Women will play a critical role in building the medicinal cannabis industry as leaders, prescribers and consumers, Helius Therapeutics chief executive Carmen Doran has said.

The company said studies showing women make 80% of all healthcare decisions for their families mean it is “determined to ensure females, or wahine, are a key part of New Zealand’s newest health journey”.

Doran praised the country’s medicinal cannabis industry for making “a good start” when it comes to gender representation, and said Helius has appointed a number of women to key roles in recent months.

Hale Animal Health co-founder and managing director Leila de Koster

Sister company Hale Animal Health is led by its co-founder and managing director Leila de Koster and other appointments include Joanna Perry to the Helius board, and Mary Alice Simon as chief operating officer.

Doran added: “Helius values diversity of thinking, backgrounds and experiences. This has led to us building a strong team with a very good gender balance at all levels of the business.

“Given medicinal cannabis is only available on prescription, doctors are also critical. That workforce too has experienced a big shift in recent years, with new doctors now predominantly female.”

“All of the industry players are working well together to shape our sector, and yes, we all want to see more women leading the development of medicinal cannabis here in New Zealand. So far, when it comes to gender representation, our sector is off to a good start.”

Last week, Helius announced a collaboration with Auckland University of Technology (AUT) to research and develop advanced medicinal cannabis products.

Helius Therapeutics chief executive Carmen Doran

Welcoming the move, Doran said: “We are delighted to sponsor three AUT PhD students to work on the next generation of cannabis therapeutics. All three are female, and it wasn’t by design. Rather, [they] just happen to be highly talented young women, the perfect fit, and with the R&D passion we need to succeed for patients.”

She added there is an increasing interest in science subjects among female students.

“We’re definitely seeing a gender switch in the STEM subjects, with more young women taking up science, technology, engineering and maths. Like doctors, more female scientists are now coming through, but New Zealand needs to keep that up.”

Prior to launching Cannabiz, Martin was co-founder and CEO of Asia-Pac’s leading B2B media and marketing information brand Mumbrella, overseeing its sale to Diversified Communications in 2017. A journalist...