Feeling The Strain

While women face marginalization in the CBD industry, one brand is looking to challenge the status quo

By Ed Hutchinson

The Numbers: How women are marginalized in the hemp industry

The CBD industry is exploding in 2019 and has become a new frontier for natural remedies in the wellness space. However, as this progressive and nascent industry expands into the mainstream, it has become apparent that cannabis is not exempt from the marginalization of women in the workplace. According to a study cited by Forbes, despite 43.4% of cannabis companies having dominantly female teams, only 17.6% of self-identified women in cannabis hold a “Director” or “Executive” role. 

“The executive structure of businesses in the traditional economy — where males occupy more than 75 percent of senior roles — has begun to seep into the marijuana industry,” said Eli McVey, a research editor at Marijuana Business Daily.

In addition to the lack of executive representation of women in the cannabis industry, it’s also evident that women are not being heard on the consumer end. In a survey of more than 2,000 women with chronic pain, the percentage of self-identified women being treated differently by  their doctor on the basis of gender was at 84 percent, with 28 percent reporting that this discrimination happened “more often than not.”

However, premium hemp CBD brand Populum, which has a track record of challenging the status quo in the hemp industry, has set a new standard for the inclusion of women and other marginalized genders both in the workplace and when shopping with them.

Populum’s holistic approach to inclusion 

Bootstrapped and founded in late 2016, Populum has grown a team that is dominantly women in directorial roles, with female-led and staffed teams across Marketing, Customer Service, Sales, and Creative.

“We have sourced talent across all departments that we feel hold the vision of Populum,” said Gunhee Park, Populum’s founder and CEO. “We are proud to employ women who have the exceptional skills, merit, and spirit needed for this brand to thrive.”

Populum is an anomaly in the CBD industry with a dominantly female team: 67% of their directorial roles are held by women, and two of their four teams are entirely female-staffed.

“There is nothing more isolating than being the only woman in a meeting,” said Caitlin March, Populum’s Director of Marketing. “Populum facilitates a communicative and open atmosphere where I feel my ideas are welcomed and I don’t feel discrimination on the basis of my gender.”

In addition to a gender-diverse staff, Populum also has policies in place to maintain a company culture that prevents the existence of workplace harassment or discrimination against people of any identity. The company also recognizes the existence of mistreatment of women in healthcare and has policies implemented for their customer service team to treat all customers equally regardless of any identity.

“We pride ourselves on our exceptional customer service and we strive to ensure that only the best assistance is reaching every customer, every time,” said Park.

Visibility is also a key focus for Populum, especially with their creative and marketing team.

“The unfair treatment by law enforcement officials towards marginalized people using cannabis products is unjust and needs to be addressed,” said Ashley Ballard, Populum’s Creative Director. “By ensuring equal representation of genders, as well as races, in our brand photography and other creative assets, we are working to normalize the use of legal cannabis products in all communities.”

Populum’s policy of inclusivity extends beyond the customer and forward-facing aspects of the brand — team members of all genders are able to take advantage of modern office flexibility and are able to take three months of paid parental leave and allocate time for focusing on personal health. Take the days you need to get back to a better you, their handbook reads.

“We believe that if our team is healthy and giving themselves the attention they need, we are able to succeed as a company,” said Park.

The women behind Populum

Caitlin March is Populum’s Director of Marketing. In summer of 2018, Caitlin moved from Washington, DC to Omaha, NE, where she was introduced through friends to Populum’s founder, Gunhee Park. Having heard so much about the emerging hemp market, Caitlin was excited to join the team at Populum and lead their marketing efforts in what has been a dynamic and constantly evolving landscape. Since taking over as Director of Marketing, she has been instrumental in helping to enhance Populum’s email marketing presence, expand Populum’s subscriber program and develop grassroots efforts informing the public of the benefits and uses of hemp. As a longtime believer in the power of hemp, March uses the products daily and encourages others to give them a try. 

“I love how resourceful, creative and enthusiastic everyone is at Populum,” said March. “I thrive on their energy and passion for hemp.” 

Ashley Ballard is Populum’s Creative Director. Onboarded in 2018 as employee #2, Ballard lost all skepticism and fell in love with the space immediately after implementing it in her own personal wellness regimen. Borrowing tactics from her background in blogging and social media influence, Ballard works alongside designers, digital creators, and photographers to coordinate the brand vision for Populum and keep the company’s best foot forward. 

“There is nothing more fulfilling than seeing the amazing things this team can create together. We are so fortunate to have so much talent and innovation at our fingertips,” said Ballard.

Ballard lives and works in NYC. She also likes dogs. A lot.

Ivy Oakes is Populum’s Director of Customer Service. Customer testimonials are what inspire her each day. She loves learning why customers (friends) of Populum use their products. She enjoys getting to know our customers and cherish the subscribers she gets to hear from each month. When Ivy isn’t working, you can find her outside laughing with friends or listening to Beyonce or Metallica.

Mary Killian is a Customer Service Lead at Populum. Working for Populum has been such a unique experience for Mary. Every day is different and brings a new opportunity to brainstorm and come up with creative solutions to all of the challenges that come with a startup in this space. As a parent, finding the balance between home and work can be a struggle, but working at Populum gives Mary the support and flexibility to be fully engaged in the many sides of her life. Being a part of an emerging wellness brand is truly exciting for Mary and she loves being able to help people — in particular, other parents out there — by introducing them to a life-changing supplement.

Emily Rockwell is Populum’s Director of Business Development. She started with Populum as a Sales Manager in January of 2019, and her current role involves managing sales, running point between sales and marketing, managing sales-specific software platforms, and staying up-to-date with current market trends. Hemp has been life-changing for Emily’s family – she feels that it has significantly reduced her husband’s tremor, reduced her inflammation issues caused by Lyme Disease, and provides respite for her kids at night who have a hard time sleeping. Emily loves working for Populum for a multitude of reasons, but being able to work for a tight-knit company that truly values everything it touches, from product quality to employees to clientele, tops the list.

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