8th March 2021
By Emily Ledger
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Being a part of the ever-growing CBD and cannabis industry here in the UK is, no doubt, extremely exciting. While regulation and legislation may still be lagging behind, so much progress has been made in recent years – to which almost daily news stories and financial forecasts can pay tribute. However, in addition to financial and health incentives, this fresh industry also presents the opportunity to push for diversity and inclusivity.

In honour of this opportunity, this International Women’s Day, we have been talking to the women behind some of the most successful and well-loved CBD-focused brands in the UK. But first, let’s take a look at the context…

International Women’s Day 2021 – #Choosetochallenge

IWD is an annual global event to campaign, lobby, and fundraise for women’s rights and gender parity and to celebrate the progress and achievements made by all women. This event has been celebrated continuously around the world for over 100 years and offers a platform for collective global action towards equality.

Since the first International Women’s Day in 1911, a huge amount of progress has been made towards this goal – however, there remains a long way to go. The business world continues to show us only too well, that women are still not equally represented in spaces of power and influence.

With the continued success of this relatively new industry, there is the opportunity to break this mould and create an inclusive and diverse space that offers opportunities for all.

The Changing Face of the ‘Cannabis User’

For decades now, popular culture has perpetuated the image of the typical cannabis user as the ‘stoner’ male. This image has long fueled the legal cannabis market – particularly in the USA, where more liberal laws apply to the plant. However, the blossoming CBD industry may well succeed in stopping this stereotype in its tracks.

While males may traditionally have been more likely to use cannabis-based products, the increasing popularity of CBD appears to be challenging this statistic. As people are becoming increasingly interested in low-THC products, the health and wellness potentials of CBD – a sector in which women have historically been savvier on new trends. As a result, the gap in cannabis consumption is closing.

The increasing development of female and women-focused CBD products, such as CBD-infused tampons has built upon the potential of the cannabinoid in the management of various female health concerns such as period pain, endometriosis, and menopause. Furthermore, CBD may also be beneficial in other conditions that disproportionately affect women – such as anxiety and fibromyalgia.

Women of the UK CBD Industry

To get a sense of the ongoing challenges and opportunities in the industry, we reached out to some of the women who are helping to shape the CBD space here in the UK. They have shared with us their experiences in launching successful brands and companies and their views on the importance of diversity and inclusivity as the sector continues to develop.

Rebekah Hall – Founder of Botanic Lab and Founder & CEO of South West Brands:

Rebekah Hall launched CBD drinks and tinctures brand, Botanic Lab, in 2014 before founding the female-led CBD firm, South West Brands last year. We spoke to Rebekah to get her thoughts on opportunities for women in the industry…

“My observation of the cannabis industry has been somewhat similar to the banking industry in which I began my career.  The financial structures and access to capital in the industry are very gender skewed, resulting in women holding a disproportionately small number of positions of power and influence.

“My approach in this industry is much the same as it was in the financial sector – actions speak louder than words. South West Brands has an all-female management team, which I believe is one of the most talented in the industry.  We are ambitious in our plans both in terms of scale and impact on the wider industry and hope to redress some of the inequality in the allocation of capital to female-led businesses.”

Christen Dali – Co-Founder of CBD Brand, My Lifeline:

Christen worked in corporate banking when she discovered the benefits of CBD and decided to make a change in her career. The result? My Lifeline – the CBD cold brew coffee brand founded by Christen Dali in 2019.

“It’s certainly an industry associated with men rather than women, consciously or not. I’m still amazed at how the mere mention of CBD provokes a myriad of reactions. With some you gain immediate respect, others look at you like you just confessed to murder.
“It’s a growing industry and I’m so happy to see many women getting involved. In a spirit of abundance, we really ought to be helping and elevating each other rather than feel overly competitive. I would encourage anyone to look at who they mentor and who they are getting mentored by – formally or not. How diverse are they? Is there a gender imbalance or indeed an ethnicity skew? Personally, I would love to find a woman mentor in the CBD industry.”

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