Celebrating the Women of Curaleaf Women’s History Month
Curaleaf may be the largest multistate cannabis operator in the country, but we work hard to remain rooted in good. What exactly does that look like in practice inside the organization?
We asked the following five women at Curaleaf to share their experiences:
- Audrey Huber, Director of Brand Marketing
- Christine Clayton, Field Brand Representative
- Colleen McQuade, Dispensary General Manager
- Mariah Redmond, Chemist
- Silka Colón, Dispensary General Manager
Keep reading to hear their perspectives, how they’ve grown as women in cannabis, and the role Curaleaf has played in their professional development.
In what ways has Curaleaf acknowledged and responded to the reality of sexism in and out of the workplace?
Clayton: I think one of the first things was forming the DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) task force. The task force is looking at the numbers across the company because the numbers don't lie. About a year ago, we realized we could do some work here. Since then, we've been steadily trying to increase diversity, and I'm seeing more and more women in positions of power. We also have a number of ERGs (Employee Resource Groups) and committees. One of those is the Women’s Cannabis Collective, and it's for women who work for Curaleaf and men who are allies. It's been really beautiful to see what's come out of that group and the support we've been able to offer each other within the group across the country.
Colón: We know that parents are working with us. We know that single mothers are working with us. We understand their needs. We understand that sometimes we just need a pat on the back or an ERG that takes you to the next level and tells you, “Hey, we’re here for you. We'll listen to you. Let's see what we can do together.” I was actually able to lead one of the “Lunch and Learns” for the parenting ERG, and it was about how to talk to your kids. There were so many initiatives that actually made me open my mind about my own parenting and what I could do to make my daughters powerful and have their voices heard.
How has belonging to your Employee Resource Group (ERG) impacted your experience at Curaleaf?
McQuade: I belong to the Women’s Cannabis Collective, and because of that, I feel like I have female coworkers, people who are my friends at work, and women I can work on projects with. In my state, the leadership is all male. The ERG helps me feel like there are other women around I can have connections with who I otherwise wouldn’t be able to. I’ve met amazing mentors through the ERG, and I feel blessed to be on their team. I know that I've become a stronger leader at my store, in my state, and in my life because of them.
Clayton: We had an amazing panel discussion called “Black in Cannabis” put on by Curaleaf in Color, the BIPOC ERG. We had four panelists, all people of color working in different aspects of the industry. The first question was, “When was the first time that you realized you were black?” I'm African-American, so their stories resonated with me so much. I was just so floored and grateful that the company actually took the time to put on an event like this and that the employees were interested in having these discussions.
Can you tell me about a time when a leader in cannabis reached out to you to offer mentorship or some sort of guidance?
Redmond: A couple of years ago, I suffered from some pretty bad objectification online within the cannabis community. Women who were in similar roles to me all banded together, and we still offer ongoing, emotional, professional support. We're all like therapists and coaches to each other. Many of us have been through similar experiences despite being in totally different states. So it’s important that as you climb, you reach back down and lift up and provide guidance and mentorship to the women around you. Ultimately, that benefits everyone.
Colón: I love mentorship. I happen to have two mentors. My current boss is absolutely amazing—her name is Jackie—and she’s helping me enhance my communication and presentation skills. My second mentor is Lanett Austin, and she pushes me to do things that I never thought possible. These two powerful women are my inspiration. They teach me simple operations, how to embrace a team, how to make a team more powerful, and how to make a difference not only in our store but in each of our guests’ lives too. They have recognized my strengths, and they have made me a lot stronger.
What’s the one mistake you’ve made in this industry that’s taught you more than any other?
McQuade: Cannabis is one of my passions—I’ve been an activist and done lobbying and thrown big hemp rallies and cannabis festivals with my friends. So when I first got into this industry, I let it really consume me because I had such passion. I forgot at some point that I needed to put up some boundaries once in a while. I've gotten a lot better at that over time. I've learned to take better care of myself.
Huber: Curaleaf is the biggest MSO in the country, but this industry is still a startup—it’s constantly changing. If you’re going to be part of that, that should be something you embrace. It’s really fast-moving; you constantly need to be able to pivot. I think there's a lot of past job experience that you can use, but there’s also a little bit of the unknown. That’s what makes it exciting, but it's something you need to acknowledge right off the bat.
If a male CEO walked up to you right now and asked, “What can I do to support women in cannabis today?” what would your answer be?
Huber: One way is to be diligent about hiring and making sure that diversity is a priority championed across the company because it's easy to look only at people who have prior experience or who are in your network. It's important that we’re always playing the long game and making sure that our entire workforce looks really diverse racially and from a male, female perspective.
Redmond: The biggest obstacle women face on the path to senior leadership is the first step up to manager. For every 100 men promoted, only 72 women are promoted. Women get stuck at entry-level, and few become managers. The advice is to collect as much data as possible: analyze the pay parity and the distribution of gender across specialties. The fact that Curaleaf is hiring a compensation analyst and already working with external consulting firms to see where our weak spots are gives me a lot of hope.