Women Lead in the Cannabis Industry


The burgeoning U.S. cannabis industry has significantly more women filling executive positions compared to other industries.

Women fill more than a third of executive positions in the U.S. marijuana industry, the independent international news organization Christian Science Monitor reports.

Based on survey data collected by Marijuana Business Daily, in the nation’s young multi-billion-dollar cannabis industry, women make up 36 percent of executives, a considerable higher gender ratio compared to the U.S. businesses average. A July 2015 Pew Research report found that in 2014 women filled 22 percent of senior management jobs in mid-size companies and only 5.4 percent of CEO positions at Fortune 1000 companies.

“[The data tell] a really great story about what’s happening in the cannabis industry, and it tells a really stark story about business overall,” Taylor West, deputy director of the National Cannabis Industry Association in Washington, told Christian Science Monitor.

The gender ratio is even more encouraging in some sectors of the cannabis industry. Women actually dominate leadership positions at testing labs, claiming 63 percent of the roles. They make up 48 percent of executives titles at marijuana processing and production companies, and 40 percent of leadership roles at ancillary servicing companies.

There are multiple reasons why women are more likely to hold executive titles in the cannabis industry compared to the general workforce at large. For one, Christian Science Monitor notes, the industry typically draws the more liberally-minded folks who may potentially be less prone to maintaining gender traditions. It’s also likely that with the legal cannabis industry being as young as it is, it lacks long-rooted industry insiders and is more open to newcomers.

“In the long-established industries you have generations of business that has been dominated by men, and that creates structures of advancement that are dominated by men,” West said.

There’s evidence that having women in leadership roles may be beneficial in a company’s efforts to raise money. Troy Dayton, CEO of the cannabis research and investment firm Arcview Market Research, told Christian Science Monitor that of the $103 million the firm had invested in 137 marijuana startups, 30 percent went to women-led companies. However, Arcview invested an average of $1.2 million in each of 26 women-led firms, up from its overall average investment of $752,000 per company.

“There’s no doubt that the female-led companies are raising a lot more money,” said Arcview CEO Troy Dayton.

Women continue to struggle to land executive roles in some sectors of the cannabis industry. They fill only 33 percent of cultivation leadership roles and make up just 28 percent of executive positions at cannabis investment firms. Greta Carter, an investor in marijuana companies, told Christian Science Monitor that often times she’s the only woman in the room.

“I don’t want to give the country a fallacy that there’s not a glass ceiling in the industry because there is,” Carter said.

Last week, the female-driven networking organization Women Grow hosted its third annual Leadership Summit. Held every February, the three-day conference brings together current and up-and-coming female marijuana industry leaders to share stories and insights through panels, talks and social events.

“Your teams are stronger if you have diverse backgrounds,” said Leah Heise, CEO of Women Grow. “You’re going to build a stronger company by including people who are diverse than you than you are if you just have everybody with exactly the same mindset.”

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