While the general consensus is that the ASX-listed small caps still have a bit of work ahead of them to attract more women to senior roles, cannabis in particular seems to be pretty good at luring female talent.

That is the view of Linda McLeod, managing director of Australia’s most successful pot stock, Elixinol Global (ASX:EXL).

Ms McLeod has served as MD for just over a year but has worked across other Elixinol Global businesses for the past four years.

Her rise to the top has been a little less traditional than others.

“I’ve had quite, I suppose, an eclectic background,” she told Stockhead.

“I actually started my career as a psychiatric social worker and then I pivoted into finance. Most of my career has been spent in either venture capital or private equity.”

Elixinol Global managing director Linda McLeod. Pic: Elixinol
Elixinol Global managing director Linda McLeod. Pic: Elixinol Global

Ms McLeod has worked across the healthcare, biotechnology, agriculture and resources sectors.

“Because I was in the [finance] field for many, many years, I was very frequently one if not the only woman in that field at the time,” she explained.

But in the cannabis sector in particular Ms McLeod sees more women coming in.

“I think you find if you look at the companies in Australia, many of them have women in top executive roles,” she said.

“I think it’s because cannabis in its applications, if you don’t look at the recreational market but you look more at the medical cannabis side, because of its nature being medical related and caring related, it’s not unusual for women to gravitate to this industry.”

Stockhead took a closer look at the 30 small cap ASX-listed cannabis companies to see how many had women in either senior management or on their boards.

Of the total, 60 per cent had women in either a management position, on the board or both.

Ms McLeod believes the increase in women coming through now is largely generational.

“I think it’s evolving, but there’s certainly more work to be done and I think there are more and more women looking to have long careers,” she said.

“So the availability of women in senior roles and the ability for them to be able to balance other aspects of their life, I think there’s a new generation coming through who are endeavouring to do that a lot better than perhaps a couple of generations ago.”

A woman’s touch

Women can bring a lot to the table in all industries, according to Ms McLeod.

“I think generally women bring a different perspective in many instances,” she said.

“They bring a different skill set over and above whether or not they’ve got an aptitude in a particular area like finance or marketing or whatever it might be.

“I think women’s problem-solving ability is different to men and I just think that provides a good balance to any board or any workplace.”

There has been a big push in recent times for companies to actively seek out women and that has lead the bigger guys to set gender diversity targets.

It is, however, not so much a priority and a little harder for the small caps to do this, according to Kelly Quirk, head of Perth-based recruiting firm Harrier Human Capital.

“If you think about the mid to small cap organisations they do tend to be less than 200 employees and probably $50m of GP [gross profit] and those businesses don’t have mature people strategies because their size doesn’t dictate the need to have them,” she told Stockhead recently.

“There’s definitely a market perception that needs to change, but those guys have got more pressing challenges as you and I know around cash flow and capitalising.”

>>Read more about Ms Quirk’s views on how companies are going when it comes to attracting more women.

Ms McLeod said while Elixinol Global doesn’t have a gender diversity target, a good balance of men and women is important.

The ratio of women employed by Elixinol Global across its businesses is “very close to 50 per cent”, she noted.

“We’re not taking a specific view in terms of putting quotas on the businesses at all. It really comes down to having the best person for the job, but also I think it’s really around cultural fit.

“Sometimes it makes perfect sense to have more of a balance of men and women and I think that’s really just good for general business culture.”