The women in cannabis study: a living history

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The ‘Women in Cannabis: a living history’ study has documented women’s experiences working in the cannabis industry in the US. 

Carried out by Jennifer Whetzel and Rachelle Gordon of Ladyjane Branding, the study aims to advance equity and diversity in the industry and provide a baseline measure of women in cannabis as the industry advances.

Documenting the stories of women working in the cannabis, CBD and hemp industries, the study unpacks women’s relationship with cannabis, the barriers to their success in the industry, diversity and how women themselves define their success. 

The study received feedback from more than 1500 females from cannabis-related businesses.

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Whetzel states: “The Women in Cannabis Study was sparked by the clear need for comprehensive data and more importantly, a commitment to authentic representation. When history books are written, women are often left out of the narrative. Knowing that we are in an industry that’s still evolving, it’s imperative that every person who is part of this movement is seen and heard.”

Systematic barriers to success

Historically, women have not been represented in science and academia, board rooms and business, but as a new industry, cannabis has the opportunity to get equity right from the start.

The study highlights that despite 37 per cent of executive positions being held by women in 2017, that number has dropped significantly. There is now only 22 per cent of positions held by women.

This statistic stands out against the backdrop that 63 per cent of respondents have completed a bachelor’s or post-graduate degree, compared to the 39 per cent of women in the US with these qualifications. 76 per cent of these has prior experience working in other industries – the highest being healthcare and medical.

The study states: “Based on the advanced degrees they have earned, the respondents clearly bring a wealth and variety of in-depth study to their new roles in the cannabis industry.”

Only 11 per cent of respondents agreed that the US cannabis industry is equitable. Problems such as sexism, harassment, bullying, lack of support, benefits, opportunity and respect, difficulty obtaining funding and resources, low pay, shame and stigma are all cited as barriers.

73 per cent highlighted they felt the need to work harder than their male counterparts to gain respect, 67 per cent said they feel they are taken less seriously because they are a woman and only 25 per ent are paid the same as their male colleagues. 

The study states: “Only a third of our Cannabis Industry Insiders feel they have the same opportunity for growth and development as their male counterparts – compared to twice as many women working in traditional industries.”

It is also demonstrated that 45 per cent of women experience bullying in the workplace – including from other women.

Representing diversity

The report states that the sense of being overlooked or undervalued in the industry is shared among women of colour, but heightened for black women, noting that the impact of the war on drugs has created a shared sense of community.

44 per cent of black women who responded to the study stated they were ancillary business owners, compared to 22 per cent Hispanic, 22 per cent white and 24 per cent asian.

It also highlights that 10 per cent of respondents who were black were more likely to identify as lesbian – creating a unique challenge when it comes to success in the industry – dealing with racial discrimination on top of experiences that women have, such as lack of self-esteem, lack of time for self-care and sexual harassement.

Of its findings on BIPOC experiences in the industry, the report states: “The daunting issues of racial discrimination, lack of opportunities and self-esteem struggles makes things that much more difficult for women of colour. But in a way, these shared experiences also have the power to unite and reverberate a message of change throughout the industry and beyond.”

The number of LGBTQIA+ respondents to the survey was high at 27 per cent, with 56 per cent of these being in full time employment in the industry. 

The authors state the study does not capture the full range of harassment that women of colour and people in the LGBTQIA+ community experience, noting that it seems to be underrepresented with black and hispanic women compared to US census data, but that it is a place to start understanding more about the industry.

To read the full report, please visit www.womenincannabis.study/.

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