Business Women Losing Their Foothold in Mainstream Marijuana

Women Grow is a pioneer in the legal marijuana market that looked to insure business women had a large stake in the industry. Since its inception, Women Grow has had some significant internal conflicts and may not have the influence in the industry it had originally hoped for. Statistics are also showing that women entrepreneurs are losing ground as more mainstream capital flows into the industry.

Sexism in the workplace has been a struggle for women for a very long time. The nationwide revelation that the prohibition of marijuana was actually counterproductive to our culture does not seem to include a shift in thought that sexism is even more counterproductive. Is male dominance in U.S. capitalism entirely too ingrained into our culture to let the bright minds of people like Shanel Lindsay, the founder of Ardent, to flourish?

“More sophisticated money is coming into the space, and with that comes all of the trappings and all of the challenges for women,” said Shanel Lindsay, who founded a medical-marijuana device maker called Ardent in Boston.

In the pot industry, the share of start-ups owned by women is shrinking, even as female entrepreneurs thrive in small businesses overall. Two years ago, women made up 36 percent of executives in cannabis-related companies, about average for small businesses as a whole. This year, the percentage of women entrepreneurs was unchanged, but female pot executives dropped to 27 percent, a survey by Marijuana Business Daily found.

It’s not entirely clear why women occupy a shrinking share of leadership roles in the cannabis field. It’s expensive to obtain a license to grow, manufacture or sell weed products in many states where it’s legal. It’s also difficult, if not impossible, to obtain traditional banking services or financing for anything that touches the plant, because it’s still federally illegal. Those factors favor entrepreneurs with more money to start with, and that’s often men.

The growing interest from big-money investors from Silicon Valley and Wall Street may also give men an advantage. Academic research suggests that investors prefer business pitches presented by male entrepreneurs compared with pitches by female entrepreneurs, even when the pitch is the same. Start-ups run by women are usually questioned about potential losses, while those run by men are asked about potential gains, according to a study published earlier this year in the Harvard Business Review.

Krista Whitley started a marketing firm that specializes in cannabis companies and products in 2015 with one investor. Her company, Altitude Products, has since expanded to other pot-related business lines, and in January, she tried to raise another round of capital. The process, she said, was characterized by “amazing misogyny.”

“One investor in particular told me he thought it was cute that I wanted to make money,” she said. “Men don’t get told that in the middle of their fundraising pitches.”

Eventually Whitley found another investor. Last year, her company had $1 million in revenue. This year, she expects to hit $10 million.


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Richard Lowe

Richard Lowe is a 14-year veteran of the financial sector with licenses as a commodity broker (Series 3) and investment advisor representative (IAR Series 65). Along with a focus on raising capital for the firms he was employed with, he also wrote and edited much of the content published by them. He holds a BA in Journalism from the University of Massachusetts. He has been a longtime advocate for marijuana legalization due to the social injustices associated with marijuana prohibition and the strong potential for the medicinal benefits of cannabis.

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