Canadian Musician - November/December 2021 - Page 47

SUSAN ROGERS
reducing staff . This was a harsh reality many were witness to when the pandemic shutdowns began . “ When COVID hit , I had an instance where I was in the hands of others , and they had to decide if I was valuable ,” recalls Pangsaeng . “ It became super obvious who was considered valuable , and who was not – really , the most blatant example of sexism and racism I encountered in the industry .”
Similarly , Rogers recalls a critical night after a male-dominated Grammys where ex-president of the Recording Academy , Neil Portnow , infamously commented that women need to “ step up .” “ I was at the Recording Academy meeting for the producers and engineers wing the next day ,” recalls Rogers . “ We sat around at that table just shaking our heads . I said , ‘ I ’ ve been stepping up for 40 years . It doesn ’ t always get you there and it ’ s really hard to step up when you keep getting pushed back down .’”
After all this reflection on what ’ s continually harming women in and entering the industry , it ’ s time we start asking ourselves , what feasible change can we strive towards ? First and foremost , women in the industry ask that there is a perspective shift .
“ The narrative is always like , ‘ It was hard , right ?’ and I would love it if for once that wasn ’ t the first expectation – that I must have faced so much bullshit to be here ,” says Pangsaeng . “ I think it really does scare people away thinking they ’ re going to face all this crazy , rampaging misogyny . The more we just continue to normalize the idea of women in the studio , it ’ s going to make a huge difference in how upcoming women engineers / producers view things .”
Things , of course , don ’ t end there . Susan
Rogers believes changing the current perspective will require the help of the media . From films to news stories , women need to be rewarded for their achievements . Nowadays , most media fail to achieve this , either only portraying women ’ s horror stories in the industry or complete fluff pieces . “ Celebrating people ’ s victories is super important ,” explains Pangsaeng . “ But how is it done ? Is it waving a flag because a woman did it ? A lot of media where women ’ s work is highlighted , it ’ s not really about them as individuals . It ’ s just like , ‘ Look ! Girls can do shit !’ which is so close , but not quite there .” In order for the industry to adapt and improve on a massive scale , we ’ ll also need to observe current successful models , and both support them as well as strive to replicate them . Winston ’ s non-profit organization , Women ’ s Audio Mission ( WAM ), is a perfect example that organizations should look towards on this matter . For 18 years , WAM provided the only recording studios in the world built and run entirely by women and gender-expansive folks . Their success can be noted in Northern California where practically every venue , recording studio , and convention centre now has a female producer or engineer trained by them – and people are starting to take notice as their dedication has even recently been rewarded with a million-dollar gift from McKenzie Scott , which will be put toward a national expansion effort .
But what exactly are they doing that ’ s so ground-breaking ? Well , it ’ s actually rather straightforward ! Winston describes their process as providing things they know work , like necessary training , support in a safe environment that connects women to trusted allies , networking opportunities , conferences that reach 800-plus women from around the world , mentors , and so forth . Of course , it doesn ’ t stop there . “ We ’ ve placed close to 1,000 women into this industry , but there ’ s plenty more advocacy to be done ,” Winston says . “ Getting into the Grammys , for one , and talking about their voting structure and their member structure and increasing the number of women , gender expansiveness , and people of colour .”
Each stride towards increasing representation , increasing recognition , increasing communication , and increasing education does make a difference . What doesn ’ t is continuing to simply comment on the state of things and expecting it to change . Of all the mistakes made when seeking change , expecting change to occur serendipitously is the most common and worst to make . Winston shares this sentiment , asking that we move our focus from putting out study after study and directing our attention and money to what actually works .
“ I ’ m so tired of more studies being done . Why don ’ t we instead spend the million dollars from the study on training girls , pushing them up into the industry , and getting people to hire them ? Put women in the control rooms and in production houses so that we are represented ,” says Winston . “ How can you expect the messages you ’ re pumping into the world to represent those groups , when 90 % of the people working on them aren ’ t going to even know what those messages should be like ? It ’ s politics . It ’ s absolute common sense . Yet , nobody wants to do it because it ’ s hard . How many times , in different ways , are we gonna say there ’ s not enough women ? How many times are we going to say performative things and not actually do anything ?”
Ultimately , obstacles are bound to continue to exist , but their presence shouldn ’ t keep us from fighting for change , big or small . “ Just the fact that you ’ re interested in changing things , is going to help somebody feel like they belong . Having these difficult conversations , like going to the Academy of Country Music and asking why there ’ s never been a woman engineer nominated makes things change . In one year , that was changed just by that one simple question ,” explains Winston .
Rather than dwelling on such hurdles and growing disheartened , seek out those who are equally invested in bringing about change . After all , one of the greatest catalysts for change is oneself . As Winston explains , “ It doesn ’ t matter where obstacles are coming from , you just need to find the folks that are willing to help you .”
Selina Setrakian a freelance writer and former Editorial Assistant at Canadian Musician .
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