In a study conducted in 2020 by AnitaB.org, an institute focused on advancing women in technology, the results revealed that women make up less than half of the tech workforce — 28.8% to be exact. The good news in this result is that it is higher than the years prior. In that same study, it showed that the figures were 25.9% in 2018, and 26.2% in 2019.
TrustRadius states that “72% of women in tech report being outnumbered by men in business meetings by a ratio of at least 2:1, while 26% report being outnumbered by 5:1 or more.” The numbers overall for women are disappointing. This isn’t just a tech issue — women in many types of industries are facing this. For example: Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, and Microsoft are the top five technology companies, and across the board, their figures for women employed are disappointing. Techjury.net reports the following for women employed by each company:
- Google – 23%
- Apple – 23%
- Facebook – 23%
- Amazon – n/a
- Microsoft – 20%
Is cannabis doing any better? Weedmaps reported the following from a study conducted by Vangst, discussing cannabis as compared to other industries:
- Cannabis – 20%
- Agriculture – 25%
- Beverage/tobacco – 26%
- Education – 68%
- Real Estate – 49.9%
Cree Robinson, co-founder of touCanna, an easy operations management system for cannabis retail stores and consumption lounges, has made 2022 the year she wants to start seeing waves of change in those figures above.
On her own, she launched a social media series to provide insight and advice to women in, and aspiring to be in tech. With her business partner Louis Masensi, they are positioning touCanna to be a resource hub for women in tech by offering programs and workshops for women of color who want to enter the cannabis industry from an ancillary angle. Hear more from Cree Robinson below.
Please tell me about you. Where were you born and raised? What was your college major and your work path? Do you have any hobbies or other passions?
“I was born in Detroit, Michigan, and raised there until high school. After graduating from high school, I lived all over the place and hopped around the country quite a bit for college, grad school, and various desires to live in different places. I went to Spelman College, where I majored in psychology and neuroscience. After getting my bachelors degree, I got my masters in clinical psychology from West Virginia University. After getting my masters degree, I spent a few months bartending, hosting, and working at a few animal hospitals as a vet tech before making the decision to break into tech.”
Can you share your journey into tech?
“I started out with zero experience in tech and zero tech skills, so I completed a coding bootcamp and took some tech courses at a community college to prepare myself for the tech industry. I worked in various roles as a technical project manager and continued to learn additional skills via online learning platforms. I also grew significantly in my ability to write code and design databases as a result of spending so much time working on touCanna. Currently, writing code is my favorite activity with regards to technical skill.”
Please discuss the social media series that you launched this year.
“One of my goals is to make the tech industry more accessible to women of color. This year, I began creating short videos on Instagram and TikTok that provide tips and advice for women of color wanting to begin a career in tech, or start their journey as a tech entrepreneur.
I also talk about my personal journey and share the insights I’ve learned as a result of that journey. While the advice can be applied by any one of any ethnicity or background, some of the videos, for example, those centered around imposter syndrome as a black woman in tech or how to handle microaggressions, are meant to speak to the specific and unique experience as a black woman in tech.
I’ll be posting at least one video every day as long as I continue to get engagement from women expressing an interest in tech. Through this video series, I hope to work with several women and help them develop their strategy to break into tech.”
Why is this series important to you, for women, and for the tech world?
“Working in tech allows for several benefits: the acquisition of in-demand skills, financial security, and typically, a lot of flexibility. It opens a new world of opportunity that I want women of color, who have historically and even currently, remain oppressed, to have access to and thrive in. It’s important that the perceived barrier to tech be removed, and that the industry includes a larger space for women of color to occupy.”
What advice do you have for Black women in tech or seeking to advance in tech?
“Keep a narrow focus and be strategic. There are so many different paths to take in tech that it can be easy to find yourself chasing multiple things. However, in my opinion, it’s best to choose one or two career paths to focus on — for example, the project manager career path, or software developer career path — and focus only on the required skills for those specific roles. I would recommend that they have multiple methods to gain those skills (volunteer roles, online courses, seeking mentors etc.).”
What advice do you have for women/womxn in middle/high/college aspiring to join the world of tech?
“Take advantage of as many opportunities as possible, get as much experience as possible, and keep your options open. My goal with this advice is for women to have a lot of desirable skills so that they can be picky about the path they want to pursue. I’m someone who rarely turned down an opportunity and as a result, I think I’ve gained a lot of valuable experience and insight that I’ve been able to use as leverage to advance within the tech industry.”
As it relates to cannabis tech, what do you want to see here that other industries haven’t yet initiated/launched/practiced?
“I’d very much like to see cannabis tech be positioned as something that’s more accessible. As of now, tech is perceived as intimidating and as something that you can only break into if you have very specialized knowledge that you’ve been honing for years; and that’s just not true. I want to see incubators for women of color that focus on all the different paths for cannabis tech, whether it be through employment at someone else’s company or perhaps through building their own company as an entrepreneur.”
What’s in the plans for touCanna as it relates to women in cannabis tech?
“touCanna plans to continue creating content for Black women in tech and posting throughout social media, as well as offer one-on-one strategic planning sessions for those who think that might benefit them.”
Veronica Castillo, also known as the Traveling Cannabis Writer, is a writer from Miami, with a pre-Cannabis background in insurance and human resources. Currently, she is a resident of the road exploring all thing’s cannabis and hemp in the United States. You can follow her journey on IG @vee_traveling_veg_canna_writer.