The six billion-dollar newborn marijuana industry offers women the opportunity be leaders in a field not defined by men. According to a study published by Marijuana Business Daily in 2015, women hold about 36 percent leadership positions in the cannabis-industry, compared to about 22 percent of executive roles in other industries. In fact, women are more likely to own titles in every sector of the marijuana industry, from consultants, activists, researchers, attorneys, and business owners than women in all other industries in the US.
With the legalization of medicinal or recreational marijuana in 29 states in the past two decades, the expansion of the cannabis industry is unprecedented. It’s exactly the market’s youth that provides women more opportunity to succeed since traditional barriers don’t exist. There aren’t as many glass ceilings to break or boys clubs to fight into. Men and women are in the trenches together, working side by side figuring out the rules as they go.
Many women have moved to a career in cannabis, tired of being held back by misogynistic boundaries. For the first time in history, perhaps, women have the opportunity to lead and create a culture-friendly industry that supports them.
“I believe many women, including myself, saw the emergence of a new cannabis market as their chance to not only get in the boardroom – but run it,” says marijuana journalist Chloe Sommers.
Big corporate businesses still stand on the sidelines, making it easier for entrepreneurial startups to flourish. Women also benefit from the more lenient financial requirements required to begin businesses within the marijuana industry.
Nancy Whiteman, co-owner and founder of Wana Brands which is one the top selling producers of edibles in Colorado, stated, “When Colorado really opened up, there were low barriers to entry. It didn’t cost a lot to get a license and there weren’t limitations on the number of licenses.” As more states legalize the recreational and medical use of cannabis, the door will be open for women to claim a seat at the table.
The organization, Women Grow, wants to ensure that women take advantage of that window. Founded by Jane West and Jazmin Hupp, Women Grow is a network of over 30 chapters in the US that helps women enter the cannabis market equipped with the tools necessary to succeed. Because of the closed doors West and Hupp experienced in other industries, they wanted to provide a professional network of women cannabis entrepreneurs that could encourage and bounce ideas off each other.
At one of the first summits held by Women Grow in 2015, Hupp vocalized a vision for women in the cannabis industry that many now share. “You lead this new, billion-dollar industry. It’s about f**king time we led something!”
The cannabis industry also has the capacity to be heavily influenced by women due to the role that the plant is playing in healthcare. As traditional caregivers, women see first hand the pain their patients suffer and are passionate about finding alternative and natural solutions to pharmaceutical drugs.
Whoopi Goldberg partnered with medicinal marijuana guru, Maya Elisabeth, to develop a line of cannabis-infused products to provide relief for menstrual cramps. Their company, Maya & Whoopi, includes topical rubs, tinctures and THC-infused bath soaks. Their products help alleviate pain without getting woozy, allowing women to maintain a demanding work or school schedule.
Dr. Lakisha Jenkins is a traditional naturopath and registered master herbalist, specializing in medicinal cannabis education and cancer prevention. When her daughter was diagnosed and died of cancer, she witnessed up close the devastating effects of rigorous cancer treatment causing Jenkins to became more committed to educating and creating alternative solutions for individuals in pain. With knowledge passed down from her Native American heritage, she can treat almost any illness with a combination of herbs and cannabis-infused ingredients.
Women entrepreneurs are finding creative solutions to accessorize their weed-smoking and eating habits. Jeanine Moss replaced opiates with marijuana to manage the pain she suffered due to a hip replacement surgery and hated sneaking to block the stench. Instead, she founded AnnaBis, which designs luxury aroma-blocking bags in order to mask her medicinal practices from the public eye.
Holly Alberti-Evans, inspired by the Mary-Kay model, founded Healthy-Headie, a company that brings a quality shopping and educational experience right to your home. They sell high-tech vaporizers, unique storage containers, and a variety of bowls – all which you can individually try in the privacy of your own home.
Women are also starting companies in order to support entrepreneurs and top businesses navigate the cannabis industry through consulting and data. Diane Czarkowski cofounded Canna Advisors, which consults budding marijuana newbies on license procurement, development, and facility design.
As an immigrant and woman, Giadha Aguirre De Carcer, is familiar with the discrimination and barriers that women face in the workforce, which is why she became an entrepreneur and founded New Frontier Data. A company that specializes in cannabis market research, New Frontier offers customized research, analysis reports and a live database of information for their customers.
“I came from male-dominated industries like banking, tech and government and they were all difficult to navigate career wise.” When she entered a meeting, she felt like the older men looked down on her because she was an immigrant and woman. Now, when she enters a room, she is recognized as a cannabis entrepreneur. “There is much less resistance,” De Carcer says.