Female entrepreneurs in any industry find it difficult to raise funds. Fortune reported that in 2017,female-founded startups received just 2.2% of all funds invested by venture capitalists, compared to 79% received by male founders. The average size of an investment deal received by a female-owned company was about $5 million, compared to an average of about $12 million for a male-owned company.
“Because the money in cannabis is now coming from traditional funding sources, and the people running these companies are coming from traditional business, they’ve brought their same, all-male mentality into this industry,” Margolis said. “Now we’re in a place where the top cannabis companies are almost exclusively run by men.”
The Marijuana Business Daily reported in 2017 that women on average made up 26% of owners and founders in the cannabis industry, compared to the average of 20% in the U.S. economy overall. Women made the strongest showing in owning ancillary services firms, which assist with legal, marketing, regulatory, or other services. These companies have lower financial and legal barriers to entry than manufacturers or distributors that actually handle the plant.
Women make up only 11% of leadership of cannabis investment companies, however. They comprise a similarly small percentage of leadership in medical or recreational companies that are vertically integrated. These are companies that operate all cultivation, manufacturing, distribution, and retail services themselves.
The same report found that women made up only 27% of cannabis executives, which actually decreased from the two years prior. This number is slightly above the U.S. economy average of 23%.
Margolis explained that besides funding, the biggest resource women in cannabis lack is mentorship. Each participant in her program is matched with an experienced cannabis executive that will help them navigate the myriad barriers start-ups struggle to overcome- financial, legal, and otherwise.
“I talked to a woman new to this space who confessed to me, ‘I find this industry to be very lonely for women,’” Margolis said. “We have not built up an executive support structure for women. There’s a feeling of isolation and a lack of resources for women who understand what being in a leadership position means.”
Margolis said that as much as this effort requires women in the industry supporting each other, it also requires men using their power to support women too. “We need a partner movement, where the male participants in the industry acknowledge they have some responsibility to address gender disparity issues,” she said. “I don’t mean just by sponsoring a women’s event, I mean by actually making their boards gender-equal, and seeking out women and people of color for leadership positions. You can’t legislate that change, you just have to convince men to be good allies.”