Canadian Musician - November/December 2021 - Page 46

ence of sexism . Of course , environmental and social obstacles are not uncommon in any workforce , but when someone ’ s qualifications and abilities are dismissed daily due to their identity as a woman , there ’ s clearly an issue . Imagine you ’ re doing your job as a producer when someone walks in and rudely points you out , asking if you ’ re the girlfriend or wife of the studio owner . It ’ s not only incredibly upsetting , but also unbelievably common , even today . It , of course , doesn ’ t end there . Several women have also shared stories of being considered studio secretaries and cleaning ladies . Pangsaeng sums up the experience , explaining when a man walks into a recording studio everyone looks to him , thinking of course he ’ s the producer or engineer .
“ If I ’ m there , the first thing people look for is a man in a room . They ’ ll just sit there and wait for the engineer , while I ’ m right there asking if they ’ d like to get started ,” says Pangsaeng . “ So , when I wanted to be taken seriously , even though I wasn ’ t aware of it at the time , I began to bury my gender and my sexuality . I think especially as a woman , you instinctively just stack the odds in your favour .”
Sadly , the display and effects of sexism in the industry don ’ t stop there . Many women comment on how the hostile environment for women breeds a sort of disdain between women in the studio . “ We ’ re really conditioned to accept that there ’ s not a ton of space for more than one woman in the room ,” explains Pangsaeng . “ Looking back , I definitely made that normal and acceptable in my mind , sometimes even taking pride in being the only woman in the room . That ’ s problematic . However , normalizing women ’ s presence in the studio will change that perspective .”
Winston furthers this point , adding , “ There is damage this environment has created and I feel sad , because I know they have weathered an enormous amount of sexism , so I remind younger folks , they ’ re doing it to survive as they have more to lose .”
Another unavoidable issue can be found in the social qualities of a very male-dominated field . In Rogers ’ past observations of women starting in the business , she comments on the absence of the pervasive competitive spirit commonly seen in men . “ When I teach at the Berklee College of Music , some young female record-makers , engineers , mixers , producers , hit the wall hard trying to interact with men in a competitive environment . We need to model that more for young women – how to continue in the face of that competitive drive . Of course , sometimes due to a lack of self-confidence they ’ ll feel reluctant to express their opinions and keep up . But other times they ’ re perfectly competent and it ’ s just intolerance from a guy .”
It goes without saying , women cannot be sheltered from toxic men , but the level of intolerance and discomfort women must face daily in their work environment makes it understandable why they ’ d consider leaving altogether – and in truth , many do . “ The attrition comes once they ’ re entering the industry ,” explains Winston . “ It isn ’ t the most supportive , and it ’ s traditionally been 90 to 98 % male . Because there ’ s no representation , no human resources department , nobody to go to when there ’ s an issue , women don ’ t feel comfortable . You can diversify your workforce , but if they don ’ t feel like they belong , they ’ re going to leave .”
If those in the music industry truly want to see more change , there needs to be more initiative to create an environment that fosters belonging . This , of course , includes making it more commonplace to see women in the workspace in roles as producer or engineer . For Pangaseng , this sort of change will encourage more women to continue to stay in the industry as there is an added element of safety . “ It ’ s easier to imagine yourself doing something when you can see someone who even vaguely resembles you doing it . So , if you ’ re an aspiring woman engineer / producer and you see another woman working the role with confidence , you ’ re probably more likely to believe that you can do it .”
The issue that stands in the way of this progress is that a significant amount of what some call advocacy is often actually tokenism . Rather than seeking to hire more women for the sake of creating change , the bare minimum is done to meet a certain public standing . Even so , some still question whether tokenism is really all that bad since it is still creating some change , regardless of its intentions . Well , King views it as a complete dismissal of one ’ s skill and experience level . “ I ’ ve always said , I don ’ t want to get a gig to fill some quota or to enable a musician / artist / band to get a grant because I am female . I want the gig because I ’ m a great engineer ,” she explains .
But on the other hand , there are truly instances where tokenism has provided those with limited access greater opportunities . Pangsaeng describes her own experience with tokenism as “ filling in a checkbox .” “ It ’ s very possible that I got hired as a checkbox . But it worked . I got a job and met colleagues who were likely checkboxes as well . Even if the intentions were bad , it inspired people to keep doing it .”
Even Winston recalls several conversations held between panels and conferences where the topic of tokenism was thrown around and it was concluded as something not to dwell on . “ We put on a conference with sound designer Paula Fairfield from Game of Thrones and we got to talking about tokenism ,” recalls Winston . “ She had said , ‘ I don ’ t care if they ’ re hiring me because I ’ m a woman . I ’ m gonna go in there , I ’ m gonna kick some ass , and they ’ re gonna hire me again ,’ and that ’ s how I look at it . I think if you ’ re confident , it doesn ’ t matter why you ’ re hired . I don ’ t love that people have that intention , but that ’ s on them .”
The issue here is that tokenism does not promise women stability in their career . Not only is it harder to go further in one ’ s career when hired solely under tokenism , they are also the first to go when