As is the case in many other sectors, women in the cannabis industry are regularly subjected to sexism, harassment and other injustices, according to the recently published Women In Cannabis study. Based on surveys of 1,677 female cannabis workers from across the US, the study aims to document women’s experiences within this burgeoning industry and has highlighted an urgent need for greater equality.
The Cannabis Industry Is Not Immune To Sexism
Despite early expectations that the legal cannabis industry would be more equitable than other markets, the number of women holding executive positions within the field has plummeted to below the national average across all sectors in the US. The study authors, therefore, insist that “the cannabis industry is not immune to the issues and problems that exist in other industries” and that women “make overwhelming sacrifices to work in the industry and face systemic barriers to success.”
Among the obstacles that hinder female cannabis workers are “sexism, harassment, bullying, lack of support, lack of opportunity, lack of benefits, lack of respect, difficulty obtaining funding and resources, low pay, shame, stigma and more,” they write.
Painting a detailed picture of the business landscape, the report finds that 39 percent of women own the company for which they work. However, 47 percent of these female business owners have no employees other than themselves, while a further 44 percent have less than five employees. Virtually no women own large cannabis businesses.
Around half of all women in the cannabis industry work in retail. However, the data indicates that Asian women are the most likely to work in laboratories or testing facilities, while Hispanic women are more likely to work in event production. Black women, meanwhile, are significantly underrepresented in cannabis growing and extraction roles.
Overall, 73 percent of women in the industry are white, with only 27 percent from minority communities. Over a quarter of respondents identified as LGBTQ, although only 5.6 percent of adults across the US identify as such.
Despite this, just 11 percent of women agree that the cannabis industry is equitable, with 20 percent saying they are unsure and the remaining 69 percent rating the sector as unequal. Among Hispanic women, 77 percent claim that the cannabis industry is not equitable.
Sexism Within Cannabis Laid Bare
A closer look at the figures reveals the extent of this inequality. For example, just 25 percent of women are paid the same as their male colleagues in similar roles. Consequently, 73 percent of respondents said they felt the need to work harder than their male counterparts to get the same level of respect. Two-thirds also said they are taken less seriously because they are a woman.
The study also shines a light on overt sexism within the cannabis industry. For instance, 64 percent of women said they had been called “hostile” names such as “bitchy” or “bossy” by their colleagues. Other sexist remarks aimed at female cannabis workers include “whoreish”, “cute”, “sassy”, and “dramatic”.
One-third of white women, as well as 39 percent of Hispanic women and 28 percent of Asian women, said they had experienced harassment while working in the cannabis industry. Contrastingly, only nine percent of black women claimed to have received sexist abuse.
Among LGBTQ respondents, 40 percent said they had suffered harassment in the workplace, compared to 27 percent of heterosexual women. Overall, around two-thirds of women revealed that they had been shamed for either their use of cannabis or for working in the industry, predominantly by family members and healthcare professionals.
While the aim of the study was never to call out the sexism that exists within the cannabis sector, the authors conclude that the industry is a long way from equitable. Summarising their data, they explain that “we now understand how women are faring in the cannabis industry (not well) and whether we are doing enough to support women, their careers and their professional goals (we are not).”