MJBizMag May-June 2022 - 36

SALARY AND HIRING ISSUE
Eliminating Bias
W
hen they were young
entrepreneurs still struggling
to get their first businesses
off the ground, Christine De La Rosa
and Charleen Caabay, co-founders of
The People's Ecosystem, an Oakland,
California-based cannabis company,
vowed that when they could hire
help, they'd recruit from the BIPOC
(Black, Indigenous and people of color)
and LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual,
transgender and queer) communities.
Since then, the legacy-market
veterans have opened restaurants,
a gallery, a retail store and, most
recently, The People's Ecosystem (TPE).
The company buys wholesale cannabis
from female and BIPOC cultivators,
manufactures pre-rolls, edibles and
other products under its own brands
and creates white-label products for
other companies. In every case, the
Latina and Filipina co-founders made
good on their early promise. In fact,
eight of TPE's nine executives are
people of color.
'Having Different Experience'
How did they do it?
" By not doing anything that most of
the hiring companies would tell you to
do. Because those are not built to look
at the promise, the expectation and the
beauty of women or people of color, "
De La Rosa said. " We measure different
things. I'm not going to measure, 'Did
you get an MBA here?' I'm going to
measure something else, so I can have a
diverse team. Because it's not just about
having experience, it's about having
different experience. "
This insight is important for an industry
born out of a legalization move36
May-June 2022 | MJBizMagazine
By Omar Sacirbey
Experts share ways to add workplace diversity through
job descriptions, interviews and hiring practices
" This is such a nonconventional
business, there's a tendency to want to
go super-conventional with our hires.
But it's not a good thing. "
Natasha
Bowman
ment that promised to right the wrongs
of the war on drugs by creating work
and business ownership opportunities
for Black and brown people.
But given that white males still hold
disproportionate numbers of C-suite
positions in the cannabis industry, it's
clear that the promise of hiring more
BIPOC candidates is far from being
fulfilled.
Part of the problem is that, while
more companies are waking up to the
social and business benefits of hiring
a diverse staff, few have changed their
hiring approaches or the strategies
they use to find diverse candidates,
cannabis industry observers said.
" We keep ending up with the same
person because we are using the same
metrics that you would use in another
type of industry to determine that
ideal candidate. So we're ending up
with people that check boxes but aren't
necessarily ... adaptable and flexible
and creative in the way that is often
needed to thrive in this industry, "
said Amber Littlejohn, an attorney
and executive director of the Minority
Cannabis Business Association.
Adding Awareness
" Eliminating bias begins with being
conscious of your own unconscious
biases: having training around them
and understanding the perspectives of
other people. It's about being aware, "
said Natasha Bowman, president of
Performance ReNEW, a New York-based
consulting firm focused on diversity,
equity and inclusion (DEI).
Lanett Austin, senior director of
talent development at Massachusettsbased
multistate operator Curaleaf
Holdings, agrees that change begins
with acknowledging one's
own biases.
" Before even the resume comes in,
you need to make sure you are in check
as an individual to say, 'I'm aware of
my biases.' ... So, I now can look at this
(candidate) unbiased and to the best
of my ability as a professional-both as
an executive and as a hiring manager, "
Austin said. Curaleaf hired BiasSync,
a Los Angeles-based company that
develops DEI and bias-eliminating
training software and programs, to aid
this effort.
De La Rosa agrees that companies
aiming to increase the diversity of
their staff should start with engaging
a DEI advisory firm that can help
determine where the company and its
executives score on diversity hiring.
She recommends Cannabis Doing
Good, a Denver-based DEI consulting
firm whose training begins with a selfguided
self-assessment.

MJBizMag May-June 2022

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