The industry is blossoming, but may be leaving women behind
Written by Allie Volpe
In a ballroom in a Washington D.C. hotel, hundreds of women applaud the notion of making money. Of combating pain. Of diversity. Of community. Of the intersection of all of the above. The applause represents a belief in the existence of an industry fueled by both capitalism and inclusion, that a business can impart inclusive structures and create products designed for healing, that women can lead profitable companies who positively impact consumers in the process.
A diverse swath of women from Virginia, California, Hawaii, Puerto Rico convene in a hotel in downtown Washington D.C. because they maintain hope in cannabis as a diverse sector conducive to women in leadership roles. The Women Grow Leadership Summit, held in early June and hosted by Women Grow, is an organization which creates programming and events for women in the cannabis industry. It aims to equip women with the business, legal, and social intel to continue their careers in the cannabis space, ranging from dispensary owners to copywriters. Though the event’s panels covered a breadth of topics, including sex and cannabis and the confounding legal questions surrounding CBD, the running thread of many conversations centered on how women can compete with the old boys club.
Women in cannabis don’t have the leadership pull they once boasted. As recently as four years ago, women were well-represented in the industry, opening dispensaries, starting their own companies and providing ancillary services like marketing and legal counsel, says Sara Gullickson, CEO, Item 9 Labs Corp, a developer and manufacturer of innovative cannabis products and delivery platforms. “Because the plant is a female plant and the industry is about caring and patience, breeding a safe environment to have taboo conversations, women really stepped up,” says Gullickson. “Fast forward five years, we’re seeing corporations getting involved and the industry is transitioning from being a female-led industry back into the good old boys club—where C-suite and corporate level positions are getting taken up by white men.”
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