Irene Stepanenko, CEO of AskGrowers, reflects on gender equality in the cannabis industry as a celebration of Women’s Equality Day.
Women’s Equality Day is celebrated annually on August 26 to commemorate the adoption of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits states and the federal government from denying citizens the right to vote based on sex. The right of women to vote and participate in society and various industries was first enshrined at the state level. In practice, women still continue to struggle for equal opportunities and privileges. This sentiment was echoed in former President Obama’s Proclamation on August 25, 2016, “Today, as we celebrate the anniversary of this hard-won achievement and pay tribute to the trailblazers and suffragists who moved us closer to a more just and prosperous future, we resolve to protect this constitutional right and pledge to continue fighting for equality for women and girls.”
The cannabis industry is currently one of the best in terms of gender parity. The share of leadership positions held by women in the cannabis industry consistently exceeds the percentage of businesses in the traditional economy, which is only 21 percent. According to the MJBizDaily report, the percentage of women in senior-level executive positions in the cannabis industry by year: 2015 – 36 percent, 2017 – 26.9 percent, 2019 – 36.8 percent. The main reason for the decline in 2017 and lack of growth in parity from 2015 to the present, according to experts, is the unequal access of women executives to capital, which mainly comes from private capital markets such as family investment offices and venture capital firms – an industry dominated by men.
“The pandemic and its consequences could change the number of women entering the cannabis industry,” said Irene Stepanenko, CEO at AskGrowers, the legal cannabis product and marketing website. “On the one hand, many women noted the advantage of online businesses, as well as the cannabis industry, which has not lost profits like other industries such as retail, hospitality and entertainment, where women were leaving the workforce in record numbers. On the other hand, there is still a very high threshold for women to enter the market, especially women from minority groups. The trend is changing, but unfortunately, this process is very slow to fully experience its results.”
The AskGrowers team supports women’s aspirations to participate in the cannabis industry. At the moment, the company’s staff consists of 75% women. The website’s #growerstories section, where founders and c-level managers share their stories of creating and managing cannabis brands, has over 40 interviews with women, 35 percent of all interviews. AskGrowers plans to continue to increase the number of women it highlights on its website.
AskGrowers.com is an online cannabis marketing platform specializing in the gathering and providing of detailed brand and product information from legal cannabis businesses across the United States. Operating entirely online, AskGrowers offers in-depth product reviews and brand profiles designed to keep consumers well-informed and confident of their online cannabis purchases. Founded in New York in 2019, AskGrowers operates offices in New York and Ukraine, and focuses on states with either legal, recreational or medical programs.