As we move towards normalization and ending the stigma that still surrounds the cannabis plant, it is critical that we recognize those who are working to do just that.
Recently, High Times announced the High Times Female 50 honorees, and recognized them at an event in Los Angeles last month.
Among those women was Jamie Pearson, president of Bhang corporation, a cannabis pioneer with a passion for crafting high-quality, natural products. During the event, Pearson gave a moving and inspiring address that says so much about where we are in the cannabis movement with leadership by women. I felt both compelled and honored to share her speech with our readers....enjoy!
Thank you to High Times for having me here and congrats to all 50 of you magnificent, powerful and brilliant women. We were selected out of a group of over 7500 nominees. That’s really something. I would like the honorees to stand. Let’s give them a hand.
I’m in awe of what this collective group has been able to accomplish to create our industry and it is my honor to address you. Even though we’re being honored by HT as the top Women in business - I just see all of us as leaders in business - period.
The term glass ceiling was coined in 1978 by Marilyn Loren, an American writer and management consultant. We all get the visual - you can look up and see clearly where decisions are made and fates are determined but the view is from beneath. And very often companies and organizations are built on the backs of women who do the hard work in the trenches. That intangible barrier has historically kept us and other marginalized people out of the boardrooms. We haven’t been in those rooms or on the golf courses which means we haven’t had access to power.
This isn’t a “fight the power talk.” But I think it’s important to look at history and learn from it.
Think back to when Marilyn coined the term. Politicians, CEOs, universities presidents, yacht clubs, golf clubs, excluded women etc... - imagine the wall of pictures depicting the leadership. Take a second and imagine that wall with the framed pictures in the hallway of such an organization. What are you seeing in your mind? I suspect we all have pretty much the same image in our head.
Look I believe people are basically good and there was never a conspiracy to exclude women and minorities. But I also believe that we surround ourselves with people whom we know and understand and who look like us - what’s familiar and comfortable. It’s human nature. So the guys in charge put other guys in charge and the framework of business that was gradually built over time created the legacy of every organization and basically they all pretty much looked like this …a woman at the helm of an important company or institution was literally inconceivable to those guys. A picture of a woman or a person of color would look out of place on that wall.
This is a critical point.
The result of that evolution is that the framework of business we operate under is exclusionary by nature because it was designed with one single archetype involved. VERY few people who didn’t look like them or share their values or their golf club memberships ended up in leadership positions. When they did it was either through starting their own businesses or some other stroke of circumstance or luck that provided a seat at the table.
But here we are! How did we get here? I have a theory.
Outliers before us cracked the glass ceiling. They made it easier for others to break through.
How many of you saw the move The Post? It was the true story of Katherine Graham - played by Meryl Streep. Graham was the first female editor of a major US newspaper. Case in point .. She ended up in that position after her husband passed away. She led the Washington Post to publish the controversial stories investigating Watergate. It was a risky move that could have cost her literally everything. Katherine Graham led with courage, with conviction and changed the course of America. She put cracks in the ceiling and proved a woman could lead a major newspaper and kick ass doing it. She wasn’t a woman editor - she was simply an incredible editor.
Hats off to Katherine Graham and women like her. I’m grateful for the cracks they put in the ceiling for us.
I used her example because I’m especially grateful for her today. She gave our country an example of intrepid journalism doing the job of keeping our politicians in check.
Fast forward to the Beverly Wilshire in 2019. The very framework of business now has cracks in it.
Here’s a thought ...
The concept of a glass ceiling only exists if we agree and are complicit with the rules of engagement created by the establishment. And this group of women before me might be complicit in a thing or two but fighting for scraps and perpetuating stereotypes isn’t among them.
The parallels between cannabis reform and gender reform are remarkable. We are sitting in a room celebrating women leaders in the cannabis industry. Countless people have lost their lives and their liberty for this plant. People are currently sitting in prison, some of them doing life, for cannabis. They blazed the trail (pun intended) for all of us to be here. These efforts should be remembered and these people cannot be forgotten. They cracked the ceiling of access for us too.
Cannabis is a magical plant and our industry is being built on the backs of Trail Blazers in both senses. We are leading the charge forward and we’re disrupting big business like alcohol, tobacco and big pharma. More importantly, the cannabis industry and its leaders are disrupting the flawed framework of business that prevented women and people of color from having access. We can choose to do this differently and I submit to you - we need to choose differently ... deliberately.
We don’t have to carve a little niche out of something that exists. We are building this industry brick-by-brick and we can make it look any way we want. We are building a NEW framework. Not just the 50 award winners but the 7500 nominees and the people who work with us and for us and champion us. We’re in prohibition. The industry isn’t built yet which means we get to build it on our terms.
The women in this room are proof that we can reject the paradigm of exclusion and we can build our own businesses, make tough decisions, manage money, hire and fire, and lead with courage, and conviction and change the course of America.
Women leadership isn’t only a social justice issue. It also makes good business sense. Statistics (formed on the cracks of the Katherine Grahams) consisntly prove that companies with diversity (gender and race, religion, sexual orientation and politics) are more profitable than companies with what my friend Jeanne Sullivan calls the “pale, male, stale” leadership model . Diversity brings real value. It makes us more profitable.
Ernst and Young notes that an organization made up of 30% female leaders could add up to six percentage points to its net margin. It’s logical. Women are the shoppers and decision makers of most households. We should certainly have input. If we can accelerate the uptake of women in our industry, particularly in senior positions - on purpose - we can be assured that it’s going to have a positive effect. Obviously having women leaders has been positive for Bhang. Our executive team is almost entirely made up of women. And it’s definitely been a positive experience for me. I am having the time of my life.
Do you ever find yourself in situations where you stop and look around and think, “Wow. This industry has me doing really cool things, meeting incredible people and sitting in amazing places.” I do this reflection a lot.
So how did I become the president of Bhang? I need to start at the beginning.
I grew up in Absarokee, Montana - a town of 800 in the Stillwater valley of the Rocky Mountains. I was a standout high school and college basketball point guard. Basketball is religion in small town Montana and our teams (boys & girls from Absarokee) are legendary in Montana. There were 26 kids in my graduating class and I was related to many of them. While I was in school we raised black angus cattle, cruised that Main Street, and had literally one country music radio station and 2 tv stations. And...my dad was raising cannabis - in fact, he’s been growing cannabis for 55 years.
From Absarokee I went on to New York and attended Vassar College. Talk about culture shock. From there I went to law school and then on to get a Masters in leadership from the University of Oregon. Fun fact, while I was in Law School, my cousin, DJ Muggs from Cypress Hill, lit a joint on Saturday Night Live. He literally blazed the trail for us.
So you have this country girl with a crazy ranch-life work ethic, who is super competitive and thrives on leading teams of strong women. I grew up in and around cannabis but didn’t use it.
Post college I started a real estate investment firm and cut my teeth in business making deals and finding money. A good transferable skill set. While working, I simultaneously raised two amazing human beings. I am literally a soccer and volleyball mom from Montana. And I’m not unusual ... My story is your story.
We all work in cannabis companies, are part of families and have some unique story that connected us to this plant. I’ve heard many of your stories and they are amazing.
I encourage all of you to do three things:
1. Write your story. We are literally creating history. 50 years from now when people are looking back at this time, our stories and those of us who document them will be a living history of how women in cannabis changed the framework of business and used cannabis as a gateway drug to wellness. Physical, financial and societal wellness is being created by us.
2. Ask the people you meet to tell you their story at events like these ... What got you into cannabis?” Or “What is your cannabis connection?” These stories are incredible and they connect us at a soul level.
3. Share your access - on purpose. You’ve heard a bit about my story but I believe what makes mine special is summed up on one word: MENTORING
Throughout my career, I’ve been mentored by incredible people who took me under their wings, showed me the ropes, believed in me and lifted me up. The cool part of this story is that I’ve been mentored by both men and women and by people of different races, ethnicities and walks of life. People who weren’t like me and didn’t look like me, taught me and teach me and I jump at those opportunities even when they make me uncomfortable and I have to stretch. These taught me to know the world is abundant. There is enough for everybody. They showed me that sharing my knowledge, my resources and my time with others compounds all good things. My mentors modeled deliberate inclusivity. They shared access with me.
Mentoring actively helps advance careers. The Harvard Business Review found that women with mentors are 22% more likely to ask for stretch assignments to push them further than their un-mentored peers.
I’ve made a commitment to give back and pay it forward. Many of you in this room have heard me speak before and you know that I feel strongly about this. But it’s not just about lifting up others ... for me it’s also about deliberately looking for the opportunities to give access to people who don’t look like me. That’s where the magic happens.
We heal social trauma, we level the playing field and change the business framework for the better when we’re inclusive. Being inclusive helps our companies and our communities perform better. It’s paid me back infinitely in the friendships, the knowledge and the depth of experience I’ve gained and all that, in turn, has prepared me to stand before you ... a woman from Absarokee, Montana who has stepped into the new framework we’re developing in the cannabis industry as the President of a publicly-traded, globally-distributed, OG cannabis company.
The title of President has caused a noticeable change in the way people treat me and who wants to be part of my circle. It’s definitely opening doors and providing me more access. My world is noticeably larger and my opportunities bigger. I will use this to benefit Bhang for sure but I also intend to help change the framework of business by sharing this access. I challenge you all to do the same.
In a show of hands, how many of you had someone take their time to help you move forward and who gave you access?
Crazy story ... this year, I was in Barcelona. I made a friend through my mentor named Arvid. He’s a super cool guy and he offered to sponsor me and take me on a tour of the Barcelona smoking clubs. It’s decriminalized but you have to have a sponsor to get in them. It was awesome and another moment where I paused for reflection. A few months ago Arvid connected me to an Italian company called X.
Fast forward ... X and Bhang have a struck a deal on their product which is an EU cosmetic-certified intimate serum with a proprietary blend of CBD and CBG and terpenes. The product is made in Italy and comes in a patented clitoral applicator hence the word intimate. It’s literally a topical oil for your clitoris that is designed to enhance orgasms. I swear this business never gets boring. I brought an X for all of you as a celebration of this deal and a congratulations to all my partners in crime (again pun intended) in this room. If you don’t get one and want one, make sure you reach out to Nicole at the number on the screen. We’ll hook you up.
We are all the Female 50. We are building a new industry. We are positively disrupting the very framework of business. We are lifting each other up and giving access people who don’t look like us. We lead with courage, conviction and are changing the course of American business. We have rejected the very concept of the glass ceiling. I am honored to be making history with you. From the bottom of my heart ... Thank you.