On Sunday 11 March, we went along to Needs (not-for-profit) presents HeForShe: In aid of Gender Equality with a focus on women in the music industry at Oval Space. The event was organised and supported by Needs Not for profit, UN women, Shesaidso, AIM, Resident Advisor and Mixcloud.
There were four panel talks and an interview with B Traits:
Shesaidso: Parenthood in Music
Mixcloud: She Changed Me
AIM: Effecting positive change: How to achieve gender equality in the music business
Shesaidso: The future of women on the stage
Resident Advisor: RA Exchange podcast with B Traits
Here are some key takeaways (the points below reflect the views of the panelists and not necessarily the views of WMN):
Parenthood in Music
The music industry lacks structure when it comes to maternity leave. This may be partly due to the high number people with freelance contracts. Freelancers may be worried to take too much time off for fear of someone else taking their place.
Parents need to educate each other of their rights and employers need to ensure they have an open discussion with their employees on what the options are for maternity and paternity leave.
Some big companies have a implemented a new model, for example, Spotify has a shared paternity leave scheme.
Motherhood isn’t seen as sexy. This perception needs to be changed.
She Changed Me
This panel discussed some of the women who they saw as an inspiration. This was a great selection including Eartha Kitt, Cookie Crew (video), Davina McCall, Marion Hall (Lady Saw).
Effecting positive change: How to achieve gender equality in the music business
This panel discussed some of the issues that women face in the industry and there were a handful of suggestions on the actions that should be and are being taken.
We are now entering an era of accountability – there was talk of adding a character (morality) clause into label contracts. This would hold the signatory to a certain behavioural standard. For example, they should not abuse alcohol, use illegal drugs or narcotics or conduct illegal or illicit sexual activity.
We need recruitment agencies to supply a bigger, more diverse pool of candidates especially for senior roles (entry level roles appear to be much more balanced).
Credit should be given where it’s due. Often women who have contributed to a track in the past were left off the record sleeve because they “wouldn’t fit”. We need to ensure that people are fairly credited for their work.
The PRS Keychange project has asked festivals and music conferences to sign up and pledge to reach a 50/50 gender split in their line ups by 2022.
Some of the major labels already have strong diversity and equality policies but it’s not often made public. For example, there is a scheme supporting certain candidates towards accelerated career progression.
The future of women on the stage
Stop talking about it and do it – festivals and events should put more women on their lineups. It should be happening now, not in a few years.
More diversity and better representation is needed in behind the scenes roles. We should all be working together to support each other and create these roles.
Young and potentially vulnerable artists are often sent to work with male producers only to turn up and find out they are working in a bedroom. This could potentially put them in an uncomfortable or dangerous situation. We need to look at ways to offer young artists better protection from these situations and prevent them from occurring in the first place.
RA Exchange podcast with B Traits
Our top tip from this interview was – if you are given a platform or a voice it’s important to use it to do good.
We came away feeling like there was still an incredibly long way to go in some areas before women even had a chance of getting an equal footing in the industry. As with many of these types of events, there were some interesting discussions and points made but we left feeling a bit deflated rather than feeling like we were armed with a set of actions. It’s important to continue having these discussions, but are the people that we need to listen actually listening?
The event was all about getting men involved in the conversation so we were a little disappointed that the majority of attendees were women and that two of the male panelists for ‘the future of women on the stage’ had dropped out at the last minute. One of the key points made, which we fully stand for as well, is to have everyone involved in the conversation – women and men, transgender and genderfluid. This is the only way solutions will be found and attitudes will change. If we are after equality – why not have 50% women and 50% men on the panels?
From a personal perspective, I used to go to a lot of punk or alternative gigs in London and there were never that many women. Most of the bands that I’d watch, and most of my friends, were guys, but it really didn’t matter to me at the time. It was a totally normal thing – and whilst it would have been brilliant to see more female punk bands (there were some), at the same time I never felt like I couldn’t do something. I wasn’t in bands but if I had decided to be, I didn’t feel like I couldn’t or that I would be judged for being a different gender. I felt like ‘one of the guys’ but I also wonder if being ‘one of the guys’ was the right approach to take. Wasn’t I just myself, a women, in my own right?