Closing the Gender Gap in the Cannabis Industry
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Just as social justice should be a priority in the cannabis industry, so should gender equality. According to a recent report from the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) and the Arcview Group, the first step in closing the gender gap in the cannabis industry is to recognize “systemic discrimination and oppression,” which includes corporate gender discrimination and repression.
5 areas where the gender divide in the cannabis industry needs to be closed
The authors of the NCIA and Arcview Group reports identify five areas where the gender gap needs to close in order for companies to achieve parity:
- Access to capital
- Equity Ownership
- Board representation
- C-Suite Executive Representation
- Same salary
When you look at these five areas, it’s clear that women are disadvantaged not only as entrepreneurs due to lack of access to capital and disproportionate opportunities to participate, but also as employees at every step of their careers. Assuming unequal wages and following them as they attempt to climb the corporate ladder, the data shows that women face greater barriers and fewer opportunities to get promoted to leadership positions. This is of course a cross-industry problem, and not just with cannabis.
Factors that exacerbate the gender gap
NCIA and The Arcview Group’s “Gender Parity in the C-Suite” whitepaper identifies seven factors that contribute greatly to the gender gap in the cannabis industry:
1. The grass cover
Like the glass ceiling, the grass cover is defined as an invisible barrier that prevents women from advancing their careers in the cannabis industry. Often this barrier is the result of professional segregation – something that exists in other industries as well. The researchers explain
“Female executives fill positions such as human resources, public relations, marketing and some financial specialties. There are seldom paths to powerful top management positions, which is often by design. This is an example of tokenism, or a way of practicing performative gender parity, but not actual gender parity. The avenues that lead to positions of power, such as president or CEO, are rarely offered to women in any appreciable way, which limits access to these positions. “
2. The dude-bro network
One of the main obstacles identified in the report is the so-called dude-bro network, which, according to the authors, excludes women from leadership positions. This phenomenon also exists outside of the cannabis industry. For example, it is alive and well in the technology field. The researchers explain
“The dude bro network consists of men who have been trained at the same institutions and / or have climbed the career ladder together. The dude-bro network is usually more comfortable at promoting people who look and act like themselves. Men in these top-level decision-making positions often turn to current or former colleagues and friends to fill these positions without ever thinking about women. “
3. Lack of mentors
If there aren’t many women in leadership positions, there will be a lack of mentors to help other women move forward in the cannabis industry. Without female mentors who have experience and knowledge of the cannabis industry, there is a gap in providing career development guidance and support for aspiring women looking to move up to leadership positions.
4. Sexual harassment
Gender discrimination and sexual harassment persist in the cannabis industry and outside the cannabis industry. The authors of the report explain
“Patriarchal value structures and preconceived notions of gender roles lead to a multitude of rules that relate to gender-specific behavior and expectations. The widespread acceptance of these rules establishes male supremacy and the potential for male harassment. “
5. Gender and gender discrimination
Generational stereotypes have been drawn from women in the workplace, and the cannabis industry is not immune. Women are repeatedly referred to as one of two extremes with no middle ground:
- Not sure enough versus being too confident
- Not aggressive enough against too aggressive
- Too many soft skills or the wrong soft skills vs. too few hard skills or the wrong hard skills
- Too emotional versus unemotional
These are gender-specific stereotypical terms that are rarely used across industries to describe men in the workplace. However, they continue to hinder women from advancing their careers.
Steps to Close the Gender Gap in the Cannabis Industry
Despite the issues outlined in the Gender Equality in the C-Suite report, the 13 women and men who authored the report identified seven key steps the cannabis industry and companies in the industry can take to bridge the gap close between the sexes. They include:
- Industry level: Invest in more industry-level research to gather gender parity data.
- Industry level: Improving mentoring opportunities for women at all levels.
- Company level: Implement reporting processes and employee safety practices to report inappropriate behavior.
- Company level: Set aggressive goals to increase the number of women and the general diversity of recruitment and promotion.
- Company level: Make unconscious bias training mandatory.
- Company level: Creation of a path to leadership for women that forms a “deep bank” of female and diverse executives.
- Company level: Track hiring and promotion history, especially at the executive level.
Note that these steps need to be taken to bridge the gender gap in all five areas where it is deepest in the industry today: Capital Access, Equity Participation, Board Representation, C-Suite Executive Representation and equal pay.
Key takeaways on gender equality in the cannabis industry
Research shows that more women in leadership roles have a positive impact on the success of companies in a variety of ways, including higher profits, better stock performance, and higher revenues. In fact, there are plenty of studies that show a long list of ways women-run businesses outperform others – from small startups to Fortune 500 companies. This is not a new discovery. Studies from 2001 and earlier have reported this type of data, with new research being published all the time.
For the cannabis industry, the first step in realizing change is to recognize that the gender gap between licensed companies and ancillary companies is and remains. Unconscious bias training is a good place to start because many people don’t even realize they are contributing to the gender gap. From there, follow the seven steps outlined above in the NCIA and Arcview Group report and your company will be on the path to achieving gender equality and being as successful as possible.