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Women Break The Grass Ceiling In The Cannabis Industry

By Debra Borchardt

03-22-2017

Read the Original Story on Forbes

It's Women's History Month and these female cannabis executives are making history as they forge ahead and create new businesses. It seems only fitting that women would find the cannabis industry more receptive to their business endeavors since it's the female plant that is most desirable to smokers.

Women make up roughly 36% of the leaders in the cannabis industry, including 63% of high-level positions, according to a survey by Marijuana Business Daily. Compare this to the rest of the business world where women have only managed to secure roughly 5% of the CEO jobs and only 25% of the leadership roles. One of the reasons that cannabis offers more opportunity is the relative youth of the industry.

Since the market is young, traditional barriers to women haven't been established. Instead of fighting to get a foot in the door, the door is wide open. Nancy Whiteman, co-owner and founder of Colorado-based cannabis company Wana Brands said, “When Colorado really opened up, there were low barriers to entry. It didn't cost a lot to get a license and there weren't limitations on the number of licenses.” She also noted that the financial requirements weren't as stringent back then, making the investment more accessible for women. Whiteman has been very successful and Wana Brands' infused gummies are the best selling edible product in Colorado. She is already in three states with plans to enter several more over the next 18 months.

“There's no glass ceilings to be broken, no preconceived industry that this is more male oriented,” she said. “It's just brand-new and we're all figuring it out together.” Many female entrepreneurs in the cannabis space came from other more male-dominated industries and most agree that this field is definitely a better place for women.

Giadha Aguirre De Carcer, Chief Executive Officer of New Frontier Data. “I came from male dominated industries like banking, tech and government and they were all difficult to navigate career wise.” She said when she used to enter a room for a meeting in the old days, the room was filled with older men in gray suits looking down at an immigrant woman. Now when she enters a meeting, she is recognized as a cannabis entrepreneur. “There is much less resistance,” De Carcer said.

Like Whiteman, DeCarcer said that there is a sense of cameraderie. “I feel like we're on the same team, that we're in the trenches together. It's definitely a better experience,” she said. DeCarcer also noticed that when she did face friction regarding her work, it wasn't because she was a woman, but because her analysis was pulling no punches. That's the way it should be in her eyes and that is refreshing.

Diane Czarkowski, the cofounder of cannabis consulting firm Canna Advisors, has also found support within the industry. “Big business is still standing on the sidelines,” she said. Czarkowski thinks that this opens up great opportunity for women to get in on the ground floor. “This is not just a new industry; it’s a new kind of industry. It is rooted in advocacy, community and diversity.”

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