LEANING INTO THE GRASS CEILING
Updated: Aug 14, 2019
Equality pieces always tend to spike my interest when scrolling through a news feed. From the beginning of my career in the sciences, I wondered if I would face adversity in the workforce due to my gender.
I have been involved in several equality programs and events since a young age. One of my favourites being, Think About Math! a 3-day workshop designed to ignite enthusiasm in high school girls for mathematics (University of Waterloo's Center for Education in Mathematics and Computing).
Events like these were always fun to attend and gave me hope that equality was achievable. Although I am not saying the latter is no longer true, in reflecting on my journey through moments of gender inequity, perhaps even perceived unfairness at times albeit, I want to tackle gender inequalities by highlighting the societal definitions I feel need to be altered.
I believe equality is achievable by first focusing on equity, but for equity we need to lean into
our lives and communities to empower women, men and youth. In other words, I do not
believe equality should be our primary focus. To me, and perhaps this is because my original
roots with science were in mathematics, equality in an equation: for every man in the
workplace, there should be an equal number of women (the reverse can also be said, the order not being the point) whereas equity translates to fair-mindedness and justice in the workforce. With these definitions, before we can tackle inequality, we need to fix inequity between genders (and yes, there are more than two).
A recent article by Samantha Beattie on HuffPost beautifully illustrates just how unequal the ratio is in for male to female CEOs in the Canadian cannabis industry. HuffPost Canada found that of 99 companies with public information, 92 of them were run by male CEOs.
We may be far from equality, but what gets me excited is that there appears to be a sense of
fair-mindedness and equity amongst female leaders. In Beattie's article, Jeannette
VanderMarel, co-CEO of 48North Cannabis Corp., says: "There's a kind of sisterhood of us
women in leadership because there are so few of us." The article then mentions a piece titled
"Cannabis, the industry without a glass ceiling for female entrepreneurs" from The Globe and
Mail. After reading both articles, both featuring 48North (which just so happened to be my first presentation topic in my Cannabis Applied Science post-grad), it is readily apparent to me that The Globe and Mail made encouraging words from women in the cannabis industry into an inaccurate representation of the industry.
To this, I am no stranger; inaccurate representation of my words that is. In a recent work environment, I was approached by an editor to write an article about inequality in my industry. I immediately agreed as I wanted nothing more than to expose inequities in the industry while demonstrating strong points of my company in relation to equality as well as the industry itself.
When I approached management about the article, I was told that because the article did not directly speak to the advancements of the business, it would be best that I spent my time on other projects. I felt pretty gutted by this statement, but when the editor of the magazine got a hold of my marketing team who eventually approved the article the piece got published to my surprise. What was even more surprising were some of the ways my words were used to negate other industries, industries I was, or had been, a part of.
As a feminist and environmentalist, I did not feel very well represented and as though the
article better represented the benefits of the industry I worked in and none of the flaws. The
point of this anecdote is not to highlight yet another moment where a woman in the workforce felt unequal, because frankly we have made incredible waves in talking about things, but it is time to take action.
In reflecting on a conversation that I had with the editor of the blog today, I realized that
perhaps this was a perfect example of how leaning in could have created fair-mindedness.
When management first told me that the article might not be a good fit, even if I felt that this
was strongly unfair, I did not speak up. I spoke about it to another member of management
later, who agreed with me that the decision was unjust, but we agreed to move past it.
Had I leaned in, represented my core belief at the table, and spoke up for myself, the snowball effect that I can only describe as marketing perhaps would not have ensued. To that point, I think it is time we start teaching our youth to lean into everything they do, regardless of their gender.
By isolating young females for specialized training camps meant solely for girls, we are not truly preparing them to speak up to injustice. I am not saying these programs do not have their place and am not questioning their validity, but without proper entrepreneurial and leadership skills for youth, and by solely targeting inequality as opposed to inequity, I feel like we are only doing half the job.
In the Cannabis industry, I encourage my female counterparts to lean in on each other, but more importantly, to lean into conversation and speak up for their core beliefs; by speaking up we can rise higher than the grass ceiling. To quote Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's speech on justice from the 2019 Women's March: "Oftentimes the most righteous thing you can do is shake the table."
The Feminist of Cannabis