The number of women in executive positions in the marijuana industry is astonishing. According to a study of 632 marijuana executives conducted by the Marijuana Business Daily in 2015, women are in leadership positions in 63% of labs that analyze the safety and potency of the substance, and in nearly 50% of companies that make other cannabis-infused products. How do those numbers measure up to the ratio in other industries? Among venture capital-financed, high-growth technology startups, just 9% are led by women, according to a July 2016 Harvard Business Review article. Women are majority owners of 36% of small businesses, they filled 22% of senior management positions in mid-size US companies, and 5.4% of CEO jobs at Fortune 1000 companies in 2014, according to a 2015 Pew Research report.
Taylor West, deputy director of the National Cannabis Industry Association in Washington stated, “The data tells a really great story about what’s happening in the cannabis industry, and it tells a really stark story about business overall.” Why do women seem to be running the show in some segments of the cannabis industry? Some say this business draws liberally minded rebels who are less likely to uphold gender traditions. Furthermore, West notes that the legal pot business is brand new, and therefore unhampered by established business networks that in other industries seem to be navigable only by insiders. She stated, “In 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.”
Yet in other areas of the marijuana industry, particularly in farming and investment, women leaders remain scarce. While the Marijuana Business Daily study indicates that 28% of executives in the cannabis investment industry are women, Greta Carter’s experience doesn’t jibe with those findings. Carter, who is an investor in 10 companies in Nevada and California that grow, process, and sell cannabis stated, “I walk into a room and time after time it’s 20 men and me. I don’t want to give the country a fallacy that there’s not a glass ceiling in the industry, because there is.”
Ms. Carter, a former vice president at Citibank, has noticed that many women in top positions work for businesses that support the marijuana-growing industry. She said, “I think it’s because the threshold to get into this industry is really low if you’re in the ancillary businesses.” Unlike these support services, wholesale farming requires heavy capital investment and more risk tolerance, which some say could be drawing more men entrepreneurs. Also, women might shy away from cultivation because there is a stigma associated with it. Leah Heise, chief executive of WomenGrow and attorney stated, “The stigma is something that we continue to fight and are going to have to continue to fight.”