I had the pleasure of meeting Windy Borman at the Mill Valley Film Festival during the screening of her documentary Mary Janes: The Women of Weed.
At the time, I had no idea what the film was about, but can distinctly remember the hairs on my entire body standing up straight as the trailer for the film started. The entire room lit up with cheers and applause, as if the movie was fueling every one of us to continue on this uncharted path.
Although the movement was already in existence, this film gave an entire industry validation and strength to stand tall, to continue moving forward in the face of incredible challenges.
Cannabis is shaping up to be one of the most diverse and soulful fields in the world. We must continue the conversation by supporting the trailblazers that turned this movement into an industry and empowering people of all backgrounds, sexes, races and classes to jump in – joints blazing.
Windy took time out from her busy schedule to answer our questions and continue the conversation she started in 2016.
Oov: What were some of your projects prior to producing “Mary Janes: The Women of Weed”?
Windy: I’ve worked in the film and media industry for over 15 years. My previous projects include producing and directing “The Eyes of Thailand”, which was narrated by Ashley Judd and honored twice by the United Nations. I also produced “The Big Picture: Rethinking Dyslexia”, which premiered at Sundance and then on HBO.
Oov: What peeked your interest and what was your motivation to tell this story?
Windy: In 2014, I moved to Colorado, the first state to legalize adult use of cannabis. I had never tried cannabis, but I couldn’t ignore all the stories of women having success in the “budding” cannabis industry. In 2015, I heard the statistic that 36% of senior leadership in the cannabis industry is women. The national average is 22%, so why were more women leading in cannabis? That question intrigued me enough that I started interviewing people.
Oov: What was the most difficult aspect of filming this documentary?
Windy: The most difficult aspect wasn’t necessarily the filming of the documentary; it was how to structure the story in the film edit. When we began filming in 2016, we thought we had a very simple story: women were leading a new industry, we’ll have the first female President, the sky is the limit! When that didn’t happen on Election Night, we had to go back to the drawing board.
I realized it came down to three core values: gender parity, social justice, and environmental sustainability. You cannot talk about cannabis without talking about these issues, so this intersection provided a framework for the film. It also meant I needed to become an on-camera narrator to guide the audience on this journey to connect the dots.
Being on camera required that I be vulnerable about my relationship to the plant given the drug and alcohol addiction in my family. I knew I needed to be authentic, ask the silly questions I had, and trust the audience would root for me because at some point they probably had the same questions I did.
Oov: You’ve now met a lot of trailblazing women in the industry. What advice would you give to a friend wanting to break into the cannabis space?
Windy: Women often feel like they need permission to start a business or make a career shift. Don’t wait to be invited. If you want to work in cannabis, do it. Whatever skillset you have, there is room for it in cannabis.
Oov: In your opinion, how can the industry continue to foster diversity?
Windy: Equity programs and incubators are a huge part of fostering and empowering diversity in the cannabis industry. They can help disenfranchised communities build the skillsets and assets they need to create a business plan and pitch investors, but they won’t succeed in a vacuum.
We also need to improve access to funding. We need women—and men—to invest in women- and minority-owned companies. Time and time again we see that women and people of color hire more diverse colleagues because they intuitively know that having diverse perspectives leads to greater success. This is true for Fortune 500 companies, film sets and cannabis. And yet, in traditional startups, women and people of color receive less funding than cis-gendered white men.
Finally, we need more mentorship programs. If you are a woman or person of color who has made it to the top, mentor someone else so they can join you. We cannot be satisfied with having one diverse face in a sea of white guys. We need a lot more diversity to achieve parity.
Oov: What are some of your concerns as legalization continues to grow, particularly as it relates to women in the industry?
Windy: Funding will continue to be a challenge as more states legalize cannabis. When I began filming “Mary Janes”, we had 36% senior leadership. By 2017, that had dropped to 27%. We aren’t far from having cannabis be “business as usual”, where old rich white guys give money to old rich white guys, and drive everyone else out.
However, we know that cannabis consumers want to support companies that are socially responsible. Granted some may want the “Coors Lite” or “Folgers” of cannabis, but there is room for other types of products in those industries, and there is room in cannabis for different business models. If companies share how they are giving back to the community, valuing people, and protecting the planet, they’ll attract enlightened consumers who vote with their dollars.
Oov: What are some easy steps our audience can take to support your mission?
Windy: Joining the #Puffragette Movement is easy:
- Follow us on social media.
- Sign up for our newsletter.
- Attend a film screening.
- Tell your friends.
- Become a film sponsor.
We’re an indie film, so word-of-mouth advocacy and social media follows are important to the success of the film. These will also help us achieve our goal of turning the film into a docu-series, so we can keep telling the amazing stories of women who are leading a responsible cannabis industry.