Women regain leadership roles in cannabis, but equity lacks in this key area
The number of women in executive roles in the growing cannabis space has returned to pre-pandemic levels, according to new data from MJBizDaily. While this may feel like a win for women in weed, things may not be as rosy as they seem.
A report titled Diversity, Equity & Inclusion in the Cannabis Industry revealed that 39 percent of executives in cannabis are women. It’s an improvement over the 2021 report, when only 22 percent of leadership roles were held by women. In 2019, before the COVID-19 lockdown, the number was 36 percent.
As executive positions for women increased, the number of female owners dwindled to 16 percent in 2023, down six points from last year. The report’s authors offered a few possible explanations for the shifting numbers. They cited the economy and evolving marketplaces where early entrants are exiting and new states are coming online.
The MJBizDaily analysis also examined the roles of people of color in cannabis. According to the data, around 24 percent of marijuana execs are minorities, nearly double the number from last year. Approximately 19 percent of business owners in cannabis are people of color.
It’s hard to tell if the report’s findings are accurate, given that only 220 people responded to the emailed survey it’s based on. For context, more than 400,000 people work in cannabis full-time, according to statistics. Around half of the respondents identified as women, and close to 48 percent said they were owners or partners in a cannabis business. Just over 53 percent of participants were white.
One question the report asked was, “Are there enough new opportunities for women and people of color?” The authors gave no concrete answers, but it’s widely accepted that there are many barriers to success for these demographics. According to the Women in Cannabis Study, obtaining resources and funding, along with discrimination, are some of the main roadblocks.
Women and minorities may be rising through the ranks in cannabis, but more work is needed for the space to be equitable. Social equity programs designed to give marginalized communities a leg up could provide a band-aid; however, systematic change is necessary for everyone to succeed.