Many hoped that cannabis, the world’s newest billion dollar industry, would provide something of a blank slate to allow for more diversity among powerful positions and the workforce more generally. But as the industry establishes itself, and the typical sources of capital flow in, this window of opportunity has begun to shrink.
In 2015, a Marijuana Business Daily (MBD) survey found that thirty-six percent of “executive-level positions” in the cannabis industry were held by women, whereas women occupy as little as 23 percent of these positions in other industries. Thirty-six percent is far from ideal, but it was apparently close enough to 50 percent for major media outlets to speculate that it “could be the first billion-dollar industry not dominated by men.”
But by 2017, if there was any sort of trend towards equality in the cannabis industry, it was already beginning to reverse itself. A new MBD survey showed that the percentage of women in executive positions in the cannabis industry had dropped to 27 percent.
“I think that we’re pretty self-congratulatory about the way that women have been operating in the cannabis space, and that’s very much not true,” cannabis attorney Amy Margolis tells Herb. “We’ve seen a lot of traditional capital come in, and we’re seeing fewer and fewer women in a position of power.”
Earlier this year, Margolis announced she’d be launching The Initiative, the world’s first cannabis business accelerator for women, to try to reverse this disparity. The program offers everything from educational events, to private consulting, training programs, access to funding and more.
One of the most significant ways The Initiative bolsters women working in cannabis is by introducing them to one of the largest networks of influencers and business owners in the industry—including Margolis herself.
Founder of the Oregon Cannabis Association, Margolis has been practicing as an attorney for the past 17 years. Margolis has been named one of the most important women in the cannabis industry, for two consecutive years, by the Cannabis Business Executive (CBD). Last year, Margolis was also awarded the Portland Business Journal’s “Women of Influence” award.
Margolis hopes that with The Initiative, the cannabis industry can begin to head in a more progressive and equitable direction, and with that, be more prosperous overall.
“We know that when women are running companies, on executive teams and on boards, that that trickles down into the workforce being more diverse, and decisions being more progressive,” says Margolis. “We know that companies are more successful.”
Still, Margolis isn’t holding her breath for the cannabis industry to reach gender parity anytime soon. As she sees it, cannabis may be a new industry, but it’s largely seeded by old money. And reaching a state of balance and equity in the cannabis industry—in any industry—will require a broader societal shift.
“I’m incapable of effectuating such broad change,” she said. “But I feel like we can impact this very small corner of our world with programs like this.”