Bitcoin is having a pretty good week—rising more than 11% and breaking above $9,000 for the first time in more than a month. But for Bitcoin’s price to really take off, there’s a missing part of the equation that may hold the key.
While Bitcoin surged last year along with other cryptocurrencies, much of that more than 20-fold rise was driven by men. One analysis of Google searches found that 95% of people Googling “Bitcoin” were male, while only 5% were female. The trend seems to carry across to other cryptocurrencies such as Ethereum: According to another recent survey, just 4% of Ethereum traders are women.
“I feel like we’re missing out on this major opportunity to market to 51% of the population, to 60% of the wealth and to 80% of consumer spending,” says Meltem Demirors, founder of Athena Capital, referring to the world’s female population, who control the majority of American wealth and household spending.
“One of the things that really drew me to the cryptocurrency ecosystem early on in 2012, 2013, when I started getting involved in Bitcoin, was the fact that it was a true intellectual meritocracy,” Demirors says on the latest episode of “Balancing the Ledger,” Fortune’s show about the intersection of finance and technology. “And I think the question is, can we use our influence…to ensure that 51% of the world’s population isn’t missing out on this massive wealth-creation event.”
Although the price of Bitcoin has lost more than half of its value since peaking in December at nearly $20,000, the cryptocurrency has still made many investors wealthy. And while Demirors counts herself “fortunate” to have benefited from the boom, she and other advocates are disturbed by the possibility that Bitcoin’s growth may disproportionately enrich men.
Indeed, some of the loudest advocates of Bitcoin are male, from John Pfeffer of Pfeffer Capital, who is betting that Bitcoin’s price could one day reach $700,000, to venture capitalist Tim Draper, who predicted recently that Bitcoin would hit $250,000 by 2022.
Alexia Bonatsos, former co-editor of TechCrunch, meanwhile, implored on Twitter in January: “Women, consider crypto. Otherwise the men are going to get all the wealth again.”
The dearth of female cryptocurrency investors also means there is likely a lot of money sitting on the sidelines that could make Bitcoin’s price shoot higher if invested. Still, Demirors thinks the survey data underestimates the actual number of women who invest in Bitcoin; after all, the blockchain technology behind Bitcoin keeps users pseudonymous, meaning the names and genders of investors are hidden (other than to the operators of certain digital currency exchanges). That makes it virtually impossible to gather accurate statistics on women’s participation in Bitcoin.
“I do think there is more balance, it’s probably more 80-20,” says Demirors, who was also recently profiled in a Glamour magazine feature about the growing number of female executives transforming the cryptocurrency industry.
“We are shifting from just early adopters and tech-savvy people investing to now a broader audience investing,” she says. That also includes an increasing amount of women who may soon decide to buy Bitcoin. “And I think once we get to that point, the price will go to a point that is greater than where it’s at today,” says Demirors. “I’m very bullish. I’m a mega bull.”