JENNIFER DRAKE – CO-CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER, AYR WELLNESS
What is your proudest accomplishment in the cannabis industry?
Let me start by saying that there are very few businesses that are harder to operate in than the legal cannabis business, but the opportunity in this space is unmatched. With that in mind, I am most proud of the amazing team I’ve built at Ayr. I love identifying talent and putting those individuals in positions to succeed, and because legal cannabis is such a new industry, I often get the opportunity to give people chances in this space that they wouldn’t have had in other industries.
Do you feel that the cannabis industry has more opportunity for female-identifying people than other industries?
With the cannabis industry being a relatively new space, it has the tools to create greater opportunities for underrepresented groups. It’s important to never take that for granted, as we need to work actively every day to cultivate and uphold that environment. As long as we keep that top of mind, we’ll be able to maintain that kind of positive internal growth.
Do you feel you have to work twice as hard as male colleagues or do you think the industry has moved past that?
Absolutely. I wish it weren’t the case, but it’s just a fact that women have to work twice as hard as men, just to be seen as three-quarters as good. That’s not a cannabis issue – it’s a broader cultural issue in our world. While I do feel society is moving in the right direction, we just aren’t there yet. As more women thrive in leadership roles and more people begin to associate the idea of leadership with a woman, we will gain more opportunities to advance society along those lines.
What was your biggest challenge in business and how did you overcome it?
I come from Dayton, Ohio, raised by two schoolteachers and the youngest of four children. So I was never really exposed to the business world, and frankly knew nothing about it when I started my career out of college. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have really good mentors who have helped me through so many learning curves and challenges throughout my career.
What have you or your company done to help provide more opportunity for women?
We have made it a point of priority to develop infrastructure internally for women to have support systems, and by extension help them to thrive in their roles. One key example is our Employee Resource Groups, which are designed to raise awareness and support more inclusive processes over time. We’ve also made a conscious effort to hire women in key positions, including our Chief People Officer, heads of retail in key markets, and other leadership roles.
What are your personal goals for 2022?
Last year in 2021, we made some key hires and investments into our Corporate Social Responsibility and People functions, and hired really strong individuals to lead those areas. One of my key goals for 2022 is to take those investments and leverage them into industry-leading CSR and People programs, and to continue to develop one of the best company cultures in the United States.