Cannabis can be a leader in gender equality

Published on January 30, 2020 by Special to the oz.

By Dean Millard/Cannabis 101 Podcast

Let’s face it, for a long time most companies’ management groups were predominantly run by men, and most of them were white. But things are slowly starting to change as company heads realize that someone other than the gender and colour of the person they see in the mirror will produce better results.

A 2017 study showed a near 20% increase in innovation revenue reported by companies with above average diversity scores. Cannabis as an industry on the recreational side is just over a year old, and it has the opportunity to set the standard from the beginning when it comes to diversity.

“We have data that shows when your board of directors or your leadership team is diverse, companies perform better,” says Gill Polard, founder of The Her(b) Life, which shines a light on women in cannabis. “It makes sense, there are so many good reasons to go ahead and embrace diversity.”

Polard was in freelance marketing before jumping in the cannabis space seven years ago. She was instantly hooked.

“I honestly felt like I struck gold. I couldn’t believe someone was willing to pay me to talk about cannabis. I just thought ‘I’m never going to do anything other than this.’”

Talking about cannabis is something Polard has been doing since she can remember.

A surprise D.A.R.E.

“I was raised by this very progressive, forward-thinking man. Cannabis prohibition or cannabis as a bad thing was just a concept that was never really introduced to me until the D.A.R.E program at school, then I was surprised, ‘Oh, what? This plant is a bad thing? That’s weird, I thought it was medicinal.'”

The Her(b) Life started as a blog for Polard where she could be more creative with her marketing and that’s when she thought there might be more to it.

“I was meeting so many women who were doing such incredible and courageous things and creating these new products and companies. I thought, if I could do something to help, maybe that thing is to build a platform to spread their message and talk about who they are and celebrate the work they’re doing.”

Lead by example

Polard feels with cannabis being a brand new industry it comes with a brand new opportunity.

“In North America and in Canada we don’t have gender parity in any industry, so this is an opportunity to really lead by example.”

That seems to be what is happening in cannabis right now.

The best part of cannabis comes from the female plant, so it only seems fitting that women are key when growing it and the industry.

“I’m heartened by the fact that there are so many industry leaders that are so vocal about this need.”

“I understand why there is a lot of men and male leaders, there’s a lot of men coming over from alcohol and pharma, that makes sense, that’s fine but we’re also seeing a lot of vocalization around supporting women, promoting women, hiring women and I think the results are going to be that in this particular industry we come a lot closer to gender parity.”

Polard’s rise up in the cannabis world would not have been possible without the help of other successful women and she’s honoured anyone would view her in that way and is more than happy to sit down and chat with people the way others did for her.

“I’m a big believer in the value of having a big network and mentoring is a great way to increase your network. We also know that a lot of times people who are acting as mentors report higher job satisfaction.”

Fighting stigma

Polard is not only helping to carry the cannabis industry towards gender parity, but to defeat the stigma that comes with cannabis use with a two pronged approach through education, which she also says is key to harm reduction.

“Even just creating the kind of content we try to create at The Her(b) Life. Just unabashedly pro-cannabis in your everyday life. We’re not necessarily trying to teach you about different cannabinoids or therapeutic effects, we’re just trying to talk to you as though you love it as much as we do.”

As for those who wish to walk in her footsteps, she has some advice on how more women can join the game, aside from research.

“Get active and start making connections with people who are in the space already. Certainly, go to events, you’re going to make friends and that’s one of the best ways to find out about job opportunities.

As for those new to the plant all together, she has even better wisdom to pass on.

“You don’t have to smoke that whole joint, it’s OK if you don’t, it’s probably best if you don’t. Put it down, walk away wait and see how you feel and then come back to it…. particularly for edibles.”

To hear the full interview with Gill Polard and other episodes head to www.Cannabis101Podcast.ca.