January 8, 2017 | by Staff
It is no secret that American women have faced, to put it politely, an uphill battle when it comes to equality. But the gap between women and men in the workforce has steadily narrowed since 1948, according to the Department of Labor.
According to the National Association of Women Business Owners:
Enter: the marijuana industry. What was once 100% illegal, is gaining acceptance as state-after-state opens itself first to medical use, and some to recreational use, as well.
These two trends have converged in the US and the cannabis industry now sees a number of powerful female players.
Women and cannabis users have both been the victims of stereotyping. Traditionally, cannabis users have been portrayed as lazy, slow-witted males (see Cheech and Chong). A look at popular culture shows that these stereotypes are dominant in our minds.
Marijuana related movies always have the obligatory stoner archetype who serves mostly as comedic relief. Meanwhile, women everywhere have been fighting the perception that they are inferior to men for generations now. It is possible that increasing the number of women in the marijuana industry will not only help those women, but also help the industry itself as it looks to gain mainstream acceptance and change the cannabis stigma.
These two societal elements have combined to produce a situation that may be unprecedented in global business. More and more women are getting into the cannabis industry. This goes beyond modeling at trade events or being the face of a brand. Women have become growers, marketers, CEO’s, investors, and owner/operators. So how is this new dynamic changing the cannabis industry and changing women’s perceptions?
As more women enter the cannabis industry on both the supply and demand sides, a number of aspects of the industry are starting to change. The first and most noticeable is marketing. Gone are the days where the cannabis industry plays to the stoner stereotype that we have all seen in movies. Product labeling and marketing are taking into account the reality that women also grow, sell, and use cannabis products.
The cannabis industry reacts the popular cultural perceptions, and we have begun to see more casual cannabis use by women on TV and in film. One example is the hit Comedy Central Show Broad City, which features a main character who happens to love weed. This is beginning to be reflected in the way that these products are marketed. Gone are the scantily clad bikini women with a huge joint. Instead, companies are focusing on the beneficial attributes of marijuana, as well as looking to nature and natural themes in order to market their products. This can go a long way in changing popular perceptions of the plant and of the women who are working the industry.
Moreover, women have played an important role in generating the recent legal change. One survey found that before the 2012 referendum to legalize recreational use of cannabis, female support climbed seven points. This easily makes the difference between the measure passing and failing.
This clearly demonstrates that the industry stands to make tremendous gains by opening up and being more inclusive of its female members, and that doing so may be the key to gaining nationwide acceptance.
The inclusion of more women in the cannabis industry has also lead to a number of cultural shifts in society. The more women that gain positions of power in the industry, the greater number of role models today’s young women and girls will have to look up to as examples of female success.
Additionally, the newness of the industry leaves room for women to make rapid strides relative to other industries. There is an entire professional network, Women Grow, to support women in the industry. The group hosts leadership summits and provides support, advice, and networking opportunities for women who are looking to get into the cannabis industry. It features a host of industry experts who have operated at all levels of the business and is becoming a dominant social media presence. While it is impossible to predict what the outcomes of these actions will be, it is safe to say that the cannabis industry is not likely to remain the same.
Many women have embraced the cannabis industry because of the benefits they derive from it. As the number of cannabis products on the market increases and people become aware of consumption options other than smoking, more and more women are turning to cannabis products to replace remedies traditionally given to women for things like pain management, anxiety, stress, and insomnia.
Only time will tell if the cannabis industry is able to survive the bevy of challenges that it faces. Regardless, the industry it has already served an important service in showing that women are just as capable of running a cannabis business as their male counterparts.
Moreover, the inclusion of more women in the movement and industry helps to garner it allies who may have been reluctant to help out a group that they know only through movie and TV stereotypes of the giggling stoner. In challenging these twin perceptions, the women of the cannabis industry are working to advance not only the cause of gender equality, but also working to fight negative stereotypes that have helped prop up the prohibition regime.
While many women have made substantial progress, there is still much work to be done. Jane West, co-founder of Women Grow, estimates that women still only make up 10% of the marijuana industry as a whole, with even smaller numbers in top positions. This was part of the motivation for her to help found the group and is something she and her group are actively working to change. It remains to be seen if society will be more accepting of both women leaders as well as cannabis users.
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