Women in: Music

Meet the women making (sound) waves in the music industry.

Many industries that have a deep history of being gendered have been neutralised in the last few years.

Technology, science and architecture are just a few examples of industries in which women are starting to make their mark.

But regardless of the progress we’ve made when it comes to achieving gender equality, there are still some industries that continue to fail women.

Music is one of them.

The History

Think of all the composers you can.

I bet Beethoven, Mozart and Holst all spring to mind. I also bet that for every female composer you can think of, you can think of 10 male ones.

Does this mean that women don’t belong in the industry? That we’re talentless and tone-deaf? Or does it mean that, as with many other things in history, we’ve been overshadowed and cast-aside?

Clara Schumann was a German composer in the 19th century. She is now considered one of the most talented composers of the romantic era, but that wasn’t always the case.

She once said:

“I once believed that I had creative talent, but I have given up this idea; a woman must not wish to compose — there never was one able to do it. Am I to be the one? It would be arrogant to believe that.”

Clara Schumann

Ms Schumann’s words are a key example of the idea that women are too often disregarded as musicians, and this has been the case throughout history.

But as more and more female artists are starting to make themselves known in the industry, isn’t it time we gave them the platform to have their voices heard?

The Advocate

Behind the scenes of the on-stage art that is music, there are many backstage roles in which women are also underrepresented.

Carla Kerslake is a music manager from Bath. An outspoken advocate for women in music, Carla has often found herself doubted and questioned by others in the industry:

“I feel like it can be very hard to be taken seriously, particularly as a young female trying to make my way in the industry. There have been times I have said ‘I’m on the guest list because I am working with this artist’ and I have been given funny looks like they think I’m lying.”

The Challenges

One of the biggest challenges for women in the music industry is that they are not given the same opportunities as men.

Just one look at the 2020 Reading and Leeds line-up will show you that women in the industry are massively underrepresented, even though we are starting to see bigger female artists:

Some argue that this is because women don’t make the same quality music as men, but based on the rise of female artists this decade, this is simply not the case.

Music is very much based on opinion and taste; what one person enjoys, another might abhor, but I find it very difficult to believe that there are people who don’t enjoy music from any female artists. What I do believe is that these people haven’t given female artists a fair chance.

Jorja Smith, RAYE and Mabel are just a few examples of women who have had a strong come-up over the last couple of years, and that’s just in one genre. I’m willing to bet that every genre of music has a strong pool of female talent just waiting to be discovered.

The Solution

Whilst there’s still a lot to be done by consumers of music to put girls on a level playing field with men, Carla thinks that support for those in the industry must come from within:

“I think females currently and trying to make it into the industry need to be massively supportive to each other.It is a tough and very competitive industry. Women need to be allies to each other rather than see each other as a threat.

“There was a time where I was at a conference and I was networking there was another young female who I really wanted to speak to and learn from her but it was clear she didn’t want to speak to me and I found it strange as there were so many other inspiring females who really made time for me.”

Carla hasn’t allowed her experience with competitiveness in the industry deter her from her work. She believes that even though we still have a long way before we achieve gender equality in the industry, we’ve already made some great progress:

“There are now more female live sound engineers and producers, which is fantastic to see. There’s still a long way to go, but there are more movements which are encouraging women into these areas. It helps them feel they’re in a safe environment.”

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