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Yes She Can - Can't She?

09/03/2017 15:16

all women everywhere

As I sit here in our all-female office, I ponder the fact that when I was asked to write this piece, I was told it was about "issues faced by women in music".

The title, in itself, is enough to highlight something that is indicative of the gender imbalance not just in music but across business. The fact that we start with the word "issues" speaks volumes. In this day and age, that seems remarkable and unjust.

Why do women still need to speak up about their work in male dominated sectors? And why are they still male dominated? Where does that process start? School? College? The workplace?

As we saw last week, Lego Ideas twice annual fan-generated competition resulted in a new set of five female NASA scientists, engineers and astronauts (based on real women who have worked for the space agency) going into production.

This has made headlines all over the world - why is it so remarkable that these women have been brought to our attention and why by a toy company?

Earlier this week, the UK's Football Association has suggested giving three places on a new 10-person board (from 12) to women, adding to their only current female board member Dame Heather Rabbatts.

Music is a much like science and sport in that it is often viewed, quite rightly, as a white male-dominated domain, especially in the board room.

The overall split of men to women (53.6% to 45.3%) in the music industry shows women are slightly underrepresented in comparison with the UK population (49.3% to 50.7%). However, between the ages of 25 and 34, women account for 54.5% of the workforce which looks more positive for younger women in the industry. This number drops to 41.4% in the 35 to 44 age range and to 32.7% between 45 and 64.*

However, women make up just 30% of senior executive roles in the UK music industry, despite making up more 60% of interns and 59% of entry-level business roles.*

But this imbalance is even more prevalent with women in technical roles. Producer, Sound Engineer, Front of House. It's just hard to find many women doing these jobs. Only around 6% of the MPG membership here in the UK is female and none of the board.

What is the cause of this imbalance - is it that women are excluded from these roles, that they just don't apply and if not why - do they feel they aren't skilled enough, won't fit in or be good enough?

We share an office with ERA, the Entertainment Retailers Association, whose CEO is Kim Bayley, an ex-Lawyer heading up a predominantly female team. Record Store Day is run in the UK from here which is, again, headed up by 24 year old Megan Page who last year was runner up Young Business Person of the Year in the FSB London Business Awards.

"The first thing I'd like to mention is that I've personally had a really positive experience being a young girl starting out in the music industry. Heading up RSD for the UK does generally position me at the forefront of what's traditionally been a male-dominated area, however, over the last two years I've had the pleasure of seeing a real increase in women getting in contact who are opening or running record stores all over the country."

"This is really exciting for me to see as it's a big step forward for closing the gender gap in indie retail as well as having the knock-on effect of attracting young girls to their local record stores too. Outside of my role, I'm lucky to be a part of really supportive network of Women in Music who share experiences, expertise and insights to all areas of the industry which has given me a lot of confidence to progress in my role. I'm also fortunate enough to work in a predominantly all female office with some super-talented women who are making some huge changes to the industry - that gives me the inspiration to keep on keeping on!"

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So, is the gender imbalance really as bad as some people suggest? It has been. Of that there is no doubt. But there are changes taking place and they are starting to have a very real impact on the workplace and opportunities for women.

This week is the UNWomen's International #WomensDay on Wed 8th March and the start of their #HeForShe #ArtsWeek. The aim of the week is to provide a systematic approach and targeted platform on which men and boys can engage and become change agents towards the achievement of gender equivalent.

Part of a global movement, #HeForShe is a unique opportunity for arts and cultural institutions to support the achievement of gender equality.

Independent Venue Week is run by two women, myself and Chloe Ward. Creating and growing the project has meant we have met so many people, men and women, all around the UK running amazing initiatives supporting young people who don't always have the same opportunities as those in a more fortunate position.

We were so inspired, we set up a Community Interest Company called CAN YOU CIC IT? providing training, education and development for people who want to work and/or perform in music but for whom mainstream opportunities may pass them by.

Our first event, Yes She Can in partnership with Help Musicians UK, is taking place on Thursday at 229 Great Portland Street, as part of the UNWomen's #HeForShe #Arts WeekLDN in London and is aimed at young women, predominantly 16-25, who want to learn much more about various careers in the music industry.

There will be a strong emphasis on those roles where women are historically under represented e.g. Sound Engineer, Producer, Tour Manager, Stage Manager etc by breaking down barriers to participation; real and perceived through networking and inspiration.

The response to the event has been incredible from young women who want to come and find out more and they are coming from as far as Sunderland, Hull and Northern Ireland. But there has also been huge support from industry with speakers from all sectors including plenty of female technicians.

There are already plans to run the event annually and tour it this year around the UK.

With a number of other female-driven, female-focused initiatives and funding opportunities appearing, let's hope this signals the beginning of the end of anything that has a female bias in order to gain equality. Let's hope we can just focus on the work being done and skills being developed on a level playing field.

* Data taken from the UK Music Diversity Survey 2017

HuffPost UK is running a month-long project in March called All Women Everywhere, providing a platform to reflect the diverse mix of female experience and voices in Britain today

Through blogs, features and video, we'll be exploring the issues facing women specific to their age, ethnicity, social status, sexuality and gender identity. If you'd like to blog on our platform around these topics, email ukblogteam@huffingtonpost.com

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