It’s easy to blame gender inequality on society and the status quo, but women are not going to change anything in the male-dominated industry until women demand it in real-time.
Many women around the world were raised to believe “this is a man’s world.” And, to a certain extent, that was the case back then. But as society progresses, we have come to understand that men and women should — and need to be — equal, both in and outside the workplace.
However, challenges are far from behind us: women still endure challenging work-related situations, get little recognition and support from peers, and are often faced with high hurdles when it comes to professional growth. And much of this goes unspoken.
Thus, the question remains: How can we ensure that things change?
Information Is Key
Gender equality information brings awareness to how many of these women still live daily. Keeping the conversation open gives hope that the invisible workplace struggle can be transformed, and eventually disappear.
Although many positive advancements have occurred in the past decade, racial and gender diversity in the marijuana industry is still lagging.
Last year, the overall proportion of women in senior-level executive positions globally was 29%.
In the cannabis industry, a report from 2019 revealed that the number stood around 37%. A bit more promising, however, this survey was only based on 81 self-identified marijuana industry professionals and excluded data from respondents whose legal standing was unclear in any manner up to 2019. The real number seems to be lower.
This article is dedicated to all the wonderful women in the cannabis industry who decided to help other women during one of the most challenging years in this lifetime: 2020.
COVID-19 Set Equality Back
“COVID-19 has deepened preexisting divides, vulnerabilities and inequalities, as well as opened up new fractures, including fault lines in human rights,” said the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres in a recent statement. “Gender equality has been set back years.”
Throughout the pandemic, women have lost jobs at a disproportionate rate, many obliged to leave their professional activities to take on increased domestic burdens. This has resulted in greater poverty numbers, lower incomes, a lingering wage gap, and a lifetime of limited access to opportunities, resources, and labor protections.
Yet, the pandemic has also made the strength and effectiveness of many women in leadership positions shine. One such lady is famed cannabis advocate Mara Gordon.
“Women are the decision-makers in most households when it comes to healthcare, beauty and nutrition. As a result, they are already the subject-matter experts well-positioned to lead before stepping into the boardroom. Getting women to believe in their own power — and to act on it — that is the challenge,” she said. “Women must be their own biggest fans, and must convey their confidence to others.”
It is easy to blame it on society and the status quo, but women are not going to change anything in the male-dominated industry until women demand it in real-time.
The Boys’ Club
Men are recruited far more than women for top jobs despite efforts to bridge the gender gap. According to the Financial Times, just 5% of top jobs at big companies are held by women.
This is why the first step is to keep the conversation going. This is where our brave interviewees come in.
Many women in the cannabis industry say they have dealt with being patronized, downplayed and even considered to be annoying just for stating their own opinions.
“Before legalization, women played supporting roles in the home for the growers who were out doing the work all day. There were female trimmers, of course, those stories of women needing to trim topless — those aren’t fake. That was very real,” highlighted Jackie Bryant, a freelance journalist.
A recent Yale study found that males with more power due to seniority spoke more than their junior colleagues. Yet, for females, power was not linked to significantly more speaking time or attention.
In fact, the study explains that, when male executives spoke more often, they would get 10% higher competence ratings. But, when female executives spoke more, both women and men criticized them, leading to 14% lower ratings.
“It often feels like the industry is designed for males by males in the way products are designed, produced and marketed, which can feel one-dimensional and exclusive,” said Katie Bajcar, director of marketing at Spherex.
She admitted: “I often feel like it’s me versus the “big boys.”
Brittany Carbone, founder and CEO of Tonic Vibes added, “Having my hands in all parts of the industry, including cultivation and processing, I see a lot of condescension and predatory tactics.”
“You see it more in the trade show and industrial scene, where finance or real estate bros who are just cashing in on cannabis hang out. The level of ‘mansplaining’ and pressuring into a deal because you’ll never find anything better is classic negging.”
Not All Is Looking Down
Despite the disheartening stats, Jackee Stang, founder and CEO of psychedelics company Delic, feels optimistic.
“I experience a lot less mansplaining these days, but I am certainly more aware that it’s happening when it does happen,” she said.
“While I have zero stomach for mansplaining, I am much more likely to make fun of it openly while it’s happening as opposed to silently detesting it. Sexism is so ingrained into our culture that men are likely not aware they’re being sexist half the time. So our job is to make them aware. And hopefully with some humor.”
Needing More Women Representation
Recognizing the progress, Ellen Mellody of MATTIO Communications, argues there’s still a lot to be done.
“Industrywide female participation is still skewed, and overall the progress is slow. Many of us who perform executive roles in traditionally male-dominated workplaces like cannabis are forced to regularly confront our own unique set of challenges,” she voiced.
“As we celebrate all of the female disruptors who have worked so hard to create this industry and movement, we must also continue to break down barriers by stepping up and serving as mentors to young women entering the workforce.”
And it’s up to us, women, to lead the charge.
Nishi Whiteley, Credo Science co-founder concluded, “It is incumbent upon those of us with more professional experience and in leadership roles to provide guidance and mentorship to those around us. Women who help cultivate the professional and leadership development of other women make the industry better for all people and our stakeholders.