Vertically-integrated cannabis company Indus Holdings, Inc., known in the California market for such popular brands as Moon, Cypress Cannabis, and Flavor, announced on Tuesday the promotion of its Vice President of Commercialization, Jenny Montenegro to Chief Operating Officer. It’s a welcome move in an industry that has seen female leadership numbers plunge in the boardroom over recent years, and comes at a time when activists are calling upon cannabis businesses to diversify their C-suites.
According to a statement put out by the company, Montenegro, who will assume the role of COO effective immediately, will report directly to Indus Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder Mark Ainsworth. Her new role will have her overseeing a wide swath of areas, including the cultivation, distribution, manufacturing, and sales departments.
“I am thrilled to be a part of the Indus team,” Montenegro said in a statement. “I am looking forward to pursuing my passion for continuous improvement and working with each of the departments within the company to maximize efficiency and excel the company’s trajectory towards profitability.”
Indus, which is based out of Salinas, California, touts itself as a multifaceted cannabis operation, focusing on everything from cultivation and extraction to brand sales and distribution. Montenegro joined the company with over a decades worth of market buying and product development experience, having cut her teeth as a buyer at Costco and later, the Founding Vice President of Consumer Packaged Goods and Operations, where she led the buildout of restaurants in Northern California and helped to launch retail services for Whole Foods.
She’s also credited with helping to position Indus Holdings to where it is today in the cannabis space.
“Jenny is extremely disciplined and has a great mind for numbers. She takes the time to understand the nuances of each department and helps implement solutions,” said Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder Mark Ainsworth in a statement. “Her experience, drive, and passion to understand each business unit gives her the ability to hold her team accountable in order to achieve our collective goals, and I cannot think of anyone better suited for the position.”
“I look forward to seeing Indus and its brands continue to grow and stay on track to profitability under Jenny Montenegro’s leadership,” he continued.
Montenegro’s new role comes as the cannabis industry struggles to fulfill its promises of social equity and diversity, with the number of women in leadership roles growing smaller every year. Although women account for over one-third of al senior leadership positions in the industry according to a survey published by Marijuana Business Daily last year — a number that does far exceed other industries — the numbers appear to waver. In 2017 the number of women in cannabis boardrooms dropped to 26 percent before jumping back to 37 percent in 2019.
Moreover, the industry is facing a diversity problem. Recent published reports show that the cannabis sector is dominated by white, male executives, with one study out of Denver showing that women and people of color account for less than 25 percent of ownership. It’s a growing problem that’s become more prescient in light of recent demonstrations against racial inequality across the country.
Indus Holdings stock was up almost 30 percent on the news of Montenegro’s promotion. The company recently announced its first-quarter 2020 results, with $9.4 million in revenue a 46.7 percent year-over-year growth from the first quarter last year.