woman with a giant magnet, attracting bitcoins
Woman collecting bitcoin – Female person with magnet attracting crypto currency. Investing in bitcoin metaphor – Illustration: Shutterstock

Lefebvre mentioned YouTube, Bitcoin for Dummies and Chainalysis as good resources, while Bisbee noted how she found Bitcoin meet-ups useful.

The wealth of information, available to all who have an appetite for it, renders crypto more inclusive and democratic than other more traditional forms of investment. While regulation is in part responsible for making the financial industries opaque, the lack of information has enabled it to remain somewhat in the remit of the elite.

Future of crypto

Wrapping up the talk, the speakers discussed briefly their optimism for the future of crypto.

They cited the value of crypto for emerging economies, giving the unbanked access to financial empowerment.

Dean discussed how she believed that while “crypto is here to stay”, the “way people interact with it” will be different as “more layers” are created. In short, as the industry expands and ingratiates itself into our way of living, blockchain technology will become more abstract.

Lefebvre suggested that while crypto as a digital currency may not take root, decentralisation and blockchain technology will be sure to become a bedrock of many industries.

Further reading

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