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NFT ‘bro culture’ is missing a huge opportunity by excluding women

By Jennifer DaSilva | President

March 31, 2022 | 9 min read

To a significant degree, women are currently being sidelined from the growing conversation about NFTs and cryptocurrency. Here’s how brands and the larger web3 community can start to change that – and why they should start right now.

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Women are often ignored by NFT campaign marketers / Adobe Stock

Earlier this year, my agency Berlin Cameron worked on a non-fungible token (NFT) campaign with Under Armour, along with one of the NBA’s most recognizable players: Steph Curry of the Golden State Warriors. The NFT campaign was designed to commemorate Curry’s breaking of the NBA’s three-point record: we ended up selling 2,974 NFT copies, one for each of the three-point shots he’d made up to that point in his professional career, and we changed the metaverse for good with the introduction of the “first wearable cross-platform metaverse sneaker.”

Working on that campaign sparked my personal interest in NFTs. As I started to dive into the NFT market (and even purchased my first token), I was surprised by how blatantly geared towards men the marketing of NFTs and the metaverse appeared to be.

I also realized that most of the smart, successful women in my life weren’t learning about or investing in NFTs because they either didn’t know where to begin or they were skeptical about the hype. And within my agency, all of the NFT-related projects that we were being asked to think about were being targeted towards men. Maybe it shouldn’t have come as such a shock that the NFT market is dominated by men, both on the supply and demand end of things, considering women have always struggled to find equal footing in the technology and investment industries.

All of this made me wonder why women seemed to be left out of the conversation about NFTs. So my agency, along with Luminary, recently partnered with Perksy to survey 500 women across the US in an effort to understand their thoughts surrounding NFTs and their potential investment value (or lack thereof).

We found that women do, in general, feel excluded from the NFT and cryptocurrency market – mostly due to what they perceive as a lack of education. 82% of the women surveyed said that brands disproportionately target their NFT campaigns towards men. Only 21% of respondents considered NFTs to be a valuable investment, 35% didn’t understand what NFTs are, and 36% didn’t trust cryptocurrency enough to become involved with the NFT market.

The survey also suggests that the relative lack of participation from women in the NFT market isn’t totally due to a lack of interest. The majority of women (56%) would be more interested in the space and would consider purchasing a NFT if the project was launched by a brand they trusted. A large number of participants (38%) also said they would feel more interested in NFT projects that supported charitable causes – particularly causes that support women (45%).

The good news is that there’s currently an opportunity for brands to include women in this space now while it’s still in its early stages. (Previous tech ‘booms’ missed this boat entirely.) With ramped-up education, awareness and opportunities for early access, the NFT market has a chance to engender real equity.

With the research at my fingertips, I wanted to dive even deeper. So I chatted with a number of leaders in the web3 space to see how we can level the playing field. Here were the main takeaways:

Reframe how women invest and take risks. “The CEO of Curious Addys’, Mai Akiyoshi, shared a great perspective with me about how women aren’t risk averse – we’re risk aware,” says Allyson Downey, co-founder of the NFT community Meta Angels. “We want to understand what we’re buying into before putting money in, and today the NFT space is incredibly opaque and jargon-gated and unintuitive. I see more education as key.”

NFTs are opening a new window of creative exploration. “My curiosity is less related to seeing NFTs as an investment and more about seeing them as a new market for art and creativity to be explored, make [a] social impact and find new collectors,” says Rachel Wolfe-Goldsmith, founder of Wolfe Pack. “By creating high-quality work that is inherently valuable, I trust I’m creating something worth investing in, as with any art.”

Diversity in projects and voices must be a priority. “Marketers need to throw away gatekeeping terminology, use lighter color palettes and give off any kind of vibe that NFTs are for a demographic other than young men permanently sipping energy drinks,” says Geena Dunne, founder of the Honey Badges NFT. “The marketing and conversation around NFTs has to be created for diverse audiences by diverse voices. Show me someone like me in NFTs [and] let them explain it to me.”

The culture around NFTs needs to change. “I love crypto. I love NFTs. But the bro culture is so toxic. It is so unwelcoming for women, for LGBTQ [people] and for diverse founders. It is nasty. It is purposefully made confusing and difficult with acronyms that no one understands, with discord communities that are chaotic,” says Randi Zuckerberg, founder of the creator accelerator GroupHUG. “Our ethos has always been: how do we embrace creators, and how do you make them feel welcome and friendly and wanted in this space?”

Women can use NFTs to build community. “Other than a financial investment, NFTs are a way to invest in yourself and your community. After the pandemic, a lot of us want to feel connected,” says Shermin Lakha, founder and managing partner of LVLUP Legal. “I have been able to meet so many amazing people involved in the space because of our common values in learning, supporting creatives and financial investing. It is really an exciting time where everyone is opening themselves up to a new experience at the same time.”

Zuckerberg adds: “It’s really about a sense of belonging and finding your tribe, connecting with them and being part of a community. And when that clicked for me, the entire space clicked.”

Share information with one another. “Through our research we found that women are searching for information on podcasts and from their friends and secondarily through social media,” says Lakha. “Women should share the information they find with their other female friends and encourage them to get involved. I believe that it has always been up to us to make space so that we are included. And in the world of web3, I believe [that can be achieved] by encouraging and educating one another.”

Women want to make money off this wave too. Women’s History Month has seen an influx of NFT projects targeting women. Some of them are beautiful communities with smart roadmaps (such as Honey Badges), and some of them are innovating (such as MetaAngels’ NFT-lending technology). I have invested in many of these projects, but I’d love to see more focus on how women can make money from the NFT and crypto wave. I’m not looking for a quick flip, but I have no shame in admitting that I’m here to make a profit.

The key thing to bear in mind here is that NFTs are very new, which means that there are still tons of opportunities for brands to get women involved. Marketers are currently following the (largely male) schools of fish, failing to recognize the women who are there and ready to be engaged. This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to get in on the ground floor of a largely untapped market by educating women about NFTs and web3, building new communities, providing safety measures for the slightly sketchy current web3 world and supporting diverse NFT creators. The more voices we bring into this space, the more it will flourish.

Jennifer DaSilva, president, Berlin Cameron.

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