Perhaps it should come as no surprise that as cannabis enters the mainstream, it’s adopted some of its less attractive features. When Marijuana Business Daily published a survey of women execs in the industry last year, the results were less than hopeful.
According to the numbers, the percentage of women executives went from 36% to 27% between 2015 and 2016. Although it exceeds the national average (which isn’t saying much), it’s an unfortunate truth that women are losing their foothold in positions of power during a time of unprecedented prosperity.
Sexism and lack of finances are the primary (and usual) culprits — the latter being responsible for the former, of course. While it’s true that the grass ceiling extends higher than the glass one, the broader limitations of female oppression pose an increasing threat to women seeking real ownership within cannabis.
“We’re at a critical time where we have another round of funding coming in that could potentially exclude women and people of color who’ve been in the industry for years,” Windy Borman, director of Mary Janes: The Women of Weed, told EstroHaze. “They don’t typically have access to the funding. I think we have this opportunity in the cannabis industry to create a new way of doing business where we take care of people and the environment. We come from this place of social responsibility but if those businesses aren’t the ones that are getting funded, we could very quickly become the next tech industry, where it’s a bunch of white guys in hoodies.”
While speaking with her about the groundbreaking documentary, Borman told EstroHaze that the decrease in female senior leadership within cannabis occurred during the year of filming “Mary Janes.” She shared her thoughts on the downward trend.
“Part of that is the influx of other people coming in, but it also shows who has access to the funding to stay in the game. It would be sad to see women and people of color get pushed out of the industry because we have a new round of money coming in and things are based on that Old World paradigm, where old white guys give money to old white guys.”
Check out what Bloomberg had to say about women getting iced out of the biz:
“It’s not entirely clear why women occupy a shrinking share of leadership roles in the cannabis field. It’s expensive to obtain a license to grow, manufacture or sell weed products in many states where it’s legal. It’s also difficult, if not impossible, to obtain traditional banking services or financing for anything that touches the plant, because it’s still federally illegal. Those factors favor entrepreneurs with more money to start with, and that’s often men.”
“The growing interest from big-money investors from Silicon Valley and Wall Street may also give men an advantage. Academic research suggests that investors prefer business pitches presented by male entrepreneurs compared with pitches by female entrepreneurs, even when the pitch is the same. Start-ups run by women are usually questioned about potential losses, while those run by men are asked about potential gains, according to a study published earlier this year in the Harvard Business Review.”
Bloomberg’s coverage also shares some pretty demoralizing investor meeting anecdotes, such as one male investor telling a female ganjapreneur that her financial aspirations were “cute” and another being ordered to pull her curls back during a presentation to avoid being too “distracting.”
Mary & Main co-founder Hope Wiseman shared similar experiences with EstroHaze recently.
“When I walk into a room by myself and I’m representing our company, they immediately don’t take me seriously. Most of the time I have to prove myself,” America’s youngest Black dispensary owner confided. “I find that I have to look impeccable at all times, I can’t joke too much or laugh too much. I have to be very professional and that’s how I gain respect. Before we won the license, people took me less seriously. I felt like I was being treated like a little Black girl that wanted to open a weed shop, rather than a women who’s accomplished, educated, and capable of running a successful cannabis firm.”
Business is boomin’ and legal advancements are poised to make cannabis-related enterprises more lucrative than ever. Now, the big boys want to play – armed with oppressive tactics, and all. This does NOT mean it’s curtains for those of us who aim to succeed as leaders within cannabiz. We just have to play a little harder, and a lot smarter.
“In my opinion, the way we combat that is by educating the consumers,” Borman advises. “Most people who come to cannabis, nowadays, don’t fit the typical stoner dude image. They’re coming from a place of social responsibility or are seeking a health/wellness product. They want to find out more. If businesses can share their story and make the association to show these new consumers how cannabis can fit into their lifestyle, it will be really hard to compete with somebody who’s selling cannabis like it’s Coors Light. There are still people who don’t value things just because they’re quick easy and cheap. If we cultivate that education with the consumers I think the other businesses that have corporate responsibility can compete with those who are just in it for the money.”