08 March 2022 |

How Women Experience The Cannabis Industry

By Kaitlin Domangue

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A new study dropped on March 3rd, focusing on women in the cannabis space and their professional experiences. 

The study has been gathering data, conducting research, and talking to women for over two years to release what is now a 280-page report spilling-over with important, insightful, and hard-hitting information about women in this growing space. 

What The Data Says

The number of women executives in cannabis was praised in 2019, however, while these headlines about women executives taking over the cannabis industry were once aplenty, they didn’t last long.

In 2019, 36.8% of women held senior positions, however, this has declined to 22.1% in 2021, while the national average for women in executive positions across all industries is 29.8%.

As such, the cannabis industry fallen sharply behind in the last three years when it comes to ladies in leadership roles. 

Succeeding In Cannabis

More than 1,500 women were surveyed for this study. Here are some of the major takeaways found about women cannabis professionals: 

  • 86% of respondents consider themselves successful, despite barriers and inequalities they face as women in the space.
  • 72% work in cannabis because of their passion for the plant.
  • 63% believe, overall, male allyship is critical to women’s success in cannabis.
  • Only 11% of respondents believe the cannabis industry is equitable for women, signaling significant room for improvement.
  • 66% of respondents have been shamed by their cannabis consumption by extended family, doctor/healthcare professionals, acquaintances, former coworkers, and ex-partners.
  • 73% of respondents feel the need to work harder than male counterparts to gain the same level of respect, while 43% have felt the need to bring a male colleague to an important meeting to be taken seriously.

The Female Experience in Cannabis

It’s no secret women experience a different cannabis industry than men. 

That rings true throughout each industry, but the Women in Cannabis report’s comparison to the 2019 Women in the Workplace Study by McKinsey highlights just how far behind the cannabis industry has fallen.

Whereas 66% of the women surveyed in the McKinsey report said they experience the same opportunity for growth and development as men do, just 33% of the participants in the cannabis focused survey said the same.

To make matters worse, only 24% of women in cannabis feel promotions are based on fair and objective criteria, compared to 46% of women in established industries.  

Sexual Harassment 

One area the cannabis industry is ahead of other industries on is preventing sexual harassment in the workplace, with 31% of respondents reported being sexually harassed in the cannabis space, while 51% reported being harassed in other industries.

31% of women in the cannabis industry having experienced sexual harassment is by no means cause for celebration, to be clear. However, it’s promising to see this rate being substantially lower in cannabis vs other industries.

Board members were least likely to make unwanted sexual advancements towards women in cannabis, with just 1% of respondents reporting sexual harrasment from a board member. The majority of respondents who reported sexual harrasment in cannabis, 29%, were sexually harrassed by colleagues. 

15% and 11% were harassed by their supervisors and C-level executive colleagues, respectively. Whether the colleague was below this leader or not, there’s a clear need for protocol and swift action for those who use their position of power to sexually harrass their team members. 

A positive note, Black women reported experiencing significantly less experiences of sexual harassment in the cannabis space compared to other industries. 9% of Black respondents said they’ve experienced sexual harassment in cannabis, while 36% of Black respondents reported sexual harassment for other industries. 

That said, 39% of Hispanic respondents and 28% of Asian respondents have been sexually harassed in the cannabis space, once again signaling our industry has much room for further improvement. 

Women vs. Women? 

58% of respondents have experienced a lack of support from other women in the cannabis space with 45% of respondents having been bullied by other women. 

Women supporting women? The cannabis industry isn’t seeming to get the memo, and I (Kaitlin) have experienced a lack of support from other women in cannabis numerous times and I might even veer on the side of bullying with some instances. 

“Experiencing bullying from a male so-called manager [actually a board member] was one thing…but being degraded and humiliated by a female supervisor was something I never thought I would go through”, writes one California compliance coordinator in the study.  

Barriers to Success for Women in Cannabis 

Women in cannabis make significant sacrifices to work in this space. This all too often includes sexism, harassment, bullying, lack of support, lack of opportunity, lack of benefits, low pay, difficulty obtaining funding, and more. 

The majority of respondents (68%) said finding clients or customers was an extremely significant barrier in their work with 64% said having a support network was an extremely significant barrier. 

Finding the right position, time, finding a mentor, fear of failure, low pay, balancing professional & personal life, discrimination/lack of respect, being taken seriously, and obtaining resources and funding were extremely significant barriers for at least 24% of respondents. 

Interestingly, out of all of the categories we just listed, obtaining resources & funding was ranked the least “extremely significant barrier” (24% of respondents) out of all of them, which suggests this is one area the cannabis industry can be proud of. 

Lack of Benefits 

The cannabis industry has developed a reputation for not providing employees with access to benefits, and the women in cannabis survey further highlighted this trend; 

  • 24% receive paid maternity.
  • 58% receive paid sick leave.
  • 52% have a flexible schedule.
  • 52% receive dental insurance.
  • 18% have disability insurance.
  • 26% of respondents received life insurance.
  • 0.2% respondents receive childcare benefits.
  • 16% have access to a health savings account. 
  • 42% of people have the opportunity to work from home.

For many parents, men or women – having access to benefits is essential to succeed in cannabis such that they can focus on contributing to companies success, vs. having to budget for a life without receiving access to employee benefits. 

Our Take

A special shout out to all of the incredibly talented women whose contributions have helped build this multi-billion dollar industry.

This industry has a lot of work to do when it comes to meaningfully-including women in the space, but some statistics from this report show we are on our way.