Working, or striving for success, has always been predominately masculine. But throughout American history, things started to shift. During the Great Depression in the 1920s, women joined the workforce in big numbers. By helping men who’ve gone to war, women got a taste of what it meant to roll up their sleeves and get to work. According to recent data, the number of women in the workforce rose from 18 million in 1950 to 66 million by 2000. Cut to the year 2020, the percentage of women working rated at 57 percent.
Yet through these momentous steps towards equality, the working world remains male-dominated. Women face multiple issues in the workforce such as equal gap, adequate maternity leave, sexism, and sexual harassment. Unfortunately, this is seen within the cannabis industry as well. Studies indicate that only 9 percent of female trimmers report sexual harassment. But that’s about to change.
As the cannabis industry is still at the beginning stage of fitting into the market, more women have created companies, labs, and communities to create the balance of women creating careers in cannabis which begs the question:
Will the cannabis industry be the first industry dominated by women?
One of them is Brooke Morgan Westlake, the founder and owner of the Women in Cannabis Expo. Twenty years ago, Westlake worked in healthcare.
Westlake organized trade shows and sold medical equipment to various places from the general doctor offices to prisons. But in 2018, she decided to forge a new path and opened a cannabis testing lab. “I didn’t know anything about cannabis,” Westlake admits. “I started doing research and thought to myself this is a viable business.”
Since cannabis isn’t federally legal, cannabis testing labs are on the rise in states that legalized medical and recreational use.
With this newfound inspiration, Westlake started attending expos to network and noticed something was lacking. “I was a woman going into the cannabis business with a testing lab and the majority of the business owners were predominantly male with women running the show,” recalled Westlake. “I wanted to go to some expos that had more women. Women in the industry, who run businesses, and I couldn’t find anything.”
She saw a need within the industry and decided if no one was going to address and fix this, might as well be her. Westlake fronted the money herself and created the Women in Cannabis Expo. For three days, women can come together to network with other female business owners, vendors, speakers, and sponsors. The Women in Cannabis Expo features many diverse women who are working in the cannabis industry.
The need for a feminist approach in the cannabis industry
As more women inch their way in this booming industry through avenues like cultivation, cooking, dispensaries, wellness products, scientific analysis, and writing — Westlake sees significant room for multiple opportunities for women. “This is what women need. Women need to feel supported by other women and to know that there’s enough business to go around. We can all uplift each other,” she said.
This year, the Women in Cannabis Expo was held in person from Monday, September 27 to Wednesday, September 29, 2021, at the Atlantis Casino Resort Spa, in Reno, Nevada.
The idea of making the cannabis industry a more balanced workplace is the ultimate intention — and it’s growing year after year. According to a survey by Vangst, the largest women-led staffing company in cannabis, 38.5 percent out of 166 cannabis businesses in 17 states identified as female. There are still issues within the cannabis industry that need to be addressed. However, women carving out their way in this growing industry has been skyrocketing.
A Return to the Divine Feminine
In a way, it feels like paying homage to the women accused of witchcraft and murdered in America’s history. It’s a reclaiming of healing and femininity. It’s also an indication that women will never stop fighting for freedom, equality, and taking a seat at the table.
In the words of legendary cannabis activist Jude Nagle before her passing: “cannabis is the divine feminine energy, and isn’t it interesting that it’s coming back at the time when we need this balance?” As a female cannabis advocate myself, I say: Yes, the time has come.