8 Influential Women in Cannabis : Breaking The Grass Ceilings

As demand for female representation in the workplace has increased in recent decades, many industries have continued to struggle to find gender parity, especially at the leadership level. Cannabis, however, has long been regarded as a sort of haven for women and in its early days, was home to impressive numbers of female executives in every facet of the market. In fact, according to a 2019 study, nearly 37% of executive-level positions in the field were held by women, a figure that puts to shame the 21% national average for other industries.
Several years into the legalization of marijuana in many parts of the United States and more widespread acceptance of cannabis as a consumer good, the once fertile landscape for women has been growing somewhat dry. As the marketplace continues to expand and its potential to make big money becomes even more apparent, large, corporate players have entered the space and have brought a return to gender discrimination along with. With the industry’s undeniable potential still far from fulfilled, eight leaders reflect on the challenges of being a woman in cannabis and why female representation and participation remains so crucial to the field.
Kristi Palmer, Cofounder of Kiva Confections
“Living in the Bay Area in California, [my husband Scott and I] were aware of the shifting views on cannabis and its increasing accessibility and felt it could be an exciting space to be in. It was definitely risky, but at the same time, we had nothing to lose. Our first venture was a small cannabis grow in the backyard of my childhood house. Spoiler alert: it didn’t last long. But it did give us an appreciation of the art of growing and introduced us to the industry, as well as many shops that we would end up building long-term relationships with. We really loved the people we were meeting—they were passionate, knowledgeable, and really cared about the plant and those who used it. It was visiting these dispensaries that made us realize that there was a huge opportunity for edibles innovation. We knew that if we could create delicious, consistent, and beautifully-branded edibles that we would enjoy ourselves or share with our friends, they would be a huge hit. That’s when we began developing the Kiva brand and products. 

Kate Miller, Cofounder and CEO of Miss Grass

“I first got involved in the cannabis space in 2008, when I worked as a medical cannabis budtender while attending university in California. I had already experienced benefits from this plant firsthand, and I was inspired to share that with others. It also felt like an exciting business opportunity to get involved in an industry that inevitably would be massive. It was a rare and perfect marriage of a deep personal passion and a business opportunity. That experience only strengthened my belief in this plant, as I saw so many patients transform their lives from it. Still, I was surrounded by weed products that only reinforced the lazy stoner stigma. There was nothing that represented the full power or history of the plant—and definitely nothing that represented the modern cannabis consumer. It was then that I bought the Miss Grass URL and planted the seed for what it would grow into a decade later. 

When I began pursuing Miss Grass full-time in 2017, the cannabis industry, compared to others, was over-indexed in female executives; and I thought, damn right! As it should. It is a female plant after all. I was, and still am, inspired by the idea of being a part of the first multi-billionaire dollar industry with women at the helm. But as the amount of capital poured into the industry increased over the past few years, the percentage of women in leadership positions decreased. The capital market, and its corresponding white-male dominated culture, seeped in. 

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