If anyone was wondering what it must be like to be a woman working in the music business in 2018, the recent #MeToo and #TimesUp campaigns triggered by the Harvey Weinstein revelations last year, and last week’s gender pay gap reports paint a pretty bleak picture.
Don’t get me wrong, I love working in the music business and couldn’t imagine doing anything else. Music transforms and soundtracks our lives, and working in it brings many amazing experiences and the chance to fulfil lifelong dreams. But there’s no denying that this is an industry with many unacceptable ‘norms’, where a huge number of women are trying to hold down a career whilst experiencing sexual harassment, being overlooked for promotions and receiving less pay than their male peers. It’s a (white) man’s world, or at least it was.
I have been committed to improving diversity and inclusivity in the music business for over 10 years, organising women in music events, sitting on industry diversity task forces, supporting the work of campaigns like Love Music Hate Racism and helping to found the Music Week Women in Music Awards. Despite how well I understand the inequality in the music business, I was still shocked by last week’s gender pay gap figures, which all companies with over 250 UK staff had to publish.
All three of the major labels reported a gender pay gap that was above the national average (22.7% at Sony, 29.8% at Universal and 49% at Warner), as did Live Nation (46%) and PRS (17.2%). The exception was collection society PPL, who were the only company to reveal a pay gap which favoured women (4.2%).
It’s disheartening to see that after all of the work towards equality that I and many others have been part of, we are still SO far from where we should be. I imagine the aforementioned companies are not proud of their pay gaps and I know that work has already began in many of them to make improvements. In recent times there have been senior female appointments/promotions, the establishment of internal diversity task forces, the appointment of diversity representatives and the introduction of company mentoring schemes…all positive steps that will move the dial and hopefully reduce the gender pay gap and lack of diversity at the top of these companies.
But how quickly are things going to change? Now there’s public outcry about the extent of inequality in the music business, outrage and commitment to improving needs to be followed by action. Those that have paid lip service to this issue, now need to play their part in effecting immediate and lasting positive change. Let’s not forget that more diverse companies are more successful ones!
So small or large, what can music companies do to move towards offering a diverse, inclusive and equal working environment for their employees? I would recommend that all companies undertake an internal diversity and equality audit. Looking not just at the pay gap, but also representation of women and minorities overall and at different levels, and what it is like for those women and minorities working in the company.
Firstly, take a look at the top of the company. If the company has a board, how diverse is it? If it’s primarily made up of older white men (as most boards I’ve encountered are), then how can that be evolved? Organisations and companies have different approaches to and rules surrounding board structure, but regularly rotating board members, having observer seats, and even having a junior board or young leadership group can all be effective ways to start moving towards greater board diversity.
Secondly, look at hiring and promoting practices. When recruiting new staff, is the company casting the net wide enough, and attracting a diverse pool of candidates? Unconscious bias is a huge factor in hiring decisions, and companies need to educate themselves on what this means and the many effective ways of avoiding it.
Next, what opportunities are being provided to staff? There are many leadership programmes and mentoring schemes offered by organisations focused on improving diversity, such as Stonewall and SheSaidSo, and whilst big companies might want to create their own internal schemes, there are plenty of existing choices for companies who want to invest in developing their employees for leadership. Companies of a certain size are increasingly appointing diversity directors and building internal diversity task forces, and this can be a great way to ensure diversity stays on the agenda all year round.
A vital factor in retaining female talent in the workplace is the company parental leave policy, and attitude to flexible working. Despite all the societal changes of the last 50 to 100 years, responsibility for childcare still more often that not falls on the mother, and this is a huge challenge for women in the 24-hour music industry. I would love to see companies adopt more modern parental leave policies, offer programmes for parents returning to the workforce after parental leave, and the more widespread adoption of flexible working arrangements.
Finally, having, and actioning, a robust company sexual harassment policy, bullying policy and grievance procedure is vital in protecting and empowering female and minority staff. How companies handle reports of inappropriate behaviour and unfair treatment is so important, and many companies, boards and HR representatives are at best unequipped and at worst woefully negligent when it comes to dealing with these problems as they arise. The days of NDAs and protecting perpetrators of harassment and bullying need to end.
These are just a handful of areas where companies can focus their attention to improve equality and diversity. In the music industry, it’s not just a case of narrowing (and ultimately closing) the pay gap, it’s time for an altogether new approach. I’m acutely aware that whilst the #MeToo, #TimesUp and gender pay gap discussions are essential in moving towards a more equal industry, we also need to start changing the narrative and telling female success stories. If nothing changes, and we remain focused on the problems and the imbalance, young girls are not going to feel inspired to pick up a guitar, apply for a job at a record label or write a song. I hope the change initiatives underway at the moment allow women in music to thrive, fulfil their potential and become inspiring role models for the next generation. Let’s do the work that needs to be done, no more lip service.