Why Isn’t The Cannabis Industry More Women-Friendly?
Massive growth in the cannabis industry should mean that there’s lots of opportunity for entrepreneurs, right?
Well, not enough women, and that seems to be a problem.
A 2017 report by Marijuana Business Daily points out that just 27% of executive positions in the cannabis industry were occupied by women. However, that is somehow better than the 21% of female executives in traditional business.
A new report by Vangst, a female-led staffing firm specializing in cannabis, sadly reveals that we aren’t doing much better today. They polled 166 cannabis businesses located in 17 states around the country, and among the participants, 378.5% of the employees reported to be females.
The figures represent a much higher figure compared to other industries such as construction, which has 9.9% female participation, 20% in tech, 25% in agriculture, and 26% in beverages and tobacco. However, female participation in the cannabis industry is significantly lower than in real estate where 49.9% of the top roles are led by women, as well as in education where it’s at 68%. What’s alarming is that over 12% of the 166 companies didn’t have any female Director of Executives, and more than 41% of them just had one woman in this category.
“One shocking takeaway is that 74 percent of the companies we surveyed have 10 or fewer female-identifying employees,” says the report. “Although 44 percent of the surveyed companies have 10 or fewer total employees, there is still much more room at the table for female-identifying individuals to step in and take charge, particularly in leadership roles.”
Cannabis culture seems to be so deeply ingrained still, even today, in stoner stereotypes. This limits professional growth for women, restricting them to using sexist means to tempt men – often found in many cannabis branding materials today. This is a serious impediment for women who want to get to the top in the cannabis industry.
The Problems and Opportunities Creating Gender Equality In The Cannabis Space
It’s difficult, but the opportunity to create gender equality in the cannabis space is possible. If we succeed in doing so, this can be a catalyst for change to follow in other industries. Establishing a new, female-led leadership that relies heavily on skills instead of confidence can help shatter the glass ceiling.
One huge issue affecting women is that they are still plagued by sexual harassment and sexism. It’s not uncommon for women who are already succeeding in the cannabis space to face harassment as well as discrimination on the job.
A survey conducted by Boss Ladies of Cannabis (BLOC) asked female cannabis workers about their experiences on the matter, and encouraged them to share how their companies address these issues. According to the data from 156 women, even if cannabis has a progressive reputation, sexism is still very much alive. Fifty-three percent of respondents admitted that they suffered from harassment in the workplace, while 46% said that they specifically encountered sexual harassment. Meanwhile, 60% of them said that their companies have sexual harassment policies in place yet just 30% of them were given training on the issue.
What’s even more worrisome is out of the women who reported being sexually abused, just 9% of them discussed the issue with their human resources. This is a clear indication that their workplace environment wasn’t safe enough for them to speak out about it.
An effective way of dealing with this issue would be to implement laws, such as those in certain communities which reserve some cannabis licenses for women, as well as minority-owned businesses. Another way to help would be for organizations to conduct skills training, such as helping women (and other minorities) learn how to write business plans particularly if they want to make the shift from the black market to the legal cannabis market. Mentorship would also be good.
All over the world, women are responsible for driving a majority of consumer purchases because of influence and buying power. If a brand wants to succeed in cannabis, an industry where women still have the role of gatekeepers, it would be in their best interest to promote gender equality in their marketing material and ethos from the very start instead of working to correct it later on.