I had the opportunity to speak at the Exponent Women conference this year on a panel called Exponent Explore: The Pulse on Blockchain, Cannabis, and ESG. It is rare that I attend a conference with the quantity and caliber of women I experienced at this conference, and the level of experience on my panel alone was nothing short of inspiring. One of the most important pieces of this conference and this panel that needs more focus is the space for women in outlying or future investable technology and industries.
Why? When? How?
Before we jump into the gender-based part of this conversation, it's important that we recognize how investing in future innovations is absolutely essential to our social development and economic progress. But why? When? How? Why is it so important to invest in future innovations? When is the right time? And how do we differentiate between long-term sustainable growth opportunities and short-term market pivot points? Investable technology is offering us a productive, efficient, and sophisticated future, if we want it, but we have to focus on use-case applications for others to:
See a clear value
Adopt on a mass level
Invest in these movements
So the why, the when, and the how rely heavily on market proof, and applications that can be adopted on a massive scale.
Let's Talk About the Why
Statistics show us that businesses that invest time and resources into gender equality among their teams and hires also experience increased business innovation. So if we can improve gender equality, we can also mitigate some of the risk associated with our rapidly changing business and technological ecosystem. This happens in two ways:
Enhanced product and service design
Improved innovative capacities
A conference like Exponent Women and its panels build up the conversation around women who are looking for their space in the future, and show clear pathways to innovation, outlying industries, and technologies where we need more women.
When Should Women Invest?
First, it's important to designate that not only is it important to have women investing in future innovations but also developing, innovating, and growing these opportunities and industries for sustainable growth. Second, let's be clear that investing carries a lot of meaning. It isn't only about funding or financially putting skin in the game. It's also about investing time, energy, perspective, and knowledge. Companies that cannot diversify will be left behind. It's not just about investing in the outliers. It's also about investing in the paths with the most access to innovation, which statistically we know diversity increases.
The How Is Really Important
During the Exponent Women conference, I shared the stage with women investing in technologies and industries like cannabis and ESG, and I spoke on blockchain. When we talk about how to invest or get involved, it's important to understand the opportunities available, and these experts on the panel were so informative.
Cannabis business: Sara Presler is general counsel and cannabis consultant for Mohave Cannabis Co. At one point in time, Presler was twice elected mayor of Flagstaff, Arizona, and was the youngest person and first woman ever to hold the office. Presler says that she uses her background in law and politics to understand, simplify, and grow the cannabis industry. With licensing, cultivating, dispensing, manufacturing, distribution, transportation, and a variety of other activities, there is plenty of space for growth and future development.If you are interested in this industry, Presler recommends starting by researching your state laws, understanding the licenses in your state, and then figuring out exactly who owns them:
More and more, we are seeing diversity in the cannabis industry, with women, people of color, and even women of color; entering, cultivating, and lifting up the cannabis industry and there is so much space for this to happen.
ESG opportunities: Carbon footprints, waste management, labor policies, human rights controversies, supply chain sourcing policies, board independence, diversity, and pay ratios: These incredibly important points come from Jennifer Leonard, the executive director of asset management due diligence at Cornerstone Capital.She spoke about the importance of considering materiality. What is material to the business you are looking at? For example, if you're looking at a mining company, the environmental factors will be a bigger concern than if you were looking at a financial services institution. Find companies with good governance policies, she said:
ESG stands for environmental, social, and governments investing, the idea that you can use the evaluation of policies and procedures related to E, S, and G to make investment decisions. This is based on the idea that companies with strong ESG profiles have a better chance at outperforming the market and mitigating risks.
As a woman in a field designated as investable technology, my goal is to show other women that there is space and a need for them to step in, invest time and resources, and help develop the direction of innovation.