The cannabis industry has the reputation for being progressive, though there is no doubt it’s still heavily being operated by white males.
Data shows that women consume significantly more cannabis than men. It isn’t surprising, considering that women are plagued by much more stress these days: parenthood in general, being the breadwinner, managing the household, pregnancy, child-rearing, career growth, and so much more. On top of that, women also suffer from anxiety as well as gender-specific conditions including endometriosis, dysmenorrhea, menopause, and much more — all of which cannabis has been proven to help with.
Market research firm Brightfield Group released data in 2021 revealing that women make up 59% of new cannabis consumers. The data also showed that women tend to be of younger age, and consume more than men. Meanwhile, they also found that the market share of women continued to rise gradually in 2020.
“The future of cannabis is female,” said Bethany Gomez, Brightfield Group’s managing director. “An order of magnitude or more.” Gomez explained that because of changing public attitudes together with more sophisticated packaging and design, women are increasingly becoming attracted to cannabis. “It’s more acceptable, more compact and packaged in a way that’s more feminine,” she said. But why aren’t more women working in cannabis?
The cannabis industry has the reputation for being progressive, though there is no doubt it’s still heavily being operated by white males. Having said that, you will find many strong women in cannabis who are excellent examples of entrepreneurship and leadership rolled into one.
Back in 2017, Marijuana Business Daily published a report called “Women & Minorities in the Marijuana Industry.” It detailed that 37% of individuals in executive roles in the industry back then were women. The sad news is that this number has declined to 22%. Though these figures similarly reflect what is going on in other industries, many have been disappointed that the cannabis industry isn’t doing better.
According to MJBiz, one of the reasons why the numbers of women (and minorities) in the higher ranks decrease is because white men came into the picture and provided “established access to capital” so that companies could grow faster. Additionally, executives from mainstream industries also chose to join the cannabis industry, resulting in the white male’s quicker rise to power.
“Social equity initiatives and cannabis legalization are now intertwined, but there is still no magic bullet to improve the landscape,” said MJBizDaily report editor Jenel Stelton-Holtmeier. “It is encouraging, however, to see new markets wanting to improve upon the programs that came before and older markets attempting to fill the gaps that still exist.”
“Few states provide robust data concerning ownership demographics, and those that do, provide data based on different classifications. As a result, MJBizDaily’s data team extracted a sample of data from select markets to provide a snapshot across the industry,” the report read.
Stelton-Holtmeier did say that since the first report in 2017, there have been some notable improvement such as the fact that people with previous drug convictions are no longer penalized; in the past, this was a major barrier for them to own a cannabis business.
It’s obvious that there needs to be more women in the rooms where big decisions on cannabis business are being made. Yet women are still criticized and stigmatized for choosing to focus on their careers, and the stigma gets even worse when women decide to prioritize a business regarding what is still a Schedule 1 substance in the United States. Women are required to have thick skin to navigate a male-led industry, having to hear ruthless comments about the career path you’ve chosen as you try and get one foot in the door.
Because of this, many women are hesitant to associate themselves with THC products, and you’ll find many women in CBD instead. But that doesn’t mean that the opportunities are limited — you just need to know how to find them and break the glass ceiling.
Women have been able to enter the cannabis industry through several channels especially in dispensaries, wellness, cultivation, cooking, and writing. But that isn’t where it ends, yet women still need the support of other women and have the peace of mind knowing that there is adequate business for everyone in the room.
The good news is that while there is room for improvement, things are changing in this aspect.
Closing The Gender Gap
It’s critical and essential for the cannabis industry to be inclusive, diverse, and equal.
There should be a plan in every cannabis company to ensure diversity all the way from leadership down to product. In every industry, women continuously have to do the work and fight for equality while having time for family at the end of the day. No one has time for it all but women have to prioritize what’s important to them.
For any cannabis business selling a product or service, remember that all types of diversity should be available. Everyone you are selling to must be represented — companies should avoid forcing diversity for aesthetic.
The gender gap can be closed in many aspects within the cannabis industry especially when it comes to capital access, board representation, C-suite representation, equity ownership, and of course, equal pay. There is still much more room for improvement in all of these areas for both business owners as well as employees who want to further their careers in cannabis.
We can start with pouring more money towards research designed to track changes in gender parity. It’s also critical for women in all levels to have improved access to mentorship. These are among many changes that can be done across all levels to improve equality and access for women in the cannabis industry.
It’s important because women can provide tremendous value to the cannabis industry; it’s no secret that women improve company culture thanks to their intuition, intelligence, empathy, and communication skills. When you put female leaders in cannabis businesses, it can only do more good.