WOC-led psychedelics conference champions gender equality with all-women speakers

Published on September 7, 2022
A psychedelic summit in Vancouver aims to elevate BIPOC voices in the growing industry. (metamorworks/Adobe Stock)

It’s no secret that cannabis and psychedelics conferences have an imbalance in gender representation: the overwhelming majority of presenters are men. A grassroots organization is working to resolve the average 8:1 male-to-female presenter ratio.

Sisters In Psychedelics (SIP) is looking to turn the tables in a big way during its inaugural summit on September 10—with an all-female lineup of presenters. 

Bea Chan and Dana Harvey founded SIP last year with the goal of creating safe and intimate spaces for women interested in psychedelics to gather, exchange stories, and learn from one another, and to help solve the issue of gender disparity in the psychedelics sphere.

From community potluck to WOC-led psychedelics summit

Chan and Harvey’s Vancouver-based SIP initiative, which started as a meetup group in November 2021 and kicked off with a potluck dinner, has since grown into a global community of female-identifying people interested in intentional psychedelic use, inspiring chapters in Australia, South America, and across Canada and the United States.

“What we’re trying to achieve here at SIP is really a balance, not only in genders in the psychedelic ecosystem, but also of the underrepresented voices of all the BIPOC folks and people in marginalized communities,” Chan told Leafly in a Zoom interview.

“We feel that safe spaces are so important for people who have the shared experience of being a woman to come together safely and vulnerably, particularly with recently exposed ethics breaches in the field,” added Harvey, shedding light on the issue of abuse in psychedelic therapy.

“The other side is the bigger vision, which is more balanced voices and perspectives, and part of that is elevating and celebrating women’s voices in the space,” adds Chan.

A safe space to talk about psychedelics without judgement

The circles offer women who participate an opportunity to connect in an informal setting and speak openly about their psychedelic experiences.

“That social element is an important part because, for many women, they don’t have friends or family that they can speak openly with about what they’re experiencing with plant medicines,” Harvey explained.

In addition to hosting workshops and social events, Chan, a community builder, advocate, and former HR professional, and Harvey, an educator and former c-suite executive, host regular integration circles for BIPOC women, psychedelic professionals, and moms.

“We realize that we can’t create balance in a silo on our own. It takes everybody coming together,” said Harvey, who added that SIP will soon launch mixed-gender and men’s-only integration circles with a similar vision.

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On September 11, SIP will host Vancouver’s first psychedelic walking tour, where participants will have the opportunity to tour local clinics and mushroom dispensaries that have partnered with the summit.

Learn about microdosing, sex, spirituality and more

The Vancouver summit will include a full day’s lineup of panels featuring all-women speakers, fireside chats, solo presentations, and plenty of opportunities for networking and asking questions. (Full disclosure: I will be moderating a panel on transformational psychedelic experiences.)

“The content is for everybody. For example, when we’re talking about PTSD and parenting, or money and trauma, all genders can relate to that.” 

explains Chan.

It should go without saying but men and non-binary folks are welcome too. Though all presenters are women, Chan stressed that many of the topics up for discussion will be relevant to men, too.

“I’ve been calling it our ‘unconference.’ It won’t be a one-way monologue, but more of a dialogue. A feeling that we’re in a circle and community,” noting that the conference will also weave a breathwork session, movement breaks, and music into the day’s events.

Insights offered through a women’s lens might inspire members of the audience to consider the topics at hand in a new way, said Chan. Other panels and keynote addresses will discuss topics such as microdosing, sex and psychedelics, accessibility, spirituality and ethics, and integration.

The day will begin with an opening ceremony led by Musqueam activist Audrey Siegl, followed by a keynote presentation from Dr. Pamela Kryskow, a medical doctor, psychedelics researcher, and therapist.

Other speakers will include psychedelic integration coach Deborah Servetnick, UN correspondent and global drug policy analyst Sara Brittany Somerset, psychotherapist Ally Smith, and counsellor Fabiola Pérez, among others. 

And, like most industry events, the SIP Summit will conclude with an after-party, though this one promises to be a little different: attendees can anticipate live music, aerial silk artists, and psychic readings. 

It’s been a wild ride for Chan and Harvey, who didn’t anticipate that their local meetup group would grow so quickly. With their first pillar event around the corner, they are eager to keep the momentum going and excited for continued growth.

“It’s all unfolded in front of us, and we’ve just been following the road provided for us. We are in service to the mushrooms, to the women, to the space in general, and we’re doing what we’re hearing is needed,” said Harvey.

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Amanda Siebert
Amanda Siebert
Amanda Siebert is a Vancouver-based freelance journalist and author whose work has appeared in the New York Times, the Georgia Straight, VICE, and more. Her first book, The Little Book of Cannabis: How Marijuana Can Improve Your Life, was published on October 17, 2018.
View Amanda Siebert's articles
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