Cannabis is a relatively young industry—and the cannabinoid-based ingredients industry, even younger. In theory, either should be a great place for women to grow and lead, free of the good-old-boys-club baggage so many other long-established industries still carry. And according to one survey, some 37% of senior-level jobs at cannabis companies are led by women, well above the national average of 21 percent.
But dig a little deeper, and the numbers aren’t so rosy: Only 17% of women are at the director or executive level.
By any statistics, though, Caliper is above and beyond. All three business lines of the company are led by women, and over half of the senior leadership team (54%) is female. “It was built into our culture from the start,” explains Director of Brand + Marketing Missy Bradley, who herself broke new ground as one of the company’s co-founders. “We’re always charting our own course. We’ve always been starting our own space and doing what’s best for our company and team.”
All three of Caliper’s business lines are run by women, and 54% of senior leadership is female. ”
Jolene Jacobs, Caliper Ingredients General Manager, agrees. “Caliper is a unicorn.”
We asked Missy and Jolene to weigh in on what makes Caliper such a supportive place for women. Here’s what they told us.
Nearly a decade ago, when Missy was invited by Justin Singer and Jeremy Goldstein to help them start up a cannabis company, she was intrigued but a little hesitant. “I felt like an outsider, because I hadn’t been much of a cannabis consumer.” But she realized that the cannabis ingredient they were developing—a water-based THC product, intended for low-dose consumption in everyday foods, not for getting people blazed—was something of an outsider too.
Caliper is a unicorn….[Female leadership] was built into our culture from the start.”
“We were trying to do something that was commonplace in CPG—it just hadn’t happened in cannabis yet,” she recalls. “The product made a lot of sense to us, and we recognized that it would benefit current and future THC consumers.”
Gradually Missy recognized that being “outside” was an asset, and that as a woman, her voice was not only valued, but critical. “We were providing a product whose goal was to be a replacement for the evening glass of wine that my girlfriends and I were all drinking,” she says. “To be able to recommend the product, and see how it worked for my friends and family, and bring that information back to the team to innovate and develop new products, has been so beneficial for the company, and ultimately for the end consumer.”
Later, as CBD became a viable ingredient and the 2018 Farm Bill’s passage unlocked its potential as a food and beverage ingredient, Caliper Ingredients was born. “We had always seen cannabis as a functional product, and that was the foundation of our brand,” says Missy.
When Jolene joined Caliper in 2020, she was used to working in mostly male-dominated spaces, in pharmacy and retail marketing, pharmaceuticals, and CPG. “Most of my mentors and leaders were men, and in many instances I was fortunate enough to be admitted to ‘the club,’” she says. “But I was more fortunate to also have leaders who just valued diversity, and valued the experiences I brought to the table.”
“When I think back on it,” she continues, “the greatest leaders were those who not only recognized that it was important to have women in leadership, but they also understood the value of having a life and responsibilities outside of work.”
My greatest leaders recognized that it was important to have women in leadership, and they also understood the value of having a life and responsibilities outside of work.”
Having female role models and mentors is a critical piece of the workplace culture, adds Missy. “It’s wonderful for any woman who joins our company to see that all three leaders are female, and that they have access to them,” she explains. “They can learn from women who bring decades of experience to their work.”
Jolene’s experience also taught her what not to do, she admits. “When leaders didn’t value having a diversity of opinions and experiences on their teams, they weren’t getting the best out of their people. Today, I feel an obligation to bring more female voices to the table, and build their confidence in their right to speak and to be heard.”
Building a family-friendly culture
From its beginnings, Caliper has prioritized the value of supporting employees’ family lives, and women have played a key role in that culture. “The first person we hired also required us to come up with a maternity leave policy!” Missy notes. “There’s a special bond of sisterhood with the women who work here. We’re all here to help each other succeed.”
There’s a special bond of sisterhood with the women who work here. We’re all here to help each other succeed.”
For her part, Jolene recognizes that Caliper’s culture is special. “This is probably the first organization I’ve been a part of that I haven’t felt that pervasive guilt of having to balance work obligations with family life,” she declares. The COVID-19 pandemic brought those values to the forefront even more, with parents in the office all helping each other with finding child care solutions and supporting each other on days when home life intervened. Jolene believes that pandemic realities helped shift the culture in every workplace. “I love that having children in the background of a Zoom call is now the norm!” she laughs.
“Caliper is a really great example of how you can value diversity,” she adds. “Not just in races and genders, but also a diversity of the talents, hobbies and skills that make our employees who they are as people—and what they bring to the workplace.”