Something exciting is happening in the global cannabis industry that goes beyond the usual news of market capitalization and the financial potential of this new industry. Perhaps for the first time in modern history, women are mobilizing to support each other in their careers. This is important work as there is a growing research and awareness that building diverse and inclusive senior leaderships team and boards leads to better business results. One group who is doing this important work is an Israeli not-for-profit organization called Women Can Cann. What follows is an interview Ravit Levrann, one of the 3 founding partners of Women Can Cann, about their inspirational work and the cannabis industry landscape in Israel.
In my professional life I’m Head of Media Relations in a PR/IR agency. We represent companies that are publicly traded on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, and many of our clients are cannabis companies.
My partners in WomenCanCann and I came together to create the not-for-profit because we noticed that almost all speakers that appear on stages at cannabis conferences in Israel are male, and most participants in business meetings in the industry are male. It’s something you cannot ignore. And it’s not just men who are continuing this trend. I recently went to a b2b cannabis event which panels were put together by female executives, and was very surprised to see only men up on stage!
If women are good enough to be in the audience, we’re good enough to be up on the stage. When we had our first WomenCanCann meet-up in Tel Aviv in January 2019, we had 5 women on the panel and a female key speaker and each of these women is incredibly talented and accomplished in what they do. They are founders of pharmaceutical companies, VC’s, leading journalists, social changers and so on.
Our goal is to promote diversity and sustainability in the cannabis industry by providing women with a platform to network, learn, engage, and to have easier access to research and knowledge. This agenda is why we established a non-profit organization. Our event this past January was fantastic – the feeling in the air was electric there is something very special that happens when women get together with the goal to help each other. The connection we have between women is quite exhilarating and powerful.
Mayaan Weisberg, our visionary founder, noticed this lack of women leaders in the cannabis industry. Along with Yael Zilberman and myself, we formed WomenCanCann in October 2018 in order to help elevate women in the cannabis industry. We’ve grown to more than 350 members, many of whom are very accomplished and most are seniors and executives. We are able to leverage our aggregate knowledge to help women succeed in their initiatives and raise funds by personally connecting them to influencers, finding the focus for their business model and improving their pitches and investor decks and so on. We believe that success here is not about how big your company is, it’s about what differentiates your company from others in this industry.
Women make up 47% of the workforce in Israel yet we earn 34% less than our male peers on average. The percentage of female CEO’s in Israel is very poor, at 12% and the percentage of executives is around 38%.
There are many reasons for this in Israel. For example, we’re a very military-focused culture. Once men serve in the military and continue to serve with other men in the reserves (which women do not) they tend to develop a strong male network. The military in Israel is very powerful and also deeply impacts how people conceptualize leadership. For example, former military generals are very much preferred as high-level leaders here, in government and in business.
Right now cannabis is not legal recreationally in Israel, so we do not have many product formats. It is decriminalized, but it is only legal today to buy if you have a prescription. Many people in Israel smoke cannabis recreationally, especially in the large cities like Tel Aviv, but it is still considered by many to be a dangerous drug due to enduring stigma.
The launch of cannabis companies on the stock exchange has definitely contributed to a more positive attitude in general towards cannabis. Even my parents and their friends are asking about the cannabis industry, so I can literally see attitudes towards cannabis shifting.
Some companies are also working on developing CBD products, so with each product announcement, people learn more about CBD, which is still not legal here. From the perspective of WomenCanCann, we’ve been focusing on the benefits of cannabis for women’s health and in fact, a company here in Israel called Gynica sponsored our first event. They develop cannabis-based products to treat gynecological conditions because as we know, the female reproductive system contains the most endocannabinoid receptors after the brain.
Israel is a society that encourages women to prioritize motherhood. Women are expected by society and their families to prefer spending time with their kids at the expense of developing their careers. Therefore, there is great social pressure on women to have children.
What we see in the cannabis industry is that the leaders of the companies that require a lot of capital are men, and women are often leaders in the research or medical arms of cannabis companies. At WomenCanCann we believe that once women are aware of the fact that there are women around them that can help, or that they can hire, they do cultivate the desire to help other women.
I don’t have children so I can devote a lot of my time to my career and to my hobbies. In my spare time I write and love photography and music. I recently went on a diving vacation to Sinai, which is something I really love to do. I watch what I eat and play sports. Maintaining balance in my life is super important to me.
Yes, definitely. Women tend to bring emotional intelligence to the table and I feel that we’re already starting to see our definition of qualities required for leadership change because of this. For example, in the 1980’s, sensitivity and emotional vulnerability were qualities that would have been last on the required list for a leader. Today, the opposite is true. And with more research coming out about how diversity and inclusion is actually good for business, we anticipate that moving more women into leadership positions will simply been seen making good business