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How Cannabis Companies Can Drive Diversity in the Workplace

These four strategies can foster diversity, equity, and inclusion.

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Many organizations in the cannabis industry are striving for diversity, equity, and inclusion. Collectively we've made great strides, but there is more work to be done. By instilling a company culture that promotes knowledge sharing and building a diverse workforce, your cannabis company will gain more potential to innovate and solve problems creatively. Inclusion is a measurement of success in any industry, and true diversity will allow businesses to enact real change, build partnerships for sustainable growth, and survive any challenges that arise.

My business works with thousands of job candidates in the cannabis industry each year, and last year we launched a new program focused specifically on increasing diversity and effective leadership on cannabis boards.

The state of the industry

It is encouraging to see so many larger, multi-state operators actively changing the dynamic by putting an emphasis on recruiting practices. Many leading companies are instilling change by creating positions like Director of Diversity, implementing equitable hiring, promotion, and compensation strategies, and building employee-led groups focused on fostering diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

In cannabis, we most often see a lack of diversity in executive and leadership teams. White males account for 70 percent of cannabis executive positions, with Black executives making up just 7 percent of the demographic. Most companies in the cannabis industry are cognizant of the need to intentionally build more diverse leadership teams, but many of them aren't quite sure how to attract more diverse candidates.

Related: 20 Outstanding Black And Latinx Men Leading Change In Cannabis

My business works with thousands of job candidates in the cannabis industry each year, and last year we launched a new program focused specifically on increasing diversity and effective leadership on cannabis boards.

Cannabis companies with a more diverse Board of Directors will not only support the fight for equity and inclusion but will also help their companies evolve within the industry and drive innovation. Our goal is to promote fairness, justice, and equity in the cannabis industry while filling critical board positions with individuals of all genders, religions, and races.

What is diversity in cannabis?

The cannabis community is made up of a wide range of consumers and entrepreneurs, including people of all ages, backgrounds, races, and walks of life. If your company can reflect this melting pot that is the cannabis community by building a team with the same diversity, you will have the advantage of more perspectives and being able to reach a wider audience. Data from a McKinsey & Company study shows that companies in the top percentile for racial and ethnic diversity outperform less diverse teams by as much as 35 percent.

Cannabis companies looking toward the future will start incorporating diversity, equity, and inclusion into their core values to set themselves up for success.

Advice for business leaders to increase diversity

To support racial justice and equity within your own business, amplify the voices of minority groups and ensure that they are heard. Stand up for diversity by removing any practices like pay gaps, reevaluating barriers keeping minorities and diversity from senior-level roles, and diversifying both your interviewers and candidates when looking for new talent.

Conduct an internal audit

You need to find out where bias exists in order to correct your processes and adjust your methods. Thoroughly analyze your brand, your hiring process, and your employees. Are your job postings inclusive and welcoming to all cultures, races, and identities? Does your benefits package include holidays to accommodate diverse cultures? Consider your overall branding and what kind of audience it most appeals to. From here, identify areas where you can approve and make the appropriate adjustments.

Start at the top

Take a look at your executive leadership team and/or board of directors. Can you improve on your diversity? Place proven talent in decision-making seats and reevaluate the barriers keeping minorities from these roles. A diverse leadership team will help your business tap into a variety of perspectives, discover unmet needs, understand your target audience and make better connections with your customers. Executive leadership can actively support organizations and policies fighting for equality through donations, volunteer work, or promoting programs – encourage your staff to share their suggestions! The trickle-down effect is real. If your leadership team prioritizes diversity and inclusion, the rest of your company will get there.

Diversify interviewers and interviewees

Our businesses can ensure fair employment opportunities by diversifying interviewers and candidates when looking for new talent. If you are failing to attract diverse candidates, try editing your job descriptions to be more inclusive and showcasing your company's diversity – 67% of job seekers consider diversity to be an important factor when deciding where to work.

Set specific goals

You'll need to carefully consider fair employment practices and laws, but consider setting diversity goals that give underrepresented groups more attention during the hiring process. Find out what the obstacles are that create barriers and diversity imbalances and start creating solutions. For example, your company may aim to hire women for a certain number of traditionally male-dominated roles.

We have work to do, but we've seen a significant increase in the number of cannabis companies adopting diversity, equality, and inclusion policies to create workforces reflective of today's society. It seems that for many decision-makers, the biggest hurdle in achieving diversity goals is reaching diverse candidates during the hiring process. Staffing firms can be an excellent resource to help actively recruit candidates outside of a company's traditional demographic, especially as different diversity quotas become more prominent.

We have the opportunity to make real change happen in the cannabis industry and beyond, and there is a lot we can do within our own workspaces. Our businesses can ensure fair employment opportunities, create inclusive company cultures, support policies and organizations pushing for equality, and continuously educate ourselves on working toward ending structural inequality.