SOLVE magazine Issue 01 2020 | Page 34

GENDER: EQUITY Live on stage – a balancing act extraordinaire The music industry thrives on a spicy brew of talent, taste, politics and ego. Mix in the potent ingredient of gender equity and you have a social research crucible like no other. D espite Kylie Minogue’s many manifestations as a music artist, she wouldn't previously have been thought of as a ‘case study of workplace gender equity’. But that is what happened, albeit unintentionally, when she performed at the 2019 Glastonbury Festival. The event came close on the heels of the ‘50/50’ pledges led by the PRS Keychange initiative, which calls for equal numbers of male and female performers at high-profile festivals and music events by 2022. The festival was reasonably successful, achieving a 42 per cent representation of female artists, and Kylie Minogue was the drawcard on promotional material; however, she was moved to less prominent spots on the actual festival line-up. For Samantha Warren, Professor in Organisation Studies and Human Resource Management at the Faculty of Business and Law, Kylie’s appearance showed just how hard it is to try to use quotas to achieve equality. “The problems begin when we look more closely at what happens when quotas are used to address gender inequality,” she says. They can speed up the rate of change, but not necessarily the substance. High profile performer Kylie Minogue in concert in Brighton, UK. SOURCE: SHUTTERSTOCK Professor Warren notes that quotas can result in women’s recruitment to less influential positions: “In countries where gender quotas for company boards are already mandatory, it is not uncommon to find women mostly in non-executive positions where their authority is limited. It’s impression management rather than real change. We saw this happening at Glastonbury, and it comes with its own complications, controversies and reverse exclusions of male artists.” This raises starkly the issue of merit. Choosing people because of their gender makes ability and talent matter less than meeting a gender target. Professor Warren says this ‘tick the box’ approach becomes damaging for everyone: “Men feel aggrieved that they may have lost out unfairly, while women feel they have only been chosen because of their sex, and not their talent or ability.” Getting the balance right means ensuring there are sufficient numbers of high-calibre men and women in the talent pool. And this is where it gets interesting: “If the pool you are drawing from isn’t diverse enough then there’s a need to innovate the pathways to these careers,” Professor Warren says. She is seeking to do just this through a two-year research fellowship granted by the prestigious Leverhulme Trust. Her project, called In the Key of She: Women, Technology and Cultural Production, aims to investigate the lack of gender diversity among electronic music producers. Professor Warren wants to address the structural reasons why women find it more challenging than men to pursue careers in music production – and she is taking her own advice, learning to produce music under the name of Dovetail ( “Driven by the digital revolution, writing and producing the music that you play – not just performing – is a vital part of being a credible artist,” she says. “So even if women are great DJs and put on an amazing show, if they are not writing and producing their own music they will lack the reputational capital they need to be taken seriously, and so our pipeline of future female talent runs dry.” To widen the talent pool, there is a need to break down stereotypes about the music industry, to create access for women and girls to the (sometimes) expensive technology, and to provide for them positive role models, mentors and the opportunity for trial and error. Examples of these kinds of approaches already exist. There is Toolroom’s #WeAreListening project, Hospital Records’ Women in Drum and Bass Facebook group, and the mentoring network ( Then there are educational and industry projects such as Women in Sound on Sound and Music Production for Women. These are all examples of programmes that give women training and mentoring so they can compete for top music production positions. “Offering safe spaces to learn, to connect with other women for support, to network and get noticed: these are elements that will create sustainable change for a more inclusive music industry of the future,” Professor Warren states. 34 ISSUE 1 / 2020