Photo Contributed by: Kyra Reed
Cannabis is quickly falling behind other industries in terms of inclusion and diversity.
In 2017 women held 37% of c-suite positions in the cannabis industry. Today, that number has dropped to 27%, a full point behind the national average.
Kyra Reed and members of the Women Employed in Cannabis community seek to stop this regression.
Reed, founder and CEO of Women Employed in Cannabis, recently created a petition on Change.com.
The purpose of the petition is to show that there is a disparity in the industry, and to encourage people to commit to pro-women and anti-racist practices.
For example, those who sign the petition pledge to uphold the four P’s. The four P’s stand for paying, promoting, partnering and protecting women in cannabis.
“These are four things that everyone can do to ensure that we have a more diverse, a more equitable and a more just industry,” Reed told Emerald.
The petition is a response to the deteriorating condition for women in the cannabis industry. In order for women to succeed, barriers that stand in their way must be dismantled, Reed said.
“If we all commit to in our lives paying, promoting, partnering and protecting women who work in the industry and women in general, we can really move the needle and enable women to create more generational wealth and have more successful businesses,” Reed said.
The first P calls for monetary equality for women in cannabis. This includes equal pay, investing in women-owned companies, buying women-made products and hiring women.
Paying women what they are owed and what they are worth also falls under this category.
“One of the biggest issues women have in the industry is we are not getting funded. So, I can’t solve that problem, but what I can do is bring awareness to what we can all do to make a difference,” Reed said.
Female-owned companies receive just 2.1% of venture capital funding across all industries in the U.S., according to PitchBook.
This is despite the fact that women owned or operated companies are more successful than their male counterparts. A Boston Consulting Group study found that female-owned companies produce 10% more revenue than male-owned companies.
There are two ways that consumers can participate in this category. First, consumers can request products from female-owned companies.
“Every single time you go to a dispensary, ask where are the products that are owned by women (in or outside of the cannabis industry) and people of color. That’s who I want to support with my dollars,” Reed said.
Consumers have the power to change the industry overnight, according to Reed. Where there is consumer demand there is profit and increased funding.
Secondly, consumers can seek out services provided by women (in or outside of cannabis). This could include finding a female dentist, mechanic or hairdresser.
“Think about everything that you do that you hire someone to do services. Find women or find women-owned businesses,” Reed added. “That’s how we start to create wealth for one another, by giving out money to one another in exchange for goods and services.”
Promoting women includes giving them opportunities to move up in the ranks, recommending women for jobs and celebrating their accomplishments.
As statistics show, a disproportionate amount of women are reaching the highest level of leadership in the cannabis industry.
The most obvious way to promote women is to give them opportunities to move up in the industry.
Reed says this can be achieved by educating, training and mentoring women to become executives.
“As more corporate money comes in we are finding less women are being included and less women are being promoted,” Reed said.
Promoting also includes the c-suite or leadership positions like CEOs. If women are missing from the c-suite, companies should fill these positions with women already in the company, Reed said.
“We are not any longer lacking for that talent, it is here,” Reed explained.
Research shows that women outperform men in 84% of competencies that are used to measure leadership skills. The study shows that women excel at taking initiative, motivating others, building relationships and problem solving.
Promoting can also be practiced by highlighting the successes of women in the industry. Whether the accomplishment is big or small, it’s important to celebrate other women’s success.
“Promoting is not just making sure that women climb through the ranks,” Reed clarified. “It’s that you are shouting from the rooftops about the successes of other women in your circle.”
Through promoting women’s accomplishments, other women are inspired and a way is paved for future generations.
Partnering means collaborating with other women, and when partnerships don’t work out still, it’s important to show respect to the other woman.
Creating partnerships with other women can be beneficial for both parties. Women can also build support systems which empower them to break down barriers that they face professionally.
“I want women in the cannabis industry to feel like when they’re the only woman in the room […] they know that they have an army energetically behind them that is rooting them on to stand up for themselves and ask for what they deserve; demand what they are worth; and never let anyone gaslight them or talk down or degrade them in a work environment,” Reed said.
Reed emphasizes that it is important to never degrade or speak poorly of other women when partnerships fail. This practice is counterproductive and does not encourage the advancement of women in the industry.
In a Deloitte study, just 35% of women said they feel supported by their employer when balancing work and life. This highlights the lack of support women receive at work, and why it can be beneficial to find it elsewhere.
One of the key components of Women Employed in Cannabis is partnership. Members must be respectful and encouraging to all other members. Additionally, Reed encourages them to collaborate with one another.
Protecting women means creating safe work environments, defending other women and not engaging in harmful discourse about other women.
Harassment, both sexual and verbal, is commonplace in almost every industry.
A recent study found that 69% of female respondents have experienced sexual harassment at some point during their career.
Harassment is a common reason women leave the industry, according to Reed.
She suggests that cannabis companies implement and enforce anti-harassment policies to tackle this issue. Enforcement of these policies is only effective if the company culture is not conducive for this behavior. Effective enforcement must come from the top down, Reed said.
“I do not want other women to experience [harassment] in their work life because it hinders us in our ability to be successful. It kills our self-esteem when we are constantly fighting gaslighting,” Reed said.
In order to protect women, others must stand up for them whether it be in public, on social media or in private.
To create a better environment for each other, women cannot shame, spread harmful information or attack one another.
“Cannabis is supposed to do better […] I don’t think that this is going to change the world, but we can certainly start to change the conditions for women in this industry by doing something,” Reed said.
*Emerald is a sponsor of the Pledge to Support Women Working in Cannabis.
Monica Garcia says
I fully support this and will share. Being a Woman Owner in this space is rewarding and challenging at the same time.
Shanna Riser says
I support this being a women who has been in this industry for over 18 years and still going strong.
Lisa Vuzzo says
OMMDirectory is in full support
Living it already in Oklahoma for 3 years.
Valerie Marsh says
Equality should be a given in ALL industries! Let’s make cannabis a beacon for the rest of the corporate world.
Fran Dooley says
This is great
Leticia Rodriguez says
So glad women are speaking up.