Women, minority execs show few gains in US cannabis industry, report shows

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Chart showing the number of women and racial minority executives in the cannabis industry.The percentage of executive positions held by women and racial minorities in the U.S. cannabis industry remained little changed in 2022 compared to last year, according to a new report from MJBizDaily.

However, both groups have experienced steep declines from pre-pandemic highs, when they often outpaced their cohorts in mainstream businesses.

According to the 2022 report, “Diversity, Equity & Inclusion in the Cannabis Industry,” women holding executive positions in the cannabis industry grew by only a percentage point over the past year, to 23.1%.

That’s down sharply from 36.8% in 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic.

The number is also below national averages for all businesses.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that 29.1% of chief executives at mainstream companies in 2021 were women, a number that has been rising steadily since the government started tracking the statistic in 2003.

In the cannabis space, executive positions held by racial minorities fell to a new low for the group since MJBizDaily began tracking the number in 2017, dropping to 12.1% in 2022 from 13.1% in 2021.

That’s well below the average for all U.S. businesses: The BLS estimated last year that racial minorities accounted for 20.1% of all CEOs.

The decline comes despite growing interest and investment in cannabis social equity programs in many states, including Colorado and Illinois.

Cannabis industry experts suggest that competitive markets tend to favor businesses with white men in ownership and leadership positions, primarily because of their established access to capital.

It should also be noted that the fallout from the pandemic hit female and nonwhite business owners harder than it did white men.

The free report, “Diversity, Equity & Inclusion in the Cannabis Industry,” can be downloaded here.

Andrew Long can be reached at andrew.long@mjbizdaily.com.