Move over, lads, women want a piece of the green action—and they’re taking it.
According to a survey of 632 cannabis executives and professionals, women are in leadership positions in 63 percent of potency and safety testing labs and in nearly half of companies that make and sell edibles and other products. And this is just a start.
How does this compare with the gender ratio in other industries? Let us count the ways:
In tech startups, only nine percent are led by women; women fill 22 percent of senior management positions in mid-size U.S. companies; and only 5.4 percent of CEO jobs at Fortune 1000 companies, according to a 2015 Pew Research report.
So, why are women shattering the glass ceiling in the cannabis industry?
For starters, women’s ability to multitask and their tendency to be flexible come in handy in an industry where the rules and regulations are constantly changing, from state-to-state and from one election cycle to another.
Long before states began legalizing medical and recreational weed, studies suggested that men were more likely than women to consume cannabis. A study published by Columbia University confirmed that this is still true.
However, that and other studies have also shown women’s willingness to openly discuss marijuana has had a major impact on legalization.
Once marijuana’s medicinal powers for children began to gain international attention, women stepped up to the plate and demanded MMJ when they saw a need.
Kyndra Miller, a founding member of NORML’s Women’s Alliance, compared pot legalization to the 1920s when women banded together to end alcohol prohibition.
Neither alcohol, nor weed legalization, could be done without the full support of women, who make up slightly more than 50 percent of the voting population.
And now, with a new industry still in the making, women are taking the opportunity to break old traditions and work out the gender roles before their male counterparts pick up bad habits.
So far, women fill 36 percent of executive positions in U.S. cannabis companies that grow, test, sell and market pot products in this booming business, which is among the fastest growing in the country.
“It’s a new chance for many women who have been in the corporate world who couldn’t get to the next level,” said Becca Foster, an independent consultant with Healthy Headie.
“It’s not often that entire industries are born,” said Crystal Huish, an accountant and business consultant in the weed industry. “It’s an opportunity to break old traditions.”
And an opportunity for women to create more equitable rules.
Taylor West, deputy director of the National Cannabis Industry Association, notes that the industry is still new enough to not yet be influenced by insider, male-dominated networks.
“In long-established industries, you have generations of business that has been dominated by men, and that creates structures of advancement that are dominated by men,” West said in an interview with the Christian Science Monitor.
However, there’s still a ways to go.
In other areas of the cannabis industry, particularly cultivation and investment, women leaders are still in the minority. Despite data on female executives, some say there is still a glass ceiling.
“I don’t want to give the country a fallacy that there’s not a glass ceiling in the industry because there is,” said Greta Carter, an investor in 10 companies in Nevada and California that grow, process and sell cannabis.
She explained that women’s involvement in leadership positions tend to be in ancillary businesses, such as growing, packaging, marketing, advertising, design, law and accounting—rather than wholesale cultivation, which requires heavy capital investment and more risk tolerance.
Nevertheless, women’s involvement in ancillary businesses and testing labs is major progress—with the added benefit that these areas are the most profitable sectors in the industry. So, women are definitely well positioned.
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