A Vision Of A Family Friendly Music Industry

11/04/2017 11:58

I don't talk often about my experiences of balancing a career in the music industry with being a parent - it is something I, alongside thousands of others, just get on and do. But my start to parenthood was perhaps tougher than many - my partner left me whilst I was pregnant and my twins were born two months premature. I focused on bringing them up and realised I was doing an incredibly difficult thing, which gave me a huge amount of confidence.

When my children were two years old I set up my own business bookkeeping for small creative businesses. I ended up at BASCA, studied for an MBA and was eventually promoted to the position of CEO.

What helped me along the way? Well, fantastic friends - no one can do this on their own. I will never forget the amazing support I was given in the early years. I was also fortunate to move close to a very good state nursery and my children were given places. The latest Family and Childcare Trust's annual report says average UK fees for one child in part-time nursery and another in an after-school club are £7,933 per year. In the early noughties my two full-time London nursery places cost £12,000 per year, which I was able to pay for through Child Tax and Working Families Tax Credits. It left very little to live on but was just about manageable.

The childcare challenge is something every single working parent faces - not just those in the music industry. But there are definitely some greater barriers in music, such as the unsociable hours. When my kids were school age we had au pairs to live with us in order to help me. I recognise that for many single mothers this will not be an option, but I went without luxuries - and sometimes even basics - for many years simply so I could pay to go to work.

I read with dismay about the ongoing reduction of benefits to parents, especially single parents, and the closure of SureStart centres and state nurseries. It is essential that good quality nursery provision is available and affordable for every working parent. We need more innovative childcare solutions, not fewer options.

In UK Music's first workforce diversity survey which published its findings in January, women account for a little over half the industry workforce up to the age of 34, which is great. However, this number drops to a third by the time you get to my age, the over-45s. The survey itself did not pin down the reasons, but it may well have something to do with the parental duties women take on. These are issues we will discuss when I am among the speakers at the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Music's diversity event on April 19.

My experiences have certainly made me a more understanding employer. I truly appreciated the understanding shown to me and, in turn, it has been my duty to pay back the same generosity to those whom I employ. In my small team I have two staff on maternity and paternity leave this year. I accept that for certain jobs in music, such as going on tour, it is going to be difficult for any parent. Yet with the right support it is entirely possible to have a great career - but we need enlightened employers who are willing to be flexible. Now I am not saying this is practical in every situation, but I know that employing parents and being understanding with them generates great loyalty and can be of real financial benefit to an organisation. Be family friendly - it is not just a one-way street.

My experiences also informed me in other ways. As a female working in a male-dominated environment, I became aware of equality and diversity issues. My MBA dissertation was a study into the "attitudes of employers in the music industry towards equality and diversity". I identified the key things a company needs in order to grow and maintain a diverse workforce including support from the leadership, regular staff involvement and ongoing measurement.

This research laid the foundation for my continuing interest in this area and BASCA is leading the way in action for equality and diversity in composing and songwriting, such as the work we are doing with BBC Radio 3. According to PRS For Music, the royalty-collecting society for songwriters and composers, only 16% of its 110,000 writer members are female. At BASCA our membership is 20% female - but for the under 25s, it rises to over 40%. I hope that is a promise of a more equal future in music.

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