With over 73,000 Twitter followers, Monica Taher is an influential thought leader focused on personal finance, fashion, and entrepreneurship who is passionate about empowering women in El Salvador and internationally through Bitcoin.
As a native of San Salvador and an advisor on technology and economic international affairs for the Secretariat of Commercial Investments of El Salvador, Taher has played an important role in guiding her country to lead the world in the adoption of Bitcoin. . In this exclusive interview for Bitcoin Magazine, she shared her thoughts on the big picture of bitcoin adoption specifically for women in El Salvador, as well as around the world.
What cultural barriers prevent women from thriving in the Bitcoin space?
If you look at the numbers in the US in the tech ecosystem, only 24% of those people are women, so it’s just a consequence that we’re going to have similar numbers for Bitcoin.
For us in El Salvador and any other Latin American society, we also have another factor that prevents women from competing on the same level as men: male chauvinism. It exists, we cannot deny it. It is very difficult to enter a field traditionally dominated by men because we are also talking about the financial and banking sectors, which are dominated by men. If you add the fact that there are fewer women on [corporate] advice here in El Salvador, I think it’s just a reflection of what we see in technology in general.
Author’s note: “Machismo” is a very loaded word in Latin American culture and not just the Latin equivalent of the American idea of machismo. His origins can be linked to the concepts that knights were believed to possess as the feudal system gave way to the Renaissance. Although the concept of machismo did not begin as a negative characteristic for a man, it has achieved an almost purely negative connotation in modern Latin American culture. As such, machismo represents “everything that is wrong with a man», according to some contemporary studies, particularly on violence, recklessness and misogyny.
What does a financially empowered woman look like in Latin America?
Because we are talking about money and not just bitcoin, the ideal scenario for a woman in Latin America would look like a woman who is very well educated about her personal finances. Not only does she have an academic background, but she also starts investing from a young age. We grow up with parents who tell us “you should save”, but they don’t teach us how or in which financial vehicles. We don’t get that kind of education in elementary school, where it should start.
For a society to empower women, there must be reform in financial education where everyone learns to save and invest in the real world. Schools prepare people to fail in society or just to be employees instead of teaching how to be entrepreneurs. Instead of teaching us how to have a nine-to-five job, they should be teaching students how to run a business. This is what an empowered woman in Latin America would look like to me. More entrepreneurs, bolder women to start a business, who have the ability to access capital and the tools to create wealth.
How can Bitcoin help make this vision a reality?
70% of the Salvadoran population does not have a bank account, which is huge. Of the 70%, the majority happen to be women. How can Bitcoin help them in El Salvador?
First, they will have access to digital money because everyone has a phone here. You can be very poor in El Salvador and still own a phone because many are receiving funds and everyone wants to be online. Data shows that a large percentage of the population owns two phones because it is very easy to buy mobile chips if you have a cell phone number in Latin America.
Second, they will have access to greater purchasing power. A person who sends a transfer, let’s say, will not pay any additional fees because they will be using the Chivo wallet. And I won’t pay any fees either, as I will also be using the Chivo Wallet.
Author’s note: There is a growing variety of Lightning wallets in addition to the state-sponsored Chivo wallet that Salvadorans can use to avoid fees when sending/receiving money from abroad.
So there, to send $200, they will save $10 to $15. It’s money for them! Everyone wants to save. Even if it’s $1 or $5, they want to save. So it’s something else, more purchasing power.
Third, bitcoin opens the door to lower interest rates if they want to get a loan. Currently, if you want to buy a house in El Salvador, the interest rates vary between 12% and 15%, which is ridiculous. A lot of people can’t buy houses because of this. On top of that you have to give the down payment and sometimes you don’t have enough assets to show that you can back up that investment so they don’t give you the loan. Some companies offer loans secured by bitcoins and offer interest rates as low as 2%. What rate will you take if your options are 12% or 2%? Two percent, of course! Access to housing gives you access to many other things because now you own a home and can work towards a better life.
The fourth point is that Bitcoin really shows and teaches how to save and how to invest. You can go around the corner and buy coffee with bitcoin, but at the same time you can save that $5-10 because you’re thinking, “Oh my God, this stuff [bitcoin] will go up [in value].” You are bound to save in a certain way and it teaches people to do so. So there are a lot of advantages. Bitcoin will change society, I am absolutely convinced of that.”
What is your message to Bitcoin Latinas as they begin their journey?
Certainly to learn. We see what is happening with academia, the status quo is changing. This means that now you may not really need to do the four years to get your bachelor’s degree because you can do it online at any institution. There are many platforms that can help you get hired and start earning big money as a programmer or developer. What I would say to women is to educate themselves definitely. It doesn’t matter if they’re doing it online because they want to save money and don’t want to go to four-year college. Just learn about the careers of the future, because that’s what will help them have a bigger and more powerful future.
How can social media play a role in educating women about Bitcoin?
I’m pretty vocal on social media, and I really think more women should too. The more women start talking about Bitcoin on social media, the more followers they will have because women will be intrigued by the fact that these women are talking about Bitcoin. And then it’s going to be a chain reaction, a domino effect, more and more women are going to join. Even if it’s just virtual, at least they’re going to educate themselves because they’re going to start watching videos and reading comments and putting two and two together. I really think social media gives us an amazing platform to amplify those messages and all women should do that.
As Tehar makes clear, although Latin American women face unique barriers on their path to leadership in technology and business, they can leverage the benefits of Bitcoin to break down those barriers and usher in a new era of equality in fields traditionally dominated by men. The power of education cannot be underestimated, as education can create a bright future for girls growing up in Latin America and beyond. And with accessibility to learning via technology at a level unprecedented in history, that future is within reach.
As El Salvador continues to lead the world in bitcoin adoption, Taher will continue to pave the way for Salvadorans and Latinos of all kinds to thrive on the bitcoin standard.
This is a guest post by Josh Doña. The opinions expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Inc or Bitcoin Magazine.