Being ignored or bypassed during networking events provided the impetus to create a green space for women to connect, learn and mentor
Most conferences are male-dominated. In the study, An End to Manels: Closing the Gender Gap at Europe’s Top Policy Events, researchers analyzed 23 high-level conferences in Europe from 2012 through mid-2017 and found that of the 12,600 speakers, women occupied only 26 percent of those spots.
The trend seems to be the same when scanning those in the audience. In North America, of the 18,000 cannabis professionals who attended MjBizCon in Las Vegas last year, one of the largest cannabis conferences in the world, just 50 women attended the mixer, hosted by Kyra Reed, founder of Women Entrepreneurs in Cannabis, on the first day of the conference.
Why are these stats concerning, even alarming? It means women are potentially missing out on networking, business and mentorshop opportunities.
In a 2018 article by Harvard Business Review, Do Women’s Networking Events Move the Needle on Equality?, data from 2,600 working women attending conferences for women in several U.S. states was collected. Here’s what study co-author Shawn Achor found: “For women who’d signed up for the conference, but had yet to attend, 18 percent received a promotion compared with 42 percent of women who had already attended the conference. In other words, in the year after connecting with peers at the Conference for Women, the likelihood of receiving a promotion doubled.” Establishing the fact that not every conference could have such impactful after-effects, Achor wrote: “I think it’s safe to say there is an inverse relationship between the benefits you’ll get from a conference and the time you spend on your laptop or phone.”
From observation to inspiration: networking space for women
Attending multiple cannabis events throughout the year, ranging from Las Vegas’ MjBizCon to Toronto’s Lift & Co. Cannabis Expo, minority representation on stage and off was not lost on three Canadian women: Irie Selkirk, Tabitha Fritz and Emma Baron.
Formerly director of outreach for Emblem Cannabis and Tokyo Smoke, Selkirk manages cannabis education and engagement for Fleurish Cannabis and also sits on the advisory board for NICHE Canada. Fritz is the co-founder and CEO of Fritz’s Consulting Co. She currently sits on the NICHE Canada advisory board, is the manager of the MBA Capstone Course at Rotman School of Management and is the founding member of Bast, a women-led cannabis brand that makes products designed for women’s reproductive and gynecological health. Baron is the clinic administration and operations manager at the Summertree Medical Clinic, Canada’s rheumatologist-led cannabis clinic, and co-founder and creative director at cannabis accessory brand, Milkweed Co.
“We observed that the show floors at the conferences we attended was over 90 percent men, and when we spoke with other executive women attendees, they all had similar experiences, such as being ignored in introductions when networking, or having a client or potential partner address subordinate male employees instead of the women executives,” say Selkirk, Fritz and Baron in an email interview with TheGrowthOp.
From this observation came an inspiration: How about a place at the conference designed specifically for women to network? Founded by Selkirk, CEO, Fritz, COO, and Baron, CCO, The Green Tent organized its first-ever event in the spring of 2018 at O’Cannabiz in Toronto.
We’re so lucky to have April Pride from @van_der_pop come talk about brands 😍❤ check out the live feed on their Instagram account! #cannabisindustry pic.twitter.com/hvSFpfWctB
— The Green Tent (@camptgt) June 8, 2018
“Sessions have been hosted on the conference floors; the hospitality events, on the other hand, took place in private residences or outdoors in public parks,” they say. In the inaugural event at O’Cannabiz, where The Green Tent has a dedicated booth, the team hosted a number of professional skill-sharing workshops, including Brand Nucleus with April Pride (founder, Van der Pop), Ask Me Anything with Stephanie Karasick (founder, Strainprint) and Pot & Politics with Barinder Rasode (co-founder, Grow Tech Labs).
Turns out, this is exactly what many female attendees were looking for. “It was clear that the women were more comfortable, as anyone would be, in an environment where their value was based on their experience and what they brought to the table. Simply put, it was refreshing to see that their expertise was assumed as much as any other male executive,” says the team.
With a view to providing women the resources they need to excel, The Green Tent offers “consultation, mentoring and our network; and we act as a point of entry to the space for women with cannabis expertise or ancillary skills, such as healthcare and wellness,” they say.
The team has hosted events at O’Cannabiz in Toronto (2017), the International Cannabis Business Conference in Vancouver (2018), Canex, moderating the International Women Leaders panel, in Jamaica, and Grow Up 2018 in Niagara Falls. “We will be launching the inaugural TGT retreat this spring 2019,” they add.
T(al)ent powerhouse: three’s a charm
Having met through other women in the cannabis industry in early 2017, Selkirk, Fritz and Baron knew they wanted to work together. “Over the course of the next year, it became obvious that we had some problems to tackle in this industry and we set out to solve those problems as a team,” they say.
One of the primary challenges they faced starting out as entrepreneurs: banking options.
“When we tried to open a bank account for TGT, we were rejected by three banks before we finally settled on a credit union who was willing to work with us. This is despite the fact that our company never even touches the cannabis plant,” they say.
However, with the current dialogue and focus on equal representation at the workplace, there’s no better time than now to focus on female entrepreneurship. “A 2017 survey in the U.S. by New Frontier Data indicated that 57 percent of respondents worked in a company where at least half the ownership was women. We want Canada to exceed those numbers, not merely catch up,” they say.
Looking beyond the conference floors, the team is currently developing its product line and planning events for 2019. They will be launching retreats this March in Ontario, and are hosting the wellness area at the Tmrw Tday festival in May in Negril, Jamaica. “Our product lines are in development phase now, so we don’t want to commit to any specific launch date. But we will be working directly with women-led businesses to curate this line,” they say.
The retreats will bring women together from different walks of life and help them explore their relationship with cannabis, both personally and professionally. “We plan to host community and professional skill-building workshops and other activities where women will be able to connect with one another.” The wellness area at Tmrw.Tday, where Selkirk will be part of a panel titled,’ The Garden of Mary’, is an opportunity to bring TGT’s network to the burgeoning new cannabis industry in Jamaica, “and to connect the women under The Green Tent to a larger, international community of changemakers and innovators.”
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