Marijuana industry cultivates women business leaders in San Diego | Crain's San Diego

Marijuana industry cultivates women business leaders in San Diego

Whitney Beatty was the senior vice president of development for a major TV studio, but she found that her position didn’t command the respect she expected from the title.

“I took pitches for shows from people who just ignored me the whole time I was in the room,” Beatty said. “They talked to my assistant, handed materials to my assistant. They just assumed I was the assistant.”

Now, Beatty is the CEO of The Apothecarry, a Southern California-based manufacturer of cannabis storage cases. The 2-year-old company projects it will be cash-flow positive in the fourth quarter of this year.

“In this space, brands rise and fall on their work,” Beatty said, “so if you are doing what you need to do, they can’t help but give you respect.”

Women occupy 36 percent of leadership positions in the legal cannabis industry, according to a 2015 survey of 632 cannabis professionals conducted by Marijuana Business Daily through the Pew Research Center. In the rest of the business world, women hold only 22 percent of leadership positions.

The consensus inside the cannabis industry is that there’s less resistance to equality because no old boys’ club has had time to form.

“In the cannabis space, there aren’t problems that are unique to women founders versus male founders,” said San Diego cannabis attorney Kimberly Simms, of the Law Office of Kimberly R. Simms. “It’s kind of an equal playing field. The challenges cannabis presents are incredibly gender-neutral.”

Simms also heads the San Diego chapter of Women Grow, a nonprofit educational group that draws 50 to 100 each month to downtown’s 57 Degrees for panel discussions and networking sessions.

“As far as some of the ancillary services, you still have the same typical issues,” Simms said. “When I network with the legal industry, the conversations are still dominated by the men."

Serious business

After graduating college in Mexico in 2007, Vanessa Corrales worked in food service, where she said it was “almost impossible” to get promoted to general manager. While managing a San Diego-based brewing chain, Corrales said, she was able to save the company between $3,000 and $5,000 a month in food costs.

“But it didn’t mean anything to them,” she said. “It was just a ‘thank you’ and ‘you’re doing your job.’ No matter how hard I worked or how much I raised my bottom line, most of the upper management was dominated by males who didn’t take me seriously,” Corrales said.

In February, Corrales made a serious move of her own. She founded B Edibles, a San Diego-based manufacturer of medical marijuana cotton candy.

According to the 2015 Pew Research Center and Marijuana Business Daily report, women comprise half the executives who make and sell cannabis-infused foods. At 63 percent, an even greater portion of women make up leadership positions in cannabis testing labs.

“Women tend to get attracted to the lab jobs,” said Jaclyn Mauser, laboratory director and lead microbiologist for Ocean Beach-based PharmLabs, which tests and analyzes cannabis products. “They’re really meticulous and multitasking. We’ve had other male employees who have not been up to par or good enough – and female, too. I have seen both come and go and, for some reason, it is what it is.”

Eight of PharmLabs’ nine employees in San Diego are female.

“They’re the best fit for the job,” said PharmLabs CEO and founder Greg Magdoff, who has done most of the hiring. “It just happens to be that they’re women.”

When asked why more women qualified than men, Magdoff replied that being undervalued by other industries may have given them a better-than-average skillset.

“Maybe more of them couldn’t get the opportunities in other industries,” he said. “Maybe there’s not a glass ceiling they have to deal with (in the marijuana industry).”

Or a grass one.

August 7, 2017 - 6:41pm