Why cannabis companies need female leaders more than ever
By Jazmin Hupp
If there is one constant in the cannabis industry, it is change. As cannabis executives, our job is to build a business that can successfully adapt to new regulations and laws, growing competition and expanding markets. Volatility makes it hard to develop long-term strategies with staying power, but there is something you can do today to help your brand compete for years to come: engage women.
Women business leaders and consumers will drive the legal cannabis industry. Women are creating a fair, sustainable industry, and we will be the dominant purchasers of cannabis products after national legalization. Businesses that align with female leaders and customers now are stacking the cards in their favor. What’s good for women is good for everyone.
Female advocates and voters turned the legalization movement into an industry. As the cannabis industry expands, women will be vital stewards of its social values. We lead with empathy and awareness, but we have to claim our ground now. The cannabis industry is new, and it is growing fast. The “old boys club” mentality that dominates established industries hasn’t had time to take hold, but the playing field won’t be level forever. Women need to take ownership today if we are going to lead a fair, inclusive industry with global reach and trillion-dollar potential.
Women have an opportunity to shape the cannabis industry as entrepreneurs, but our dominance as consumers is inevitable. Women will be the primary buyers of cannabis products after national legalization. The brands that succeed will meet female consumers’ needs and values.
Right now, it looks like cannabis consumers are mostly male, but women are gaining ground as legalization succeeds. Women are the fastest-growing cannabis consumer demographic. Over the next decade, we will control two-thirds of consumer wealth. All of this is occurring as national legalization takes hold and consumption becomes mainstream. When cannabis is as mainstream as other household goods, women will be the biggest buyers.
Women are prime candidates for cannabis’s therapeutic applications. One in three women will develop cancer in her lifetime; one in eight will be diagnosed with breast cancer. Women experience depression twice as often as men, and half of adult women in the U.S. take multiple prescription drugs each month.
Women control 85% of consumer spending, and will therefore be the primary buyers of cannabis products as they become mainstream. We are the “chief medical officers” of our household, making 80% of our families’ health and wellness decisions and purchasing 93% of over-the-counter medicines. If you knew that 85% of your revenue was going to come from women, why wouldn’t you want women to help you create and market your products?
Women have a distinct advantage when it comes to targeting this powerful consumer group: we know what women need and value in the brands they buy, and we can build the cannabis brands they choose. But any smart business owner can — and should — take steps now to make their brand more female-friendly.
That starts with building a diverse staff. Leadership teams that include people of all genders, races, and backgrounds will contribute insight and experience to companies seeking an inclusive consumer base. If your strategic decisions are being made without women in the room, it’s much less likely your company will serve women and their families.
At the least, make sure women are handling your marketing strategy and social media. All it takes is a quick look at Instagram to see that too many cannabis brands are banking on the tired “babes and bongs” strategy. Companies that treat women like decorations to attract men instead of serious customers are missing out on a loyal audience.
Whether you’re an industry veteran or a newcomer, it is important to engage women as you grow your business. Regardless of gender or experience, Women Grow invites you to be part of our network for cannabis industry professionals.
People ask us all the time if Women Grow is just for women. It’s not. Women Grow is for anyone who understands that engaging women is good for business. We believe that business is the strongest force for change in the world, and that women in partnership with men will lead that change. We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to build a diverse, ethical industry, but we need women to buy in as business leaders and consumers. If we want our businesses to survive and thrive as the industry grows, we need to start serving women and supporting them as leaders now.
Jazmin Hupp is the co-founder and CEO of Women Grow. Visit www.womengrow.com to learn about local and national events where you will connect with women who will be your colleagues and your customers.