Part 1 of 8 2018 Cannabis Trends: Female leadership on the rise.
They say the future is female, and there are few places where that is more apparent than in the cannabis industry. Once thought of as a male-dominated industry, women have quickly claimed their place as leaders in this burgeoning industry.
According to Marijuana Business Daily, women make up approximately 27% of C-Suite level positions in the cannabis industry, which doesn’t sound like much until you realize that the national average is only 23%. What is unsettling, is that in 2015 women held 36% of executive control. That is almost a 10% loss of leadership positioning in less than 3 years.
As the market matures, and continues to begin attracting more institutional capital, female entrepreneurs will have to work at keeping the industry a level playing field. And collectively, that is what the trends reveal that they are doing.
For women in cannabis, it has become a badge of honor to know that within their new burgeoning industry ready to take the globe by storm, they hold the largest percentage of ownership, management and control of any industry in the world for their gender. Therefore upon recognition of the possibility of losing that title, the women have begun to band together and work toward the goal of making cannabis the first industry in the world to achieve 50% female control.
When you drill down into specific segments of the cannabis industry, you start to see even more women in leadership positions.
For example, among cannabis dispensaries, women make up approximately 35% C-Suite level positions. That number rises even higher for ancillary cannabis brands, of which women comprise approximately 42% of executive level positions. Canadian medical cannabis company Tilray has the first female majority board of directors in the industry.
But the board room is not the only place in the cannabis industry where women are shining. Over the last few years, there has been a groundswell in the number of cannabis industry organizations made for and by women.
Perhaps the most well-known industry group for women in the cannabis industry is Women Grow. Founded in 2014 by cannabis personality Jane West, the group’s original goal was to help make the cannabis industry the first women-led billion dollar industry.
When initially launched, Women Grow was massively successful and soon dozens of chapters began sprouting up all across the country. But in recent years the organization has run into trouble; chapters have been closing and key leaders have left. Women Grow is currently in a transitional period. Hopes for a healthy, strong future have become possible for the organization with a new leadership team in place. However, the obstacles that Women Grow have faced has not stopped others from stepping in and helping to fill the void.
There are credible organizations that were created to help women in the cannabis industry in a general capacity, such as Ellementa, and Industry Power Women (IPW), that specifically bridge the gap between female entrepreneurs and the resources they require to succeed in business. Other organizations have been created to specifically help women of color, like Supernova Women and Women Abuv Ground.
In addition, women have come together and organized their efforts, creating groups that promote support, collaboration and solidarity. These networks are being forged through platforms like Facebook. The most popular one, Women Entrepreneurs in Cannabis, spearheaded by Kadin Academy and the creator of Cannabiz Connection, provides an exclusive environment for industry-specific discussions. Members of the network are approved for inclusion based on a set of criteria intended to keep the group focused and beneficial to women in cannabis business.
IPW has developed a multi-media production series in partnership with Benzinga and DCN Media titled the “Wonder Women of Weed.” This series highlights the most accomplished and exceptional women in the cannabis industry, and has been featured on Yahoo Finance, Entrepreneur, CNN Money and other mass media outlets. Furthermore, Entrepreneur Magazine’s new cannabis focused publication, Green Entrepreneur, now has a regular column titled “Women In Green.”
Conferences and events geared specifically towards connecting and advancing a sense of camaraderie among women in the cannabis industry have increased significantly since the beginning of 2018. Workshops such as those conducted by the Cannabis Women’s Empowerment Society are frequently conducted to help women navigate operation of all aspects in running a cannabis business.
Newer groups such as High Times Women’s Council of High Times Magazine host their popular Women of Weed event series. MJ Lifestyle Magazine, IPW and even the investor network Arcview Group are now hosting regular brunches centered specifically around women.
On the consumer side of the cannabis industry, women are also starting to take center stage. One survey by the Cannabis Consumers Coalition found that 53% of respondents were women, compared to 42% for men. Although the survey did not provide a complete snapshot of cannabis, it nonetheless underscores the growing importance of women as cannabis consumers.
This growing importance has also given rise to an explosion of women-centered cannabis brands. A great example is Garden Society, which offers low-dose, high-end edible cannabis products for women. There are also brands like Treat Yourself, Moxie Meds, Kikoko, Quim Rock, Mary Jane’s Medicinals, Strain Print, Baked at Home, and the list goes on. Perhaps the most famous cannabis brand for women is Whoopi Goldberg’s line of medical cannabis products designed to help provide relief from menstrual discomfort, Whoopi & Maya.
Not only are there a growing number of women-oriented cannabis brands, there’s also a huge uptick in the number of investment opportunities for women. Since its founding in 2011, Pipeline Angels has helped more than 50 female-owned companies raise more than $5 million. Other services, like Ellevest, help provide the tools and assistance for women to become the investors themselves.
According to Forbes, fewer than 6% of decision-makers at venture capital firms in the United States are women. In 2016, while male entrepreneurs received more than $58 billion in funding, female entrepreneurs received 1.46 billion, approximately 2.5% of what men received.
Within the cannabis industry, female investors such as Emily Paxhia, Tahira Rehmatullah and Vivien Azar lead the way in financing the best deals the space has to offer, while providing special attention to promising female entrepreneurs. Lori Ferrara, Gaynell Rogers and Lindy Snider have come together to form a fund specifically targeting women owned and operated cannabis businesses called Treehouse Global Ventures.
In the short-term, expect to see women take charge and become drivers in the cannabis industry. This is a trend that you can see in almost every aspect of the economy, but its presence is felt most in the cannabis space where there are fewer entrenched interests than in other industries. The long-term projection for women in the cannabis industry is more or less the same as the short term. Women will continue to grow their power and influence in the cannabis industry and will most likely achieve greater equality than in other sectors of the economy.