By Jessica Steinberg.
Common statistics about women in the cannabis industry have been regurgitated like a mama bird feeding her nestlings – from the decreasing number of women in executive level positions to the lack of investment going to female founders.
Whilst important to emphasize, who really wants to be fed the same static information over and over again? Perhaps if 21st century business didn’t resemble forms of 20th century business, then statistics wouldn’t be the same regurgitation.
Of course, there are areas of progress. Too often, however, a utopian dream masks reality. Something that is all too common.
Are we recreating an industry that already exists, just with a slight plot twist called cannabis?
‘We continue to fall into similar patterns established by other industries, like allowing for predominantly male leadership, overlooking diversity, and ignoring the negative impact that the latest “gold rush” can have on communities that have paved the way. The cannabis industry must do better,’ Tahira Rehmatullah, Executive Director of Hypur Ventures and board member at Akerna Corp (NASDAQ: KERN) commented.
Rehmatullah is someone who is frequently quoted as one of the key female figures in the industry. But her gender is not what puts her at the forefront, her experience and expertise does.
As Melissa Sturgess, CEO of Ananda Developments Plc (BKK: ANAN) and Founder of Montana, phrased it, ‘I am a businesswoman first and foremost, my gender is of secondary importance.’
(Re)Constructing A Hierarchy
The conversation about gender continues, yet there may be a need to look passed it too.
In some cases, such as when it comes to capacity to perform, gender should be sidelined, a factor not even worthy of mention. It’s not the sex one identifies on paper that gives him or her a spot at the table – not as a token nor a tick on the box.
Meanwhile, sometimes people cannot help but comment on the skew of where women are working within the hierarchy. Let’s be honest. Booth babes are still a thing, and while ‘sex sells,’ think about the kind of ‘sex’ that is selling.
Women holding entry-level positions does not equate to a company’s ‘balanced’ employee force.
Rematullah noted, ‘I am very happy when I see female participation, but I worry that as the sector becomes more corporatized we will see fewer women at the top.’
Only having women at the bottom of the social pyramid might say more than not having any women at all. Fortunately, there is quite a strong movement for women supporting women.
‘I would love to see more women in executive positions, and hope that I can assist in this area,’ Sturgess added.
From Rehmatullah, who lives in North America, to Sturgess, who lives in the UK, it’s fascinating that despite being separated by an ocean they are connected through a common perspective.
Looking beyond the fact that there’s plenty of room for improvement, it’s a good exercise to put the spotlight on those who are shaping the industry.
Women Shaping The European Landscape
From June 23 – 28, European Cannabis Week will be bringing together talent from around the globe in London, a place that has fostered a strong women’s movement.
Rematullah said, ‘the European market has continued to grow, and with that, the number of women and, more importantly, the quality of involvement has shifted dramatically.’
According to Alastair Moore, Founder of Hanway Associates and Cannabis Europa, women have been shaping ‘scientific discourse (Professor Val Curran and Dr. Chandi Hindocha at UCL) and shaking up the consumer product landscape (Jasmin Thomas of Ohana CBD and Valentina Milanova of Daye).’
‘There have been successful parent-led campaigns spearheaded by Charlotte Caldwell (mother of Billy Caldwell) and Hannah Deacon (mother of Alfie Dingley), and Baroness Molly Meacher, Tonia Antoniazz MP and Layla Moran MP standing up for patient access,’ Moore explained.
Although cliché, there really is no better time than the present. There is a chance to set precedence, not only for cannabis, but for other industries that don’t yet exist. Actionable decisions must happen today.
Sturgess agreed that, ‘we need to make sure the business of cannabis doesn’t get done while women are still talking to each other about how to get involved.’
Increased involvement is happening as more women launch wellness-based brands. One of which is Wunder Workshop, a turmeric-based product line founded by Zoe LVH.
‘Naturally it makes sense for women to create products for women,’ LVH stated, and in regards to cannabis,’the plant synergizes well with many of a woman’s daily ailments, and women are more proactive in finding a way to decrease that discomfort.’
LVH has spoken at various events in the UK empowering others with her journey and insight. She highlighted, ‘it is so beneficial to have networks such as entOURage that foster a positive environment for women to engage in and to create a female narrative within the industry,’ LVH added.
Without tooting any horns, I must admit that entOURage Network was founded in May 2018 by Jasmin Thomas and myself. Frequently being two of the few females in the room brought us together, and now we cultivate a space for women to come together, engage and explore opportunities in Europe’s legal cannabis market.
We are honored to have LVH, Rehmatullah and Sturgess, and many others, speak at entOURage’s ‘Investing in Women’ workshop on June 27.
They are among other industry leaders that are setting an example by redirecting the focus of this topic.
Women in the legal cannabis industry are at the front of newsbeats, and that’s nothing new. What will be new news is when the cannabis industry is cited as the go-to example how to succeed in the 21st century.
Jessica is a PhD student at the University of Oxford researching the legal cannabis industry. She is Managing Director of international cannabis consultancy, The Global C, and co-founder of entOURage Network, an organization to empower and connect women in the European cannabis indsutry. Her work brings her to the UN and WHO, and speaks globally about her research and work, as well as the charity that she founded when she was 13 years old, Giveable Giggles.
Images courtesy of entOURage Network.
The preceding article is from one of our external contributors. It does not represent the opinion of Benzinga and has not been edited.
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