Women In Marijuana: The Good. The Bad. The Potential.

Women In Marijuana: The Good. The Bad. The Potential.

While the number of women in senior business leadership roles around the world hasn’t improved much in the last decade, there are increased opportunities for women in marijuana — though there is plenty of room to grow.

According to a recent report by Grant Thornton, the percentage of women in senior business leadership roles across the globe is a mere 25 percent. This represents an increase of one percent since 2016, and just six percent in the last 13 years.

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The highest areas of progress for women, according to Forbes, can be found in education and social services, where they comprise 41 percent of upper management. They also have slightly more success in the hospitality (33 percent) and food and beverage (27 percent) industries. In areas like technology, manufacturing, and transport (19 percent each), construction and real estate (18 percent), and mining and quarrying (12 percent), women have the smallest presence in leadership.

The percentage of women in marijuana leadership positions is encouraging

Not only are more and more women using marijuana these days, they also make up, on average, a higher percentage of leadership in the cannabis industry than women in other industries. According to a recent study, women hold 36 percent of executive positions in the marijuana industry — the third highest percentage among all industries in the nation.

Female executives hold 28 percent of the leadership roles in investments and 33 percent of the leadership roles in wholesale cultivation. They also comprise a growing number of executives in ancillary technology or products (35 percent), medical and recreational retailing (38 percent), and ancillary services (40 percent). Women hold nearly half (48 percent) of the leadership roles in processing and infusion, and a whopping 63 percent of those holding executive positions in cannabis testing labs are women.

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The legal cannabis industry is a brand new one, and it’s launching at a time when equal pay and equal opportunity are at the forefront of more minds than at, perhaps, any time in history. The current climate likely plays a significant role in the fact that, as industry experts point out, women have more opportunity to climb the ladder in the cannabis industry — and are climbing that ladder faster — than women in virtually every other industry.

With that said, however, there is still much room for improvement.

But there is still much ground to be gained for women in marijuana

As Entrepreneur notes, women in the cannabis industry are subject to some of the same “glass ceiling” issues they face elsewhere. Fewer than half of executive roles at two-thirds of cannabis businesses are held by women, and 25 percent of companies have no women working in management. There are no women among 36 percent of cannabis investors and firms, and in Canada, a mere 5 percent of board members at publicly traded marijuana companies are female.

What’s contributing the lack of women in these areas? A few things, say industry experts.

Some insiders argue a stigma surrounding the industry is causing talented people to pursue opportunities elsewhere. Others point out that top cannabis executives typically hail from male-dominated areas such as venture capital, investment banking, and mining.

"In the startup and finance sectors you've got this bro vibe going on," says Lisa Campbell, co-founder of a business incubator for women in the cannabis industry. "We find that it is kind of an old boys' club in a way, even though it's a very new industry."

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There is a unique opportunity for women in marijuana fields to get in on the ground floor of an emerging industry instead of having to struggle to move up within an existing one. Incubators like Campbell’s are among several groups and organizations that are helping women navigate the obstacles to leadership — and even entrepreneurship — in the cannabis industry.

Programs to cultivate females leaders in marijuana

LIV Advisors, which specializes in mentoring cannabis startups, interviews women in the industry on its podcast, and has published numerous videos on cannabis business formation, development, and taxes. The group regularly hosts meetups, and held a conference in Los Angeles in July featuring panel discussions on helping women in the cannabis industry become more assertive, get funding, negotiate sales, navigate legal issues, and succeed in the industry.

Women Grow, a national not-for-profit group founded in Denver in 2014, helps women become influencers in the cannabis industry. The Cannabist calls the organization’s annual summit “part TED Talk, part networking mixers and part reunion for women and equality-minded men working toward the legalization and commercialization of marijuana.”

Chanda Macias, head of the Women Grow’s D.C. chapter and owner of a dispensary, told attendees at this year’s event that cultivating diversity in the marijuana business is vital.

“We are the leaders – the minority leaders – in cannabis, and we make cannabis look good,” she said.