Are Corporate Bros Pushing Women Out of the Weed Industry?
As Big Money floods the newly-mainstreamed market, the once-progressive scene is starting to look like every other capitalistic venture: a boys' club.
Published on April 26, 2019

A new report suggests that the cannabis industry, once regarded as the best space for women to start a business, may no longer be as friendly to female leadership as it once was.

The “2019 Women in Cannabis” report comes from the weed recruitment agency Vangst. Only 17 percent of female-identifying cannabis employees work in executive or director positions today, Forbes reported.

The slump follows a trend first observed from a 2017 survey at Marijuana Business Daily, which discovered that, in 2015, women held 36 percent of the weed industry’s executive-level jobs. By 2017, however, that figure fell to 23 percent. 

Other findings from the newest Vangst report include: 12 percent of pot companies have zero female-identifying workers on their staffs; 41 percent of pot companies have at least one woman holding an executive-level position; and 43 percent say over half their employees are women.

Despite the drop, the number of women in key cannabis leadership positions is still higher than the 23-percent national average for other industries.

Why is this happening? Explanations vary. One report from Oregon’s KGW8 News suspected that as cannabis becomes mainstream, giant corporations are muscling in on the legal industry. With Big Money comes old business structures traditionally dominated by men.

“Now we have multi-billion dollar companies, publicly traded, what we are really seeing is those companies are growing without female leadership, without women on the board, without females on the executive team," Amy Margolis, the founder and director of the Oregon Cannabis Association, told KGW8.

Margolis also noted, in a Forbes piece last year, that the four largest cannabis corporations have no women executives or directors on their boards.

Additionally, as Big Business sweeps into an industry previously made up of mom-and-pop operations, small businesses can’t compete. Many of Oregon’s failed cannabis enterprises were women-owned, reported KGW8.

It’s possible women aren’t actually being pushed out of the industry, but rather the latest figures diluted the old ones when more people entered the cannabis space. And a majority of the newcomers just happened to be men.

The lack of diversity in cannabis has motivated some women and other minorities to break through the grass ceiling. “That feeling just really stuck with me that this isn’t going to last,” Danielle Schumacher, cofounder of the weed-job agency THC Staffing Group, told the Denver Post. “This is going to shift in my lifetime, and I want to be part of that.”

Regardless of the decline in weed’s female leadership, there’s still good news. Last year, another Vangst survey found that salaries and job openings in legal cannabis were on the rise, and those increases applied to women, as well as men.

Cannabis salaries differ by state, however. Earlier this month a Marijuana Business Magazine survey determined that East Coast pot companies tend to pay more than West Coast operations. One exception on the West Coast is California, where salaries were comparable to Maryland’s, depending on the position.

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Randy Robinson
Based in Denver, Randy studied cannabinoid science while getting a degree in molecular biology at the University of Colorado. When not writing about cannabis, science, politics, or LGBT issues, they can be found exploring nature somewhere in the Rocky Mountains. Catch Randy on Twitter and Instagram @randieseljay
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