Canadian women leaders: Female voices missing in marijuana boardroom meetings

Toronto – While there are more women executives in cannabis industry over the U.S national average for all businesses, there is still more work to be done.

The percentage of U.S women holding executive positions in the marijuana field has dropped significantly from 36% in 2015 to 26% in 2017, according to statistics by Marijuana Business Daily.

“Bro” culture inhibiting women

women executive cannabis industry
Kerri-Lynn McAllister is the Chief Marketing Officer at Lift & Co., a technology company that connects the cannabis community. (image via LinkedIn)

Some blame the drop on the fact that many executives in the industry come from traditionally male-dominated industries such as venture capital, investment banking, and mining. With most of these leadership roles assumed by men and favoring other men, women executives have a tougher time rising up the ranks.

“In the startup and finance sectors you’ve got this bro vibe going on,” Lisa Campbell, the co-founder of Elle Collective, a business incubator for women in the marijuana industry, said during Lift&Co’s expo in Toronto last week.

“We find that it is kind of an old boys’ club in a way, even though it’s a very new industry.”

Kerri-Lynn McAllister is the Chief Marketing Officer at Lift & Co., a technology company that connects the cannabis community. Although a trailblazer in her field, Kerri told The Puff Puff Post that she is usually the only female at board meetings.

“My background is in tech. That’s also a pretty male-dominated industry, but I do find cannabis to be worse. It’s the first time I felt my gender, actually.”

Female voice in boardrooms needed

But, as companies evolve from startup businesses to million dollar corporations, they may be forced to be more inclusive of women and minorities.

However, many in the industry don’t just want to hire a woman for the sake of hiring a woman. They want someone – of any gender and race – who is right for the job. “They have to bring something to the table,” said Vic Neufeld, CEO of Aphria, a major Licensed Producer (LP).

“It’s not just to be politically correct.”

But McAllister argues the importance of having a female voice on the board for marketing and outreach purposes.

“It’s important for cannabis companies to create an inclusive brand if they want to appeal to all segments of the market, including women,” she said. “They’re going to have to have women making those strategic marketing and branding decisions. If it’s not happening naturally, then they have to make a more proactive effort to get more women in the industry.”

There are also many women who consume cannabis and sometimes more than men.

In a 2017 survey done by the Cannabis Consumers Coalition, more females were reported to consume cannabis over men. The study concluded that a whopping 58.35 percent of female respondents consumed cannabis compared to 41.65 percent of men—more than a 15 percent margin.

Tides slowly changing

women executive cannabis industry
Many groundbreaking women have paved the way for those imminently coming after them. (file image)

However, the role of women within the cannabis industry is changing. Many groundbreaking women have paved the way for those imminently coming after them.

One such woman is McAllister who boasts of 45% female to male workforce at Lift & Co, which puts on Canada’s largest cannabis expo in Toronto and Vancouver.

“It just happened naturally. Once you have a woman in a leadership position, naturally some of those gender biases fall away because you have a more diverse hires and employees.”

Other noteworthy women include Jodie Emery, a vocal Canadian cannabis rights activist, who, along with her husband, was a co-owner of Cannabis Culture, a business that franchised pot dispensaries.

Yet another woman is Dr. Lakisha Jenkins, naturopath and CEO of Kiona Foundation, which helps provide financial assistance for cancer survivors and offers holistic health services without charge. She also uses cannabis in her day to day clinical practice.

Women are also at the forefront of ancillary services, which are supportive firms to help boost the cannabis industry. Women occupy nearly half of all leadership roles with these companies.

Interestingly enough, consumable cannabis is a female plant. Maybe that is a sign that more women are needed to participate in the industry.