“It’s important to have data about women’s experiences in cannabis because we need to have an understanding of the baseline of how women are experiencing working in this industry,” said Jennifer Whetzel of Ladyjane Branding when we caught up with her about the recent launch of the Women in Cannabis Study.
Whetzel, along with Wolfe Research & Consulting has taken on this ambitious longitudinal study that seeks to examine the experiences of women in cannabis across the globe. “Once we have a baseline, then we can figure out what we need to do to make this a more inclusive industry,” says Whetzel.
This study digs deep. From barriers to entry and success to the experiences of sexual harassment and discrimination, to whether they feel that cannabis is an equitable industry, this study seeks to blow all we know, and believe, about experiences of women in cannabis out of the water.
Much like a lot of the research in the cannabis industry, anecdotal data has ruled. In some ways, the lack of clinical research in cannabis has gotten us away from valuing qualitative data when looking for insights into particular issues in the cannabis industry.
“By asking these questions in a scientific way following established research methodology, then we can transform what would be viewed as an anecdote into data,” said Dr. Nicole Wolfe of Wolfe Research & Consulting, “We can then take that data, analyze it and present it in a way that provides real information and a real understanding of the landscape. That’s what is needed by business leaders, stakeholders, decision-makers and policymakers to create change, or motivate changes in behavior.”
The study leaders have a goal of collecting a minimum of 300 responses to start their official reporting and research dissemination strategy, having reached half that goal already (150 respondents), less than 10 days after the official launch. The overall goal is to collect over 1,000 responses. The study is set up to collect both quantitative and qualitative data that can be coded to provide more concrete data based on women’s stories and insights.
We asked Whetzel for a peek into some of the data that the study has collected so far. Here are some of their findings:
Treatment of Women of the Industry
Of the 150 respondents, 67% believe that women are not treated equitably in the cannabis industry, with 66% of respondents saying that they feel they are taken less seriously because they are a woman. 51% of respondents have experienced a lack of support or bullying within the cannabis industry. In particular, respondents identified a lack of support and bullying from other women as a specific concern. In Whetzel’s reflection on this data, she suggests that “maybe we need to learn better skills and how to work and live with compassion.”
Barriers to Entry
The study asked participants to identify the barriers to entry that they have identified when trying to break into the cannabis industry. “Being taken seriously” is the sentiment that is leading the barriers to entry pack, with “Obtaining resources and funding” coming up as a close second. In order, the other barriers to entry that were ranked include:
- Balancing personal and professional life
- Low pay
- Discrimination and lack of respect
- Finding the right position
- Fear of failure
Undervaluing Time and Efforts
It’s common for women in cannabis to undercharge or undervalue their time and contributions. In fact, 73% of the respondents say that undercharging or undervaluing their time has negatively impacted them professionally, and have identified the development of negotiation skills as a necessary tool for them to move forward professionally. Most women identified that having an industry mentor would be helpful for their development, but also identified that there is a lack of formalized programs or avenues for obtaining a mentor.
Identifying a Significant Gap
Among the things that have most surprised Whetzel and Wolfe is the overwhelming response from women who identify as White, with 70% identifying as heterosexual. “The majority of the respondents are white CEOs and business owners. That will not tell us the whole story,” says Whetzel. “We need at least a thousand surveys from a diverse audience so that we can drill down into the data to compare the experiences of women across marginalized communities.”
Marijuana Business Daily released its annual “Women and Minorities Report” earlier this year that indicated that at least 51% of the cannabis industry is owned and controlled by racial minorities. Whetzel recognizes that we need to capture these audiences as well, and hopes that the study will be adopted by BIPOC groups, the LGBTQ community, and other special interest and niche groups within the cannabis space.
The study is only just beginning. Considered “a living history”, the study will remain open until January 10, or until they have received the minimum number of respondents to begin reporting. At that time, the researchers will set a strategy for reaching more diverse audiences. The research dissemination strategy includes social media, thoughtfully produced videos, a quarterly report, and an annual report.
To participate in the study, visit: https://womenincannabis.study/
The study partners are also accepting sponsorships and partnerships to help this study move forward, collect more responses, and increase the budget for qualitative interviews. “We only budgeted for twenty-five qualitative interviews and so far a hundred have raised their hand asking to tell their story in more detail,” says Whetzel. “We need sponsors and supporters to help pay to interview, transcribe and analyze the data.”
Visit https://womenincannabis.study/ to get involved as a participant, study partner, or sponsor.
What are Whetzel’s hopes for this study? “By collecting data and creating knowledge on this topic, the study will help to determine the education, policies, procedures and actionable recommendations that can help make the industry a welcoming space for everyone.”
The goal is to repeat this study on an annual basis so that the researchers can track the progress of the initiatives to create change in the industry. Future plans include an examination of “allyship”, particularly how men support women’s growth and development within the industry.
Be a part of living history and be the change you want to see for women in the cannabis industry.