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article imageAlpha Woman looks to foster fierce women in cannabis

By Jack Derricourt     Oct 18, 2018 in Business
While many had hoped that the developing cannabis industry would become a playground for diverse, inclusive business leaders and executives, the industry is falling behind.
As reported by NOW Magazine, women make up only five percent of the board members in publicly traded Canadian cannabis companies.
Leslie Andrachuk, cofounder of new brand Alpha Woman, wants to tackle this problem by “empowering women and leadership among women in the cannabis space and beyond.”
Alongside fellow cofounders Madelaine Gileadi and Brandon Gasner, Andrachuk worked previously at the Toronto Star, where they focused on the management and growth of digital publications. Now, they’re turning their attention to the cannabis space in order to build on the initial enthusiasm for the quickly developing industry, and make sure it doesn’t just become ‘business as usual.’
Diversity and inclusion a path to profit
If the cannabis industry confronts its diversity and inclusion issues head-on, it could be a boon for the fast-growing businesses involved.
According to a recent McKinsey report, businesses in the 25th percentile of gender diversity for their executive team are 21 percent more likely to experience above-average profits, and more culturally and ethnically diverse companies were 33 percent more likely to see better profits.
California, a cannabis-friendly state, is taking these lessons to heart. The state is pushing ahead with regulation to ensure companies based there have at least one female board member — set to ratchet up to three members by 2021.
“My partners and I have been working in the cannabis space for a year now and we’re excited about the entrepreneurial opportunities, especially for women,” said Andrachuk. “But it has become more and more clear that those opportunities are being eroded.”
Wellness a way forward?
It’s not just the business side of cannabis that remains murky for women. As consumers, women represent a huge portion of the potential market for the developing companies.
But women still deal with a great fear of stigmatization related to cannabis. A recent survey by Van Der Pop shows that 77 percent of women list social stigma as the main reason they stay away from the cannabis world.
“There’s a lot of education that needs to be done,” says Andrachuk, “a lot more information that needs to be disseminated — not just about cannabis as a wellness tool, but also what are the benefits and dangers for women and their families, the people that they care for.”
The potential areas of women’s health and self-care that cannabis could soon apply to are game changing: anxiety and depression, pain management, Alzheimer’s, dementia, menopause and menstrual symptoms. But due to prohibition, the research needed to fully understand how cannabis can help these longstanding issues has yet to be accomplished.
“There’s so much stigma still surrounding cannabis, there’s so much misinformation that’s published in mainstream media. We really want to be able to provide women with information that’s unbiased or shows two sides of the story. We want to explore issues that aren’t typically explored in mainstream media. Like menstruation. Let’s talk about our periods.”
That conversation is only just beginning now, as more states in the U.S. like California and New Jersey, and countries like Canada and Uruguay open up to more extensive cannabis research. One developing study by wellness company Foria is hoping to get to the bottom of a longstanding relationship between periods and cannabis by tracking women’s experiences using a cannabis-based suppository for menstrual symptoms, with an eye towards developing a full-blown clinical trial in the near future.
As their business develops, Alpha Woman is looking to become a resource for consulting and research for those companies looking to better reach women curious about cannabis.
Building a fierce society
Alpha Woman’s focus isn’t solely on the cannabis industry. Andrachuk says the brand will seek to promote women undertaking all kinds of major transformations occurring within society. From fighting climate change to creating bold new communities, the brand is determined to build something proactive for women in society at large. And it comes down to the brand’s unrelenting approach, which Andrachuk outlined:
“Find that little piece of fierceness in ourselves as women, so that we can go out and make a difference. There’s a lot that’s not working in our traditional system today.”
In press materials, the brand focused in on broader subjects they wish to inspire and uplift female leaders in:
“ challenges societal stigmas and taboos, delving deeper into subjects that matter to our Alpha women, such as cannabis, environment, health, career, community and family, but are generally not covered by mainstream media.”
It’s early days yet for Alpha Woman, but the brand has big ambitions. Beyond a publication, Alpha Woman will also be launching a membership program, a mentorship space and community for women to help each other.
Andrachuk says real stories and a community of support is how women can begin to beat back against the inertia of business as usual in the burgeoning cannabis space, and in all areas of society.
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