Women Cannabis Entrepreneurs Unite: We Are Better Together
The cannabis industry is not especially open to female leaders, but it likes to think it is.
The media is flooded every day with stories about the role of women in the cannabis industry. While it’s true that this new industry is a rebirth for female founders and executives, it's important we distinguish reality from the media romance stories about women in cannabis.
Both in California and globally, fewer women hold leadership roles and board seats in the cannabis industry today than even just one year ago. There are fewer women founders in the industry and fewer women-founded brands on retail shelves than just a year ago.
This cause is quite personal for me as a pre-Prop 64 female founder in cannabis. I feel this slow burn of women, and believe deeply that if we unite and activate our inner strength, we can change the narrative for women in cannabis. In fact, we can build a future where we all have equal opportunities to build thriving businesses and successful careers while creating products people cherish. Here’s my take on “how”:
Work with women when it works.
Women can lift each other up by creating more opportunities for each other while filling our own business needs. If you are responsible for choosing which supplier to work with, ask your cultivators, manufacturers, distributors, and retailers how many women are on their leadership team. Make sure you receive RFPs from at least one woman-owned business. If you’re responsible for procuring for your retail store, ensure that you have some women-owned brands on your shelf.
I’m not suggesting you choose the woman-owned company if the financials don’t work out -- business is business -- but I do believe in advocating for each other whenever possible.
Help each other improve through feedback.
We can’t make business deals based strictly on gender but we can commit to giving feedback to any woman when we choose not to do business with her. By giving and listening to the feedback of others we can improve each other's businesses. We all always have something to learn.
Leverage our male champions.
While it’s easy to lock in on the industry’s known bro-culture and oversexualization of women, there are still many very good men in this industry who are champions of women. They believe in us as founders, business leaders and women. They see the value we add and the profits we earn. They see that we are not charity, but rather a good investment.
It is important that we leverage these champions by asking for the help we need to move our business forward. This can include mentoring, introductions to investors, placing products from women-owned companies on their retail shelves or help finding better quality supply chain partners.
Empowered women empower women.
Truly empowered women empower other women. We have the self-confidence to know that when one woman is successful, many others will follow. Sometimes this means putting our egos aside and refraining from self-serving behaviour that holds us all back.
Instead, let’s be proud of others success. Let’s share our successful strategies (as well as our failures) and mentor women new in the space. Ask for help when we see someone who has mastered something that we are struggling with. This fast-moving, fast-changing industry is already hard enough for all of us. Let’s unite to form an industry of successful, women-owned cannabis businesses.