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Women in Weed: Breaking the Grass Ceiling or Business as Usual?

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Women in Weed: Breaking the Grass Ceiling or Business as Usual?

women in the cannabis industry | women and weed

It’s been a wild ride in regulated cannabis these past few years. Who’s surprisingly close to the front of the pack in such an exciting and transgressive market, you ask? Women. Women in the cannabis industry have a big impact on legal weed markets. According to a July 2019 Marijuana Business Daily (MJ Biz Daily) article, nearly 37% of executive-level positions in cannabis were held by women. There are also books, magazines and even a documentary specifically about women in weed. While it seems there is a ton to be hopeful for as a woman entering the cannabis industry, some say we still have a long way to go for equal representation and ownership for women in weed. 

History of Women In Business

Women were only federally allowed to own a business as of the late nineteen-eighties. 1988 to be exact. On Oct 25th, 1988 The Women’s Business Ownership Act granted women the right to own businesses for the first time. That’s just over 30 years ago.

Seems archaic, doesn’t it? But, it’s true. 

Now, women make up a significant portion of executives in business across sectors, though primarily in industries like health/beauty, wellness and lifestyle. A 2018 American Express sponsored study further showed that women held an impressive 40% stake in business ownership as a whole.

Yet despite these high percentages and the record-high number of women Fortune 500 CEOs reported in 2020, there is still only 1 company led by a woman to every 13 run by a man. This proves a common theory by some women in cannabis: that the higher you go on the corporate ladder, the more significant you notice a gender gap. 

History of Women in Cannabis 

Some say that the landscape remains as fertile grounds for women in business and ownership opportunities as it is for anyone trying to make their way in cannabis. It’s important to note that while 37% is an impressive stake for women in a singular market, MJBiz Con’s study also shows this number fluctuating over the preceding years. 

“We are now half a decade into cannabis legalization in some states and the landscape for women has been rapidly changing. As legalization sweeps the nation, the good old ways of doing business creep in”, said Lisa Snyder, Co-Founder of Tokeativity and Haus of Jane, a national women-in-cannabis, hemp and CBD networking event series similar to CannaCon. 

Part of the “good ol” ways of doing business may include workplace gender discrimination, sexual assault and cases of #metoo. Women like Livie Smalls are standing up against violence within the cannabis industry, but there remains work to be done. For women in cannabis, sexual assault is still an all too common threat. 

A recent study among women in cannabis revealed that of those who were sexually harassed while working at a cannabis company, only nine percent (9%) reported the incidents to human resources. This clearly indicates that their workplaces didn’t facilitate environments where employees felt safe speaking out.

Women in Weed Join Forces

It’s no secret that a massive weapon against the patriarchy is organizing. Luckily there are groups and organizations operating for that very purpose. “A nurse, marketing pro, farmer, attorney, product maker…they all have something valuable to contribute to the industry that impacts all other verticals. There is so much value in each woman’s insight – whether it’s her professional expertise or history in cannabis – everyone’s contribution is needed to grow our industry and ensure that the women of the industry are kicking ass!”, said Kyra Reed, Co-Founder of Haus of Jane networking series, Founder of Women Empowered in Cannabis (WEiC), a private Facebook networking group for women in cannabis with over 6k members told CannaCon.

Overall, a common concern for women in cannabis is that they still lack the capital to grow businesses that can participate on a large scale. Women also report that support for working in cannabis is very narrow for women. There are thousands of small businesses and startups, but there needs to be more capital, support and professional resources behind them if they are going to survive long term. 

Groups like WEiC and Tokeativity provide platforms to not only discuss issues affecting women working in cannabis but also to network and share their resources.

Food For Thought 

We don’t have a crystal ball or any way to tell what the future holds for women of cannabis. But, o-Founder of Tokeativity, Samatha Montanaro’s thoughts resonate so we’ll leave you with them.“The cannabis industry is small and very difficult to survive in no matter what gender you are. Focus on your WHY, focus on your mission, put one foot in front of the other and don’t waste your time judging what others are choosing to do in the moment. Focus on getting clarity about what you need and want, and you will find that you will attract others who want and need things that work with your mission. The universe will support those who focus their energy in a positive direction”, she told us. Follow along with CannaCon for updates and more information on women in weed! 

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