Not long ago, the cannabis industry could take pride in the higher-than-usual percentage of C-suite positions occupied by women, with roughly 1-in-3 of these posts held by a woman. This number plummeted in just a couple of years, however, dropping from 36 percent in 2015 to 27 percent in 2017, according to a Marijuana Business Daily survey.
A recent Dope Magazine article looked into the causes of this and identified three main drivers behind the trend:
- Deeply rooted social conceptions related to C-suite positions being better handled by men.
- The migration of male executives from male-dominated industries into cannabis.
- The fact that funding favors male-founded businesses.
Fortunately, many of the women who are in positions of power within the cannabis industry are fighting back, fiercely seeking to advance female representation in the industry. In an attempt to honor them, Benzinga is highlighting 20 women set to dominate the international cannabis space in 2019.
Establishing a fixed set of criteria wasn’t easy. After experimenting with a few points-based systems, we decided to simply explain why each of the women on this list deserves to be on it.
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1. Dr. Raquel Peyraube
Most people in the North American cannabis industry focus almost solely on the U.S. and Canada. Seeking to take a different approach, the first woman on our list is Uruguay’s Dr. Raquel Peyraube, an icon in Spanish-speaking countries.
Peyraube is a Uruguayan doctor who specializes in the endocannabinology and drug fields. She is founder and president of the Uruguayan Society of Endocannabinology, a board member of the International Association for Cannabinoid Medicines and a member of the International Cannabinoids Research Society. She also advises drug- and cannabis-related government organizations around the globe.
Peyraube is also a member of a group of experts working on public health recommendations for cannabis regulation coordinated by the O’Neill Institute at Georgetown University and the Washington Office for Latin America; and an active lecturer at many universities and governmental events.
When asked about the role of women in the cannabis industry, Peyraube told Benzinga:
“The participation of women in the legalization of cannabis and the development of the industry can give this story a differentiating twist: we may see more sensitive and humane policies that effectively take into account the ethical principles of public health and a less aggressive industry and business.”
2. Giadha Aguirre de Carcer
Giadha Aguirre de Carcer is founder and CEO of New Frontier Data, a leading cannabis data and analytics provider with information on more than 80 countries around the world.
Prior to joining the cannabis industry, Aguirre de Carcer worked in investment baking and advising and launched and operated several other successful data-driven businesses. Fluent in five languages, she earned an associate arts degree from Miami Dade Community College, a bachelor’s degree in international relations and trade from the University of Pennsylvania and a master’s in international security from the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University.
“Many women entered the cannabis industry early on as we found ourselves with an opportunity to enter a marketplace without a glass ceiling or a ‘box’ to fit into — a true clean canvas where we could have a greater impact, faster than in other male-dominated sectors,” Aguirre de Carcer told Benzinga.
“The challenge now lies in staying on top of the industry as the perceived risk to entry has decreased, and competitive pressure, especially from largely male new entrants, are more heightened than ever.”
Disclosure: New Frontier Data is a Benzinga content partner.
3. Jessica Billingsley
Jessica Billingsley is set to become the first female CEO at a Nasdaq-traded cannabis company.
Billingsley is the CEO and co-founder of MJ Freeway, a cannabis technology company credited for inventing the seed-to-sale system that is now standard in the marijuana space. MJFreeway recently merged with MTech Acquisition Corp. MTEC 0.19%. The new public company will be renamed Akerna once the merger is complete.
Prior to MJ Freeway, Billingsley served as CEO and founder of Zoco, a technology services firm with clients across the U.S. She is featured on Inc. Magazine’s 2018 100 Female Founders list and holds a communications and computer science degree from the University of Georgia.
“The role of every individual in the coming future is to propel the industry forward and further contribute to its maturation and innovation. However, from a personal perspective, I believe women should examine how we can support each other in meaningful ways, regardless of the size of the gesture. That’s how change is magnified and sustained, as well as the key to empowerment,” Billingsley told Benzinga.
4. Tahira Rehmatullah
Tahira Rehmatullah was one of the guests on our show “Wonder Women of Weed” in 2018. She serves as chief financial officer at MTech Acquisition Corp., the Nasdaq-listed special-purpose acquisition company that recently announced the aforementioned merger with MJ Freeway.
Rehmatullah was previously a managing director at Hypur Ventures, where she managed portfolio companies and investment sourcing. She previously served on the board of Dope Media, a cannabis media company and portfolio company of Hypur Ventures.
The cannabis exec’s resume also includes time as an investment manager at Privateer Holdings, which led to her serving as the general manager for Marley Natural, where she was responsible for the brand’s launch and overseeing day-to-day operations. Her career began in Ernst & Young’s financial services advisory practice.
Rehmatullah earned her MBA from the Yale School of Management, where she was a Yale Entrepreneurial Institute Venture Creation Advisor. She holds a B.S. in finance and life sciences from Ohio State University, where she graduated magna cum laude and was a presidential scholar.
“Many women and minorities know how it feels to not be represented in a certain field of work, and I think we increasingly see that in cannabis. Because of that, we have to be the example that we wish we had. We have to be the role model for someone else, and through that, we can pay it forward and create lasting impact,” she told Benzinga.
5. Sara Gullickson
Sara Gullickson is another leading exec featured in our “Wonder Women of Weed” series.
Gullickson is the CEO of Item 9 Labs Corp INLB 2.48%, which specializes in the development and manufacturing of innovative cannabis products and proprietary delivery platforms. Along with her role at Item 9 Labs, Gullickson is the owner of Strive Wellness of Nevada, a 20,000-square-foot medical cannabis cultivation and processing facility, and the dispensary Strive Life of North Dakota.
Gullickson previously served as CEO and founder of Dispensary Permits, an international cannabis consulting firm that she established in 2010 at age 26. Dispensary Permits secured cannabis licenses across more than a dozen state markets and five countries. In 2018, Dispensary Permits and its assets were acquired by Item 9 Labs.
Commenting on female leadership, Gullickson said: “The female point of view is often undermined or undervalued. Sometimes, I think it is easy for women to operate behind the scenes because we wear so many hats in our day-to-day lives. However, we are needed at all of the big decision tables. Our approach is equally relevant and essential to the longevity of a project. Moving forward, it should be a priority to blend both the masculine and feminine perspective, not emphasize one over the other.”
To Read The Rest Of This Article By Javier Hasse on Benzinga
Published: January 10, 2019
Founder & Interim Editor of L.A. Cannabis News