Women are taking the world of cannabis by storm. With big industries across the spectrum usually dominated by men, cannabis is uniquely women-led – according to a 2019 article in Marijuana Business Daily, women account for more than a third of cannabis execs. A full 37% of top jobs at cannabis companies are held by women – notably more than the national average of 21% of women in executive roles.
Why has the space been more friendly to women than other emerging industries? And how are women throughout the industry moving the needle forward on topics like sustainability, diversity, and inclusion?
This Women’s Day, we highlight some of movers and shakers for a look at what it’s like to be a player at the best game in town.
Getting into the Cannabis Industry
What brings women into the cannabis industry? For some, it is a personal connection and for others, it’s pure passion. Jessica Crozier, Operations and Logistics Manager at C4 Laboratories, decided she needed to help educate and advocate for cannabis once her daughter, who has epilepsy, had a life-changing experience with medical marijuana.
“I got into the industry because my daughter has epilepsy and someone had suggested I look into cannabis to help treat her. I ended up finding something that worked really, really well for her. And it was at that moment that I was like ‘you know what? I really need to get involved in this industry and help educate other people.’ My husband and I actually voted against medical marijuana when it was on the ballot in 2010, because we didn’t believe in it. And then now, here we are!”
Although stereotypical, the association of women with a greater inclination for compassion and caretaking also likely plays a role in why they are so well adapted to the industry. Jane Fix, Director Of Patient Services at Sol Flower Dispensaries, is a longtime cannabis enthusiast with a background in teaching and botany. She is an industry pioneer who has long pushed boundaries and frontiers in order to support people’s health and well-being. Her deep knowledge of the plant and empathy for individual struggles is evidence of why women flourish in this field.
“It’s one of the most heartbreaking yet most rewarding jobs you can do, because you see people from all walks of life, with all kinds of problems that you could never even imagined.
We just can’t cure anything with cannabis. We can help people to the best of our ability. Because the endocannabinoid system is so vast in the body, there’s so much potential for regulation. And the fact that cannabis actually plays triage, when you medicate with cannabis it goes to where you need it the most at that specific time. The plant does all the work, basically. We all know there’s no lethal dose from cannabis. It’s harm reduction, it’s being able to take a plant and dose to what you know you need on that specific day, that specific time. And no pharmaceutical drug is going to do that for you because they’re all made for 170-pound males.”
This perspective – that no health or wellness issue has a one-size-fits all solution – is why this intuitive, empathetic approach is so successful and differentiates the cannabis and pharmaceutical industries so starkly.
Advocating for others and helping patients find humane solutions to their health issues is a key driver.
Although there are more women in leadership roles in the cannabis industry than elsewhere, some believe there is still a long way to go in breaking the “grass ceiling.”
Jane Fix comments, “Yes, there’s lots of good women in the industry, but there seems to be a glass ceiling where they’re not really in that upper tier. They are more often in the secondary tier, getting things done. I’m not saying there aren’t women in the top tier in some places, but in general, it’s unfortunately a rarity. [Companies] could really benefit from the female point of view, but apparently it just hasn’t been utilized to its benefit.”
Advice for the Up-and-Coming
So what will it take for women to step into first-prize roles in the industry? Opinions differ, but there seems to be some agreement that taking initiative and following one’s passion will be vital to breaking down gender barriers.
Jessica thinks a combination of networking, engagement, and hard work will pave the way to executive roles and encourages those who want to enter the industry to dive in with two feet: “In terms of C-level leadership and directors and that sort of thing, put your best foot forward. Create a killer resume and just network your little hearts out. My advice would be to just get involved as much as possible with the community and the industry. Immerse yourself and connect yourself in some way and just go for it. If there’s something that you feel like you really want to achieve and you see a void, then go for it. Don’t hold back. No one ever got very far by holding back.”
Amen! We couldn’t agree more. Indeed, Jane echoes this sentiment and urges women to find a niche role and play to their strengths—and to take matters into their own hands when necessary. “I really think women ideally want to drive their own ship. I think women are starting to realize that if we want to run the show, maybe we need to get our own investor group and start our own thing. I would love to say that you could work your way up through the ranks, but I’m really not seeing it. The top women in cannabis companies are typically in HR.”
She continues: “I think a lot of women pick a job and try to mold themselves towards that job. What you really need to do is mold a job around your skillset. My strength from being a teacher and being all the things I was in my prior careers was number one. Number two is caring. It was a perfect mold for me to fall into. But I had to create that mold. There was not a “Jane” in the industry. There was not a Head of Patient Services job. I just created my own little niche. I think women are much better off not changing who they are, but finding some role that utilizes their strength.”
Hearty thanks to all the women in cannabis whose care, compassion, killer instincts, and education have paved the way for those who will come after them. Special thanks to Jane Fix and Jessica Crozier for sharing their journeys with us and offering their wisdom to the Item 9 Labs community.
*Some quotes have been edited slightly for clarity